In this rubric of Discussions we will be posting questions from parents,
some of current students, others from parents of students who graduated long time ago and already dealing with similar issues with their own children. All questions are made anonymous, try your best not to guess who asked them:)
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In the past few months, while my son’s desire to play piano has remained high, his focus on practicing well has diminished (even when he’s practicing the required number of hours). Maybe it’s due to age and other interests gaining his attention. Despite trying to provide more structure (or even less structure), he has lost motivation to practice with focus. He’s even started to be dishonest about how much he’s actually practiced.
When I speak to him about this, he says he wants to play to the level/expectation of your teachings, but his actions are not revealing this. Have you experienced this before? While I don’t want to give up on what he says he wants, I also don’t want to waste your time (and my money) if he’s not going to follow through appropriately. And, I don’t want him to feel pressure of not progressing, particularly in a studio like yours. Any thoughts?
This is very common, it’s the age, your son is reaching the “terrible teens”. The best way I know is a very hard way, I can’t say I accomplished it fully when my own son was growing up. First of all, it’s important to adjust to your son’s process of gradually leaving his childhood and in the next few years becoming his own man. Which means he will be less and less receptive to basic rules and statements like “do because you must”; “be truthful because it’s right”, and so on. You already taught him these basics, now he is
approaching the age of “challenge”. He will be challenging you on all those basic foundations which he already learned, and he will be pushing for more and more respect to his own right to make his own choices (even wrong ones!). My advice is to gradually start switching from stating conditions, rules, and consequences with him to a dialogue of reasoning. Try to start cutting the “umbilical chord” before he cuts it himself, then you will have more control over the situation. You will be able to do it more gradually, in small increments, will be able to oversee the results better. You will be more likely to keep his trust and work through small issues as they come in as opposed to having to deal with outbursts of outright rebellion.
What I mean in concrete situations is this: instead of demanding truth, acknowledge that sometimes it’s very tempting to say a lie and try to get away with it. But what happens if you do? And what happens if you think you got away with it but the other person knows the truth and lies back to you? And let him try to answer himself, then help to clarify. Then tell him that sometimes we know what’s a better choice for us to do but we don’t do it anyway, and afterwords we feel bad about what happened and about ourselves. When something like this happens it feels better to share your struggle with people who love you, and get help and support to do the right thing next time. Make sure he knows that you are on his side and you understand that it can be a bumpy road to keep consistent practicing, and you know that he can do it well, not in general, but today, every day. Don’t sugarcoat the situation, mislead him or cuddle him if he hasn’t done his honest practicing, but help him make a small resolution for tomorrow, then next day try to help him make the right choice again. Then repeat it again and again, he WILL get it! And always make sure he knows that if he decides to follow through on his practicing, it’s his choice and his only, and he is the one who will be benefiting from doing the right thing, not you.
Try not to make a big deal out of speaking about it, make it short, most of the time kids his age just need to feel that they are in control. Try to make him convinced that the consequences of not practicing are not coming from you, they are built into HIS action of not practicing, such as: he will learn less, he will feel bad about himself, he will grow up and regret lost opportunities, and so on. Same for benefits. Try to make him understand that they are not coming from you as a reward for good behavior, they are an inherent part of practicing, such as: he will learn more piano, he will learn how to overcome challenges, he will learn how to beat his own laziness (which all people have), he will learn how to stand by his word, how to reach his dreams, he will become a man of honor. Try to gradually divert his focus of action/consequences process from you being in control of them to “this is how the world works”. It will take years and rivers of blood and tears from you, but this path really is worth it.
I am willing to stand by you and by your son through the process. He is a very good kid, and he will make you proud, we will work on it together.