Teaching piano lessons to your own child: 4 practice tips for during the week

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Well, hello again! I have been teaching my daughter Hope piano lessons for twelve weeks now. Knowing that it would be a challenge, I decided to chronicle the happenings here. It’s been great for encouragement and reflection and hopefully even helpful for you as well.

The first post in the series dealt with a little trick I call The Name Game.

Next, I shared why The teachers have it better.

Today, I’m going to share some helpful tips I’ve learned about practicing with your child during the week, as the mom and NOT the teacher.

Tip #1: Take a different posture than you do while teaching. 

If you usually stand while teaching, try during the week to sit down while they practice. If you’re the teacher who prefers to sit, trying standing while they practice.

This might seem so small, but it has made a huge difference for me.

The first few weeks of practicing with Hope during the week were really rough for me. I was trying so hard to not be “teachery,” but having trouble! I know one day I literally chewed a great big spot in my cheek. (It hurt!) Everything in me wanted to be correcting and instructing, moving her hands and straightening her back, and ugh. Something had to happen. So one day, probably the day after I chewed the inside of my cheek off, I decided to pull up an ottoman and sit down next to her instead of standing. (I always stand up when giving lessons) It was amazing how this small change gave me a totally different perspective. Instead of being a teacher, now I was just a mom. Listening, helping her know what to practice next, making sure she wasn’t dawdling in between assignments, but other than that, just being there and watching her play. Sometimes I hold a hot cup of coffee and just sit there; it’s actually kind of relaxing.

Tip #2: As a general rule, only correct what an ordinary parent would know to correct. 

Yes, while I’m watching Hope practice, there are a thousand things that I know “Mrs. _____” would say if she was listening, but during that time, I’m not her teacher, I’m her mom. Especially at this early stage, I’ll do more damage than good by using my “pianist knowledge” with her as she practices. I would much rather her come ask me for extra help, then wish that I would put a cork in it.

When she’s practicing, and I think I should remark about something she’s doing wrong, I ask myself, “Would an ordinary parent know to say that?” And if I think yes, then I go ahead and try to help. If not, then I leave it alone. After all, we wouldn’t “Mrs. _____” to not have any work to do during the lesson.

Tip #3: Focus on developing good concentration skills and work ethic.

I feel that a parent’s “supervisor” role should have as it’s focus their child’s concentration skills and work ethic. Do I want Hope to learn to play that D Major scale correctly? Yes! But I can artificially teach her how to play it perfectly. As a parent, it’s more important to me that she begin to learn good character as it regards to learning and practicing.

Here’s an example, I won’t correct every wrong note or note value that she plays; but I do work on her dawdling in between songs, playing what I call “whatever music” (just random notes on the piano).

“Hope, this is your time to practice your lesson. That is not your lesson. We only have so much time, and you need to work on only the things that are written in your assignment book. When you finish one thing, you go right to the next.”

I’m all for being creative. I regularly let Hope have time at the piano to just “play.” She likes to experiment with sounds and intervals and ups and downs and everything. That is good and that is helpful. But when it’s time to practice the lesson, she must be focused.

This might sound like a lot to ask from a five-year old, but I’m not actually expecting her to do it perfectly now (that’s why I’m here), I’m just trying to plant the seeds of how to focus on a task you’ve been given. This translates to chores, schoolwork, and even games.

The same could be said of work ethic. I have the chance to watch her and gauge her diligence and effort. Even now, I want to encourage her to give her best. It’s a huge lesson in life to learn that a major way to respond with thankfulness for opportunities is to engage yourself in them with all your heart. Thankfully, she does pretty good at this right now, because she’s still loving it.

These things, concentration and work ethic (thought I might not use those exact terms with her), are things that I will comment on as I see the need. I feel that as the parent, these are things that fall under our concern. We’re uniquely able to deal with these issues as we oversee the practice time during the week.

Tip #4: Try not to make up for your child’s memory just because you are also the teacher.

This in some ways is a sub-point under the last tip. I’ll try to make it short. = ) A teacher has to be very careful and clear about what they want during the week. The child’s responsibility is to remember. If something is extremely important and the teacher thinks the student might need help remembering, they will probably make an extra note on the assignment book so the parent will be aware of the instructions as well. This way the parent can also help the child remember.

As far as Hope and I go, if it’s not expressly written in her assignment book and she doesn’t remember what Mrs. _____ said during the lesson, I don’t remind her (even though I am technically Mrs. _____ and know what she’s supposed to do). She needs to be accountable for remembering and she needs to feel the consequences of not remembering at the lesson if she didn’t follow through.

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I hope these have been helpful and thought-provoking. As I already said, it’s been good for me to think through the different challenges of teaching your own child; and it’s been fun to figure out solutions to those challenges.

I can only imagine what we’ll learn together in the future! = )

(Next time we’ll talk about preparing yourself and your house to be “teacher-like” on lesson day)

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments. 

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