Should You Let Your Kids Quit Taking Piano Lessons?

his subject comes up again and again every time I’m together with a bunch of moms; do you force your child to keep taking piano lessons even when he starts to hate it and complains endlessly? Most parents were allowed to quit and always bemoan the fact that their parents didn’t make them keep with it. I come from the opposite side: my mother wouldn’t allow me to quit. “You’ll thank me one day!” she loved to say.

I never liked playing the piano. Never. It was not the instrument that spoke to me. I wanted to play the harp. “That’s much too expensive!” my mother informed me on more than one occasion; expensive unlike, say . . . a piano? Because pianos are dirt cheap, don’t you know. Anyway, playing the piano–and eventually the organ–was my mother’s dream. The woman loves an audience and the thought of playing in front of the church congregation every week was her fondest wish. But she had nine siblings and her mom let her quit when she complained, blahblahblah. We all know where she was coming from. So my mother decided that she would force her children to play the piano until they graduated from high school no matter what. They would praise her name for it one day!

When I started piano lessons at age 8 it wasn’t too bad, but within a year I grew to hate it. I hated the lessons, I hated the piano in general and I especially hated my mother for forcing me to play. By the time I was ten I would get terrible stress headaches every lesson day and I would cry most of the way to my teacher’s house. My mother refused to budge. “Just think how wonderful it will be when you can play the organ in front of everyone,” she would sigh. Not being the kind of person who likes to perform at all, this was the most horrible scenario I could imagine. “You’ll thank me one day,” she would shout from the car as I dragged myself to the piano teacher’s sliding glass door. One day I snapped. I narrowed my eyes and said in a very even, cold tone, “once I turn eighteen I will never touch the piano again.”

I don’t think it ever occurred to my mother that her daughter would be more stubborn than she was. Even after a go at organ lessons, which my mother thought would be “exhilarating” (“wait, now I have to play with not only my hands but my feet too? Forget it!”), I continued to hate all of it.

Fate smiled on me when I was sixteen. I was in a car accident and my arm was badly broken. Not only did I have a cast but because my arm had broken backwards (The bruising was horrifying), the muscles and tendons were a complete mess and I needed physical therapy for months.

I finally got to quit piano lessons.

Once my arm recovered and I probably could have resumed playing, I never did. I was as good as my word; I never played the piano again. And as a side benefit I grew to hate my mother for disregarding my feelings by forcing me to do something I so clearly hated. Now if I sit down at the piano I can kind of pick out a tune with one hand; I barely remember anything. Am I sad about this? Not at all. I hated playing the piano. It was my mother’s dream, not mine. There is no regret at all.

So now I have children of my own. And the idea of music lessons eventually came up when they were little. I do believe that learning music is very important; I believe that learning to play an instrument can teach discipline and responsibility. But so can lots of other things. In the Mormon culture especially, learning an instrument is very important. So this is what I have done with my children: they have all had to take music lessons, usually on the piano. The minimum for lessons is one year; that is non-negotiable. Every human being should learn how to read music; even if it’s just to sing an unfamiliar hymn in church. It’s just a life skill like learning to make your bed.

After one year we reassess. If the child wants to continue to play the piano, that’s great. If they want to go on to another instrument that’s fine too. Finn went on to play the trumpet, York quit completely (he is just not the kind of person who is drawn to playing an instrument. It is not where his talents lie and even at the age of eight I realized that about him and I was OK with that.) India continued playing the piano for a few years and then we had a couple of years off because we could not find a teacher that she gelled with. She continued to play on her own nearly every day and finally we found her a great piano teacher last year. She’s doing well and still enjoys it. Arabella has finished her second year of lessons (we got a late start with her), rarely needs to be reminded to practice and has never mentioned quitting. Maybe she’ll stick with the piano, maybe she won’t. She’s shown some interest in the hammered dulcimer than I have sitting around and if she wants to take lesson in that instead I have no problem with that.

My musical story has a happy ending (besides the fact that I don’t hate my mother anymore). When I was about 32 I decided to finally take harp lessons. I had loved the harp all these years and realized that it wasn’t too late to learn something new (why have we decided that childhood is the only time you can learn anything new???). I found a wonderful teacher and rented a harp. Let me tell you something, it is a million times easier to learn an instrument as an adult! All that music theory my piano teachers tried to explain over and over and over? It finally made perfect sense. I loved the harp and was mature enough to practice every day. I progressed a jillion times faster than I had as a child. When we moved to Texas I turned my harp back in and with six kids under age 11, I just didn’t have the time to start it up again down here.

I have missed playing the harp. Mister knows that. So my sweet husband tried to buy me a harp for my birthday. But it’s rather hard buying an instrument when you know nothing about it. So he had to spoil his surprise and tell me his plan. I was more than thrilled to help him find the perfect harp. We picked it up yesterday and I am over the moon.

To answer my original question: should you make your kids keep taking music lessons when they complain about hating it? Please don’t make a blanket statement, yes or no. Think about your child; think about her personality. Ask if there’s another instrument she would rather play. My cousin really wanted to play the saxophone but her dad said no because saxophones aren’t in an orchestra which means it’s not a “real instrument”. She had to settle for the trumpet which she didn’t like much at all. Would your child be better suited for some other pursuit? York has the brain of an engineer that likes to invent and solve problems; playing music felt very dull and stifling to him. We accepted that facet of his personality and moved on. Not everyone in the world is suited to music.

Also ask yourself why you want your child to play so badly. What does it say about your hopes and desires? If you always dreamed of playing on the stage, don’t try to live out your fantasies through your kids; it’s going to backfire at some point. Why don’t you take lessons? You may be too old to become the next Van Cliburn, but you can still get pretty good and you’ll feel much so much prouder of yourself than you would of your child. It really isn’t too late to start your own musical training!

Believe it or not, your job as a parent isn’t to gild your child with hobbies and talents and trophies. Your job is to help your child find her interests (not to decide what they are for her), learn discipline and love herself. If music is a part of that, great. If not, that’s OK too. Be prepared to let it go. If your child is a prodigy, you’ll know early on. Be sensitive to what your child really needs. Not everyone wants to play in the high school marching band or accompany the church choir. Every child does need to be listened to and validated.

About Hildie

(Blog Team) was born and raised in Detroit, but is happy to call Austin, TX home now. She majored in Art History and Geography at BYU and graduated a week before having her first baby. There have been five more babies since then. Hildie is an avid baker and tries to fatten up the people she loves. After years of "Mommy this", "Mommy that" Hildie is delighted to finally be waking her brain up for some other use.

29 thoughts on “Should You Let Your Kids Quit Taking Piano Lessons?

  1. I’m with you on strongly encouraging a child to learn music through one year of piano. Our kids start piano in 2nd or 3rd grade, and usually stop around 7th or 8th grade. Some did school band, some didn’t. But at least knowing how to read music and understand basics has allowed them to try out flute, violin, french horn and guitar. I do get disappointed when adults say they can’t play the piano, and glibly expect someone else to play. To me, basic piano playing is a learned skill, not a talent. Sort of like learning how to type. No doubt some pick it up faster and easier than others, but the average person with average motor skills who is willing to put in the time and effort can learn to play the piano or just about any other instrument. As for the question, I wouldn’t force my child to take piano (after one year of giving it a go) but I would want my child to show me he/she was willing to try something else that is lovely, virtuous and of good report. In other words, something beyond video/computer games.

  2. I think your approach is a great one. Kids should definitely be allowed some input as to what hobbies they pursue, but they will probably also need some encouragement to stick with it when it gets hard. I was was really excited to start piano lessons when I turned 8, but I also remember throwing my music on the floor and stomping on it in response to my mom’s insistence that I practice. I stuck with lessons until I was 17 or so, but that was my decision. The agreement was that if my parents paid for lessons, then I had to spend an hour a day practicing.

    Also, bravo for learning something new as an adult!

  3. In my family of origin, it was definitely a mixed bag of requirements. There were 3 of us, the oldest 3 and all girls, who were all required to take piano lessons. We also had to take ballet. Then our brother was born and he didn’t have to take piano but he tried trumpet in middle school band. The baby of the family (also a girl) took some ballet and some piano, but our mom basically had checked out of parenting by that time and was not forcing her to stick with lessons. I was allowed to switch to flute after a year of doing both flute and piano, which proved to be too much for me. I still play the flute to this day, and can still read enough music to play some basic songs on the piano.

    Now that I am a parent, I am having to do things differently than how I was raised due to some logistical differences. I got divorced when the oldest of our 3 kids was 6, and I was never able to acquire a piano. I was in law school when my oldest was in 4th grade, and he wanted to try viola in school orchestra. After 2 years of that, he wanted to switch to percussion, but we soon found that he was a year behind all the other percussion players and his school band director didn’t give me any help in knowing how to catch him up. Still single parenting and in law school without the emotional reserves or any parental backup to assist me, I let him quit without making him go back to the viola. I don’t even know why I did that, but I wish I had been able to muster enough brain power to make him go back to orchestra. He is 16 now and doesn’t care that he can’t play an instrument. He has been a tough child to parent in many ways. The other two play band instruments. My daughter plays flute and my younger son plays the trumpet. I am making them stick with it because they both are very good, and their complaints are just stemming from general laziness. They both are actually very proud of their abilities and love to play their instruments, so we are sticking with it. My current husband played trombone all throughout college and loved it, so our two new kids will likely be required to start out on a piano or other instrument when they are big enough. Right now at our house, we have 2 flutes, 3 trombones, a trumpet, a 3/4 size viola, 2 guitars, a keyboard, and a banjo. I would say they have a good selection to pick from.

  4. I hate having this conversation with other mothers! I already know my oldest is more stubborn than me and she’s only six. My own mother wouldn’t let me play an instrument because she didn’t want to remind me to practice. I love your strategy and that is what I hope to do with my own children.

  5. This is an interesting conversation. We did not have money for extra curricular activities growing up. My mom bartered for me to take a year of piano. Which I loved but couldn’t continue financially after that year. I would have loved to have continued. I ended up playing violin and then flute trough the school orchestra/ band program. By the time I got to high school marching band did my interest me at all so I stopped the flute. Now at 35 I am in a ward where no one can play piano and I am feeling the prompting that I need to practice!

  6. I regret that my parents let me quit piano after only two years of only mediocre effort. But the regret is not so specific to the piano as it is to the habit of quitting when things get hard that I realize began all those years ago… piano, volleyball, art classes, math classes, several majors in college, one minor (I was only one class shy!), dance classes, grad school, my first good job.

    Obviously, many of these decisions are more recent and entirely my responsibility. But all of them I either enjoyed or was good at and I still quit when the going got tough. Difficult habits to change now, but I am working on it.

    I do not have kids yet, but I imagine I will want them to start with piano for a year and stick with it or another instrument for a few years and have good reason to quit if they do. I recently heard the Obamas make their girls play two sports–one that the girl chooses and on that the parents choose. That sounds like a good idea too, for similar reasons.

  7. It is always good to hear different perspectives on this. As a musician teaching music married to a musician working in the music industry, you can imagine I have some opinions on the subject. When my children were young, I said that our family rule was the same as your mother’s rule…piano until graduation. The church does need strong musicians, and I’ll be frank: it takes strong parenting to make string musicians.

    But then I actually started parenting these specific children and realized that bending rules where appropriate is also strong parenting. My oldest two play piano on their own now, but each play a string instrument. My third will likely make it through high school on piano. My fourth? He hasn’t started yet, so we’ll see.

    As a teacher with 20+ years of teaching under my belt, I just want to give you my experience. Playing the hymns will likely take 5-7 years if lessons with a good teacher and really consistent practice. One year might get you some note reading and basic rhythmic understanding, but that’s about it.

  8. Yes to Kerri’s last statement. It takes several years of lessons to get to the point where you can play well enough to enjoy an instrument.

    My mom was one who forced me to take piano lessons–for 10 years. I didn’t like it, but I had talent, and I’m grateful now because without those 10 years of piano I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to succeed on the instrument that would become my true love–the organ. (I went on to get a masters in organ performance.) I knew I loved the organ from an early age, but there were no opportunities for instruction in my small town.

    I just let my 11-year-old quit piano after only 2 years. I feel guilty. He has natural aptitude as well. His teacher, my sister-in-law, is making her own son, who hates it as much as my son does, keep taking. But it just wasn’t worth the headaches. I want my son to play something he loves, and he wants to do percussion, so he will be doing that next year. I can’t believe how many parents I’ve spoken to have told me they would never let their child play percussion.

  9. When I was sixteen I could sight-read most of the hymn book (albeit at half tempo), and I disliked all the theory that my piano teacher was trying to cram into my skull. I was at the point where I needed to know theory and technique instinctively, and I was neither interested nor willing to put the time into reaching that level. So I quit, and my mom only bemoaned that I chose to quit when I was finally able to drive myself to lessons. Everyone I talked to promised I’d, “Wish I hadn’t.”

    Frankly, they were wrong. I have never wished I had continued with piano. At college I became completely rusty and lost my sight-reading abilities. I was never “talented” in piano, but most of the “skill” has remained. Serving as pianist in Primary with a vibrant chorister was a delight, and the easiest calling in the world for me because I simply showed up and plucked out whichever songs were requested for the day.

    What I -do- wish is that someone had said, “Hey, I see that Classical piano doesn’t seem to be working for you. Remember back in 7th grade when you were in jazz band as pianist? And remember how you were disappointed that your 8th grade school and even high schools lacked the same? Hey! Find someone to help you learn a different style of piano!” That is what I really wish. I wish I could have spent a few years prior to college playing in a genre that really interested me. My 16 year old self was too sighted to see what was “wrong” for me with piano.

    As for my current children, I have only 1 toddler at this point. Currently his “piano” is perching on the bench and pounding the keys while playing with the keyboard’s buttons; and I try to tolerate the cacophony for as long as I can.

    In the future I expect to insist that he learn his basic notes from me on the piano just as he’ll learn his basic letters and words from me before he goes to school. Once he knows the basics, I’d like to pass him onto an piano teacher that’s not me and, if he prefers, allow him to move over to a different instrument.

    My DH tries to remain neutral on the subject of music lessons. He has memories from about 3 years old when his mother forcing him into lessons where he played on a tiny violin made of a shoebox and rubber bands. His little self thought it was the most ridiculous thing in the world, and well into adulthood that experience has left a sour taste for music in his mouth.

  10. I couldn’t agree more with your approach!

    I grew up playing piano and flute and now teach piano. I always liked piano, but HATED flute. I started in fourth grade and begged to quit after a few months. My Mom made me finish out the school year and said I could quit at the end of 4th grade. By the end, I really liked it and continued with it through college.

    I think the idea of making kids stick with something for a year is good not only for basic musical knowledge, but also to develop some “stick-to-it-ive-ness.” I don’t think forcing something long term is a good idea, though. And I wonder why the piano has such an exalted place in our culture, sometimes.

    I do think, if music is a high priority for a parent, trying out several different piano teachers and looking for one that is a good match for your kid is helpful. The 95-year-old woman in the ward that hates kids may not be the best choice to foster a love of music in a reluctant student, even if she does only charge 10 cents per lesson. Since I’ve been teaching I’ve discovered a world of games and fun pedagogy resources, and find alot can be done through the right curriculum, and fun music to help children enjoy making music.

    As a homeschooling Mom, I love the idea of helping kids find their own passions. And showing them the way by finding ours.

  11. I played trombone in middle school but quit after I got braces–it was so painful to play with them. I don’t regret it; music was never a passion as much as other creative outlets.

    My husband took piano lessons when he was young, begged to quit, and his parents let him. He regretted it later, so he wanted to give our kids the chance to learn to play. Our son started piano lessons when he was six and has been playing for four years now. From the beginning, he has complained about having to practice, but much of his frustration comes from his own perfectionism and the struggle to get through the learning process of making mistakes until new skills are developed, and arrive at the point where he can play a song as well as he wants.

    His first teacher remarked on his natural abilities, especially on his technical understanding of music and that he could change to a different key just by ear. We wanted him to see piano through for a few years, to give those abilities the chance to blossom and it’s taken us a while to find a teacher that was a good fit for him, but that has made a real difference. One of the first things his current teacher asked him was, “What kind of music do you LIKE to play?” and I knew we had found the right one.

    He still complains, but it’s not “I hate piano”–it’s the same refrain of “I just made another mistake!”

    If, in the future, he decides to switch to another instrument, I’d support that, or even if he was able to articulate to me that his passions for creativity were along another path–but not quitting just out of sheer frustration. I think kids need to learn the life lesson that developing skills, even if you have natural abilities, requires patience and persistence.

  12. I could steal snippets from each of these comments…lol My 9 year old son has been playing the piano for 2.5 years. He seems to have a natural affinity for it. The times he complains and wants to quit are when his practices take him away from games, friends, etc.
    He has a brilliant teacher who lets him choose his own music, play his own way, while still getting the “lesson” in… At a recent recital, several of the students commented that they needed to practice so they could play like
    him. That made him feel really accomplished. My husband and I have the tendency to quit when things get too hard, and that is something that we refuse to pass on. If down the road he decides to pursue something else, we will let him…but he will have to stick with it! My son is home-schooled, so he is involved in a variety of extra activities of his own choosing, and if he wants to change things up, we want to be supportive, as long as the reason isn’t because “it’s too hard”…

  13. I think piano is a good place to start, but a lot of boys would rather play guitar and the drums, and I think parents should let them. My mom was unsure about buying my brother drums, but ended up having fun playing guitar while he drummed. I plan to have my daughter start piano, and if she wants to switch, switch. I took piano for seven years, haven’t practiced in years, but I’m glad I took lessons.

  14. I started my son on piano when he was about 8. He played and did well on the keyboard (no real piano yet) for a while, but then he hit a rough spot and refused to practice and refused to play. I took him out for about 3 months, then asked if he was ready to try again. He decided he was and put an effort into it. We found a new teacher when his old one moved and he’s thrived on piano. He came home one day to find the keyboard gone and a real piano in it’s place, and he’s practiced ever since. His sister, on the other hand, lasted about 8 months before she insisted she didn’t want to play, didn’t want to learn and would rather sing. As her school has a choir, I realized that was her music background. So yep, depends on the kid.

  15. My story and yours could be twins. My mother also started me at 8. I hated the piano! I wanted to play the harp (“too expensive”) or the violin (“I don’t know who teaches that–and in this family we play the piano”). I also heard the classic cliche quote, “you’ll thank me when your older.” I vowed to not only NEVER thank her, but to downright disobey her. I gave no effort whatsoever. My piano teacher was exhausted with me. Eventually she learned that I wasn’t half bad at memorizing so she would simply start me on my recital songs a whole year early. By the time the recital came around I knew my song perfectly, but I couldn’t read a single note.

    True to my word, I never did thank her and I resent the piano to this day. I still can’t read the notes without thinking of the little poems to help me remember them. And if they go off those little lines? Forget it…no clue what it is. How’s that for 8 years of lessons down the drain? However, I have a great love of music, even from a young age. I loved listening to Yanni and other composers in my younger years and today the Piano Guys are top on my music list. I think under the right circumstances, I could’ve really enjoyed (and excelled) playing an instrument.

    Thank you for offering your plan. My husbands family was of the mentality to quit when it gets hard so combining our two polar opposites have left us with questions. I hope to give my children and eclectic opportunity of learning, whether it be guitar, violin or drums. As for me, I’ve vowed to one day learn to play the harp or violin. It may not happen for 10 years when my child bearing days are behind me, but I will do it. :-)

  16. This is interesting to read as I sit here with two violins purchased just today for my son and I…

    I played the piano for 8 years growing up and while I don’t regret taking lessons, I’ve never had a love for it and don’t play exceptionally well. Truly, I just don’t like listening to the piano much. The fact that I have my children take lessons is a sacrifice on my part.

    My underlying reason is not as much about the actual instrument as it is about working hard at developing a talent. The only way to be good at the piano is to work hard! I emphasize practicing. Overall there is very little complaining because it is a way of life here. It’s kind of like a chore that just needs to get done. We’ve also found that lessons are a lot more enjoyable if you’re prepared. I know both of my boys are pretty pleased with what they can play – because they’ve earned it.

    As for the violin, learning to play has been a dream I thought I might never actually get to, but when my 11-year-old chose it (after being given lots of options) and since I have to go along and be super involved – I figured it was time for me too. (I have to keep giving myself a pep talk that 35 is not too old to learn.) The current plan is for him to continue in piano also. Crossing our fingers – lessons start next week!

  17. Way to go, Malisa! I was just going to comment that it’s not too late to learn an instrument! My mom started learning to play the cello a few years ago when she was about 72 years old. I am going to have her start teaching me when I visit her in 2 weeks, then bring her cello home with me for awhile to see what I can do and if I want to pursue it more after I return her cello in September.

  18. Why on earth would you force your children to do anything like that (music lessons, sports, whatever) if they don’t want to do it? Have them try different things and only stick with something if they like it. And you’re wrting about piano lessons as if every child takes piano lessons. That’s a rather odd thing to think.

  19. Interesting motive for Julie Beck’s insisting her 3 children stick with piano lessons if you listen to her interview with her 2 daughters on “Conversations” on the Mormon Channel. Raising her 3 children in the city she wanted to teach them how to work. The best piano teachers she could find required 3 hrs if practice/child each day. That became the children’s work. They disliked it, especially 1 daughter until she was about 14. End result? All 3 have disciplined work ethics and all 3 are piano teachers. Just another story to throw in the mix.

    Do I regret not making my children stay with piano lessons? YES! Do my children also? YES!

  20. Piano lessons cost money. And they cost time.
    I absolutely have taken that into consideration in deciding whether to let my children TAKE or QUIT piano lessons.
    How odd that the finances don’t enter into it for many people….
    I am lucky that I can afford some extra curriculars for my kids. But as a family we only have so much time during the day. And if that money could be better spent elsewhere, then I absolutely have decided to have them quit.
    My first took 5 years. She almost quit after three, but at the last minute asked me to sign her up again. My second took 2.5 years. My third took 2 years and would have kept going this year but she has other activities and the cost made me decide that she wasn’t into it enough to keep going.
    I want my kids to be able to read music and have a basic music education. That way they can pursue any instrument in the future with some basic knowledge, or read music to sing.
    My fourth child will probably take lessons too. (From me, all of my kids have taken at least one year from me to reduce cost).

  21. There are plenty more ways to teach hard work than piano lessons-or any musical lessons for that matter. I would consider myself someone with strong work efforts and it may be my stubborn attitude, but if I start something I will almost always finish it. The caveat to that is that I give something a lot of thought before starting it.

    Did the fact my mom forced 8 years of piano on me create my strong work force? No. Not at all. Because I never worked on piano–I survived piano. I never practiced and as I said I never even learned to read notes. Quick math tells me my mom literally wasted thousands of dollars and lots of gas, driving and time. What did teach me to work? We had chores that needed to be done every day, especially in the summer. I had a garden I was specifically in charge of. Later in life I found great love in softball and worked hard in that, as well as gymnastics. To think forcing one to play a musical instrument is the only way to teach hard work is daft. There are plenty of opportunities to teach commitment and hard work. Every child is different, they are not a one size fits all. You have to take into account personality and differences when deciding what works for your family.

  22. To me, the purpose of music lessons is not to teach children to work (though that can be a nice by product). The purpose of music lessons is to teach children to speak the language of music, and that is something that I would like to see universally applied in my family. So at this point, taking music lessons is a given. The choice comes in terms of which instrument they decide to play. Of course, this doesn’t have to mean that every child will take lessons for years… the duration of instruction will depend on the individual child.

  23. I only took piano lessons for two years or so, but I’m a good sight reader and have played for church meetings for years. I know I don’t have great technique, but I love playing and being a pianist is one of my favorite callings. I do wish I knew more about music theory and could actually do stuff like playing by ear or transposing, but I do appreciate music and love being able to play piano.

    So far I only have one child old enough to take lessons. She’s been doing piano for two years and still loves it. My second child is enrolled in a class that teaches music theory for kids and he is enjoying it; he will probably start piano in about a year. I would like them to do piano for at least a few years, just to get a good grounding in music. If they want to learn other instruments after that, they can. Or if they want to quit in the future, they could do that too. We live in an area where music and theater are really popular and most of the families around here are heavily into those things, so I have a feeling my kids will want to be too.

    A good work ethic is a great side benefit of music lessons, but it’s not my primary purpose in having my kids take them. I just want them to learn about music because it’s something I value. I choose to spend my money and time on music because that is what is important to me. I think music is very valuable, but I totally understand if other families don’t want to spend their time and money on it.

  24. So glad that you took up the harp as adult. I am a professional harpist and I always have people tell me that they wanted to learn the harp growing up but it was too expensive. I always say it is never too late. It is not more expensive than any other instrument!

  25. I think the underlying principle here is teaching children to work. Children need to learn how to work. Whether that work comes in the form of learning an instrument, excelling at a sport, growing a garden, or doing daily chores, I think it’s important for children to learn to do something every day, something that they find hard and don’t want to do. My family lives on a farm and the chores offer a perfect opportunity for this. Years ago I struggled with guilt that I didn’t have my children in music lessons. I wanted them to learn to play an instrument, but I didn’t have the emotional energy left to sheriff them practicing on top of their farm chores and everything else! After a while I realized that the work they did on the farm was accomplishing the same thing in their lives that I was hoping to achieve by learning an instrument. Now that they’re getting bigger, the ability to milk a herd of cows might not contribute as much to a church meeting as being able to accompany the opening song, but the character attributes they’re developing surely will!

  26. My older daughter started piano when she was in 1st grade…very hard, I let her quit. When she reached 6th grade I told her that she needed to chose an instrument because when the school district offers music starting in 6th grade, we take advantage of it. I also told her it needed to be a stringed instrument so she could play in church. Her 1st choice was viola, then Cello. The teacher ran out of violas so she ended up with the cello. She played through high school and then onto the local community college. She even said that she has played for YW on her mission. She comes home in two months.
    My younger daughter also chose the cello but by the time she was going into 8th grade she wanted to be in the orchestra. I told her that if she didn’t get a spot she could quit and do art. She changed to art and that was the best choice for her. She is very artistic and just designed her own wedding announcements using water color.

  27. As a convert looking to the examples around me on how to raise fabulous Mormon kids, music lessons was not optional. I was fortunate enough to become familiar with Suzuki when my oldest was young. He started violin lessons at five. My next son started piano at five as well. I stated violin and piano with them. my next son started violin at age four, and so on. I started under the impression that they should continue lessons until age sixteen for many of the reasons stated here. But as i loved the experience of music, i realized i wanted them to love music more. Forcing the issue wasn’t worth losing three love of music. I have strong willed kids and often once they figure out something is important to me, they will digg their heels in. By age mine each if them wanted to focus their time on other interests and i went along with it. Secretly believing it was because I’m a defective mom, and i am in some ways. But each of them are musicians now, so it couldn’t have been that bad, right?

  28. I’m replying as a piano teacher, a mother, and as a (former) kid who studied piano for years.

    I don’t think that the main motivation of learning the piano should be about work. While learning how to work and practice is certainly a wonderful benefit, it shouldn’t be the main motivation,otherwise you’ve pretty much ruined the joy and magnificence of learning an instrument and the benefit that results from that experience and effort.

    If you are only interested in teaching your kids how to work and your kids hate music, please do your child’s teacher a favor and quit. If you aren’t invested enough in learning music to ensure your kids are practicing, please do your piano teacher a favor and quit. I do not feel joy teaching students who don’t want to be there, who don’t practice, and aren’t invested in the experience. It’s painful for everyone.

    However, learning the piano and getting more than just pain out of the experience does require more than at least one year of effort. It takes time to get to a point where you are playing well enough and playing songs that are interesting and inspiring.

    That said, I think there has to a balance. Kids aren’t always naturally inclined to practice. They may say they hate something that they might love later. I have a preschooler who says he hates preschool everyday, but loves it when he is there. We make him go because we know that he does enjoy himself. Sometimes kids complain about piano because they don’t want to practice.

    What are the benefits of continuing piano? I have always been able to have part-time work that fit with my schedule and family needs because I can teach piano. I’ve lived in different countries where I don’t speak the language, and playing piano has always given me a way to serve in my ward or branch, even if I cannot speak the main language. I organized a huge Christmas party last year around Christmas carols that a huge group of people from all over the world could enjoy. I played Christmas songs for hours while people sang. After the event, I had people tell me how much that meant to them.

    I find joy and peace in playing. I enjoy listening to my kids work at their songs and sitting down just to play.

    And finally, yes, if you are an adult who wants to play and instrument, DO IT!!!! I love teaching adults. Learning something new isn’t only the province of children.

    So my advice is to set time limits, make practice a part of a routine, find ways to make music enjoyable and fun. And listen to your child and the tone of your family. If piano is making everyone miserable, then find something else that makes the family happy.

  29. I know I’m late coming to this party, but free/cheap pianos are easier to come by than you might think. Don’t let the expense of a new one scare you out of doing what you want to. Our first two pianos were 1–super cheap from a friend of a friend who needed to unload theirs and 2–from neighbors cleaning out their garage. Neither was perfectly in tune (even after we had them tuned) or a well-made instrument, but that was just fine for 4 and 5 year-olds who liked to pound and play for fun. Now that they are older and we know that at least one of our 3 is super motivated, we have graduated to a better piano. But if you want a piano, keep your eyes open. Our RS president is moving this month, and just gave her piano away. I see them for free on craigslist all the time. Seriously. For a starter piano for children, this is a great way to go. You wont have to worry about them damaging it. Haha! And frankly, as a former piano teacher, a real piano is soooooooo much better than a keyboard for children to learn on. It feels completely different.

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