by Piotr Sierzputowski
Regardless of how much your kid is or was excited to start guitar lessons, the time will come (if not already) when he or she will experience a DROP OF MOTIVATION. In other words – guitar will go in the corner and the kid will stop practicing.
It seems to be a problem, because why should you pay for all these lessons and all the gear if your kid is not going to use it? However, it’s not as easy as it seems.
First of all, you need to understand that motivation drops are normal and are not a good enough reason to stop lessons. You could easily kill the passion in your child by making this decision too quickly and I’m sure you do not want to do that.
Secondly, remember that as long as the kid is attending the lessons, he or she is practicing guitar in the lessons, so the guitar is being used and the progress (even if slow) is being made.
That said, you certainly want to do something about this motivation drop. The best thing you can do is of course telling the teacher about it – he will probably have his methods on fixing that problem.
Apart from that, the best thing you can do YOURSELF to help your kid (I’m sure you do want to do it as any good parent), is to UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR KID FEELS or WHY EXACTLY DOES HE / SHE NOT PRACTICE? If you know the problem better, you can come up with better solutions.
REASON 1: Playing Guitar Is Too Difficult
When your child encounters a problem playing guitar… i.e. a song is above their current level, they are not able to apply some technical stuff etc., frustration usually occurs. Sometimes this feeling can be motivating, but if it is too great and lasts for too long, it is actually demotivating. In other words, if your child can not deal with some aspect of playing guitar, they are not happy with themselves, they feel bad about it. Their natural reaction will be to avoid playing guitar in order not to feel bad.
(And by the way – this reaction is not reserved for children only, each person reacts the same way if something does not work)
How to spot it? You just have to ask:
“I noticed that you stopped playing guitar … you can’t get around something, can you? Is something too difficult? ”
“Yes, these chords … I do not understand them at all … I have tried so many times and nothing works…”
“I understand how you feel, I’m nervous when something does not work too … listen, take a break and don’t worry – Let me talk to your teacher meanwhile and he will do something about it.”
… and this is the best way to tackle this problem – talk to the teacher. Right away, when the thing is fresh and does not develop into something more serious, such as “I do not think I’m good enough” or “I do not want to play the guitar anymore”. The earlier you talk to the teacher, the easier it will be to help your child either by explaining the problem to them or by giving them something easier to do.
Just because something is difficult for your child does not mean that they are not trying hard enough, or that they are not good enough to do it. Everyone learns at their own pace and if they encounter something difficult to the point of them ceasing to play, it means that something has to be done about it.
REASON 2: No Time To Practice
To be clear – “lack of time” is a product of human mind. The reality is that time exists all the same for everyone. Everyone’s got the same amount of it… The problem is that sometimes it is difficult to manage.
Of course, the fact that we have explained how to properly name the problem does not solve it at all. However, it will help us find the solution.
In my music teaching career, I’ve met two types of “lack of time”:
Some children have really heavy-loaded schedule. School is early in the morning, later the extra curricular classes: on Monday and Wednesday karate, Tuesday and Thursday choir, Friday is for the guitar, because on Saturday morning there is English, and on Sunday the church. In the evening at home, a quick dinner, doing homework, and then … there is only energy for 2 things: some fun (ex. playing video games) or sleep. Usually the latter.
There are also kids who do not go wild like that. Yes, they do go to various additional classes, but not as many. They also have to go to school, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon … but they “do not have time to practice” because when they come back home and have some time for guitar, they “are already tired”.
The first case is a little more difficult. If you absolutely want to keep all the extra classes, then there really is no other choice – just fight and battle the time in an unfair game. I’m not saying it’s bad – on the contrary, it’s good to be ambitious. You have to take into account, however, that you cannot stretch the day beyond 24 hours, and if the child has to handle varous activities in the same time, they will do each one slowly and in patches. You have nothing to complain about “not practicing” then. It’s more than enough that the kid plays during the lessons – it’s still a lot.
You could, however, consider which of the extra activities are the most important for your child and give up some. It may be difficult at first, but you have to remember that the more time and energy you can devote to one thing (like playing guitar), the better results you will achieve in a shorter span.
In the second case there is one thing you can do:
The fact that after a whole day of studying, running, doing homework, etc., the child does not want to play guitar anymore is not strange at all. Just think how you feel after a full day of work. Even if you can motivate yourself to something more, it’s not everyday and it’s rather not easy – you can not expect the same from a child … or at least on the same level.
That’s why it’s best to plan practicing guitar when the level of energy is still high – for example in the morning before going to school (if there is time), or right after coming home from school, when real fatigue has not caught on yet. It may seem impossible, but think about it – if your child knows what to practice, it’s enough to play 30 minutes a day. 30 minutes before leaving the house, or before doing homework is not a lot, but may tune your child in very positive way for the day (because they know that thay have already worked on their dream and they are getting closer to making it come true).
REASON 3: There Is Too Much Going On
This reason is somewhat similar to the previous one, because it also involves “lack of time”. Here, however, I would like to go a bit more into details. One of the reasons why “we lack time” is often that there are too many different things going on around and it’s hard to focus on one of them.
The best example of this is a holiday trip. I have received complaints from parents that their son / daughter had not even touched the guitar for 2-3 weeks … even though they took one because the kid wanted it!
Let’s explain one thing … why are you going on vacation? To relax and have some fun … Your children go with you especially for that (with emphasis on the second thing). This does not mean, of course, that it is forbidden to practice guitar, because you have to have fun … but usually if people go on holiday, they do not think about spending the day productively. Children do not think about it any more. Therefore, they do not discipline themselves and will not practice every day.
(By the way: I’m not talking about all the kids here … there are those who just want to play guitar all the time – even on vacation)
If you want your child to practice guitar during the holidays, you must practice with them. Allow 30 minutes each morning for guitar playing and just watch and listen to your child play. Do not correct them, do not help them (unless they specifically ask) – just sit with them in one room and listen to them practice. From time to time, when you hear them play something nice (even if it’s something small), tell them that you liked it. This will boost their confidence (WAYYYYYYYY more than pointing at their mistakes)
After 30 minutes, the practice session ends and you can do other things.
Oh … and just to be clear – I’m not suggesting that you force your child to practice. If they insist that they do not want to play guitar, let them be… however, sometimes the only thing that a child needs to practice playing guitar is the presence of another person. Treat these sessions as fun, a way to start the day together in a productive way – you can do something for yourself at the same time, such as reading an interesting article, or working out.
REASON 4: Other Problems
Lack of motivation to practice guitar can be caused by a lot of things. It only takes something wrong in school, a fight with friends … or something bad happens – then your child may just be in a bad mood.
How to recognize it? If your child is in a bad mood, then he lacks motivation for anything – not just practicing guitar.
How to handle this? Here, unfortunately, I do not have any specific advice for you because the solution to the problem depends on what kind of problem you are dealing with. In serious instances you are going to need psychologist’s help… in any case, it is first of all necessary to UNDERSTAND what the problem is – that is, we go back to square 1: ” Seek first to understand, then to be understood “. Sometimes it takes a while. It is worth to limit the advice to the necessary minimum, and focus most of your energy on asking questions, listening and observing.
The very fact that you will be aware that your child’s lack of motivation may be caused by a problem at school, at home etc. will make the whole thing easier for you.
It might be a good idea to let the teacher know about the situation. It often happens that playing guitar can be an escape from problems, sometimes even help solve them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Piotr is a professional muscian and owner of the best guitar school in Ostrołęka (Poland). He teaches a lot of students of different ages and helps them to achieve their musical goals.