Updated: Jul 12
By Christy | The Practicing Pro
If you were stranded at sea, who would come to your rescue? No doubt about it, I know I could count on Mark, my husband and partner, to save the day. He has always been like a lighthouse for me. Helping me through anything tough and helping me to stay on course until I get to where I was wanting to go.
I asked my husband the other morning, “What’s your why” for us, “being married and staying married.”
He was like” whoa, that’s a heavy breakfast question!”.
Now, I usually ask him questions like this on our anniversary dinner, or something like that but not usually at a random breakfast!
We have been married for over 30 years. We do not have a perfect marriage, and we have certainly had our share of life’s ups and downs, but it’s a good marriage, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
This is what he said when I put him on the spot:
“Well, you've made a commitment, and you see the importance of finishing the journey together. You have had many moments of happiness, and “other” moments. You accomplish things either together or with the consistent support of the other person.”
I was like, Wow, that was really amazing. Wait let me write that down!
So, really that is exactly the same as a “WHY for wanting your child to play a musical instrument”. Lessons learned in the home music practice session, also directly transfer to relationships later in life with your partner, family, friends and co-workers.
Let’s look at what Mark said in 3 parts:
1) Well, you've made a commitment, and you see the importance of finishing the journey together.
You make a commitment to play the instrument, whether it's violin, voice, piano, or guitar, etc.. to the finish of the journey.
You commit to playing it all the way through - even in tough seasons. You realize the importance of “finishing the journey”.
So what would a commitment be for an instrument?....it would be different for different families. For me, it’s when they leave home after high school. It could also be when they clearly decide their career path and that training is taking over all of their time. An example is my daughter, playing high-level piano in grade 10, also wanting to do Biology and IB. When she was elected the president of her grade 12 years at school, she simply needed more time and so she accompanied the school choir each week and stopped her aggressive lessons and daily practice. My other two continued with their music lessons right to the end of high school. So each family would need to decide what “to the end of the journey” was for them and for each child.
It's part of the deal - to make a long-term commitment.
The second point was to
2) Remember in this long journey you are gonna have many moments of happiness and also SOME THAT ARE NOT - and that's okay and to be expected.
After 32 years married, my relationship with Mark is constantly changing.
This past year there have been big changes in our world with a pandemic.
With those changes, we have come to see things differently and that has led us to some changes in our relationship.
Other times that big changes have happened for us were:
- Job changes
- Moving into a new town/city
- A child added to our family
- My husband had a few injuries
- I had a serious illness
Each of these things was a challenge for us and as we changed as individuals, our relationship also had to change.
It’s the same thing with practicing an instrument.
Here is a recent example: One of my parents said, “Oh, I can't get my son to practice anymore!” and I was like “What's up?”, and he said, “He has a girlfriend.”.
So he wasn’t wanting to practice his violin anymore because of time, but because his mind was occupied, it wasn’t about the violin. As your relationships change, and changes happen around you, it affects your behavior in many different ways.
It's the same for practicing. Changes of any kind in your life will affect your practicing and daily habits.
When you have someone working with you or supporting you while you are working through changes in your life, it makes all the difference.
So, going back to the dad who made the comment to me the other night about having trouble with his son practicing because he has a girlfriend.
Let’s take the violin right out of the equation. He's probably also having trouble with his homework, having trouble keeping his room clean, having trouble sleeping, you know, he's probably having trouble with a lot of things… first girlfriends are SUPER distracting as a whole gamut of new feelings, expectations, and time management come crashing into your life.
The thing is with daily practicing - it’s a place where everything can show up and manifest very openly and obviously. Practicing every day is hard and takes discipline and focus and the level of playing gets higher and higher over time. Organizational skills, humility to learn and take direction are needed. Younger ones need to allow others to help them to be successful. This can be so hard for some little personalities!
Practicing an instrument is like wearing a bikini...it shows everything! If you are tired - it shows. If you are frustrated, it shows. If you are jealous, it shows. If you are mad at your practicing parent, it shows. If your confidence is low from something unrelated to your practicing, it shows. If you are struggling at school, it shows. Everything shows!
So this is AMAZING because as a parent you can see the issues and struggles your child is having in-home music practices and you can jump right in and support them at the very beginning. This makes practicing hard, YES, but it’s so much better to know your child is struggling with “taking directions” or “reading notes” or “focusing for an amount of time” or “learns a certain way” or “is motivated a certain way” in daily practice than to miss these things altogether or worse, find out years later, from a school teacher for example, when an issue has escalated to something much harder to deal with.
I'd like to follow up with that dad in a few weeks and see if he's worked it out with his son, managing his time now that he has a new girlfriend...his first girlfriend. In this case, it’s obvious the issues he is going through are not related to his violin but instead “new things” in his life that he is struggling to manage.
All right, the last thing Mark said was,
3) You accomplish things either together or with the consistent support of the other person.
So, let’s compare this to playing an instrument.
You learn to do hard things WITH your parent (especially at the start). When I teach a 2-year-old to play the violin GEE they need to play 100 percent of the time with their parent bowing for them - then with them - then they can eventually do bits by themselves for A WHOLE YEAR or more!!! A parent who does this process every day - what are you saying to your child?
You learning something wonderful and beautiful, like playing the violin, is so important to me - YOU are so important to me that I am going to take my time, every day, to play your violin WITH you.
That’s a commitment and an example to your child of commitment. What a great foundation to set in your child’s life.
You are clearly saying “I am here with you and supporting you. Music, learning with you, and supporting you is important to me.”.
Another big thing you learn with music lessons is the value of making bigger long-term goals, and then making short-term goals along the way with rewards,
You learn one piece at a time and then work your way through a book. At its completion, you might do a special solo or whole graduation or concert. Maybe you do an exam or audition for a group that you get into. You can set long-range goals when you play an instrument, and commit to them over the years.
Comparing that to relationships: that would be like prioritizing regular date nights and then a long weekend away with a partner someday and realizing the importance of that. At work, it would be understanding the value of setting personal goals as well as having goals as a team and then celebrating accomplishing them together.
When playing an instrument - you don’t start out playing a concerto. You start with simple nursery rhymes and after daily practice, for many years you eventually play a concerto or sonata.
As a musician, you learn that you break a bigger project into smaller goals, and along the way you celebrate the work that you've done together.
See how from these few examples that practicing daily and committing for a long time teaches so many things to a child that will help them later in their success in relationships and in their jobs?
The way it works in life, is you're either climbing up the ladder, or you're sliding down. You can't just stay. There's no such thing as hanging on. When you hang on, you are just sliding slowly down. You might not realize it, but you're sliding down ever so slowly.
Also, the same with practicing daily. You need to keep practicing every day. If you miss a few days you don’t only stop getting better but you start to get rusty and lose your skills. You also will likely start not liking it. When you practice something every day you like it more and have the opportunity to enjoy it! When children say they don’t like playing an instrument, USUALLY they are not practicing daily - which means it’s hard. And no one likes doing something that always feels hard.
Relationships are the same! You need to be kind every day and support each other every day even just a little bit. If you stop then your relationship gets weaker and distance grows. It becomes harder - no one likes a relationship that is hard and only seems like work.
At work, it’s also the same. If you don’t do your best and develop your skills and proficiency in your job every day even just a little, then you start not liking your job, and won’t be as productive over time.
So that reply from my husband again? But when you read it this time, think of it as a WHY for music lessons and practicing daily with your child.
Here is what he said:
"Well, you've made a commitment, and you see the importance of finishing the journey together. You have had many moments of happiness, and “other” moments. You accomplish things either together or with the consistent support of the other person."
So practicing parent - Make your practicing goals with your child, put your blinders on and your head down, and keep at it. You are in this for the long-term and you will see the benefits of your commitment in your child’s life looking back on all of those years you were a practicing parent.
You’ve got this!
Check out my Free PDF download Checklist for a Successful Music Practice for teachers and practicing parents.
Your easy checklist for successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent or music teacher, this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.
INVITATION from Christy Hodder:
Speaking of amazing practices, let me tell you all about the digital course, the Practicing Pro Academy. This is for the serious practicing parents and music teachers and is an at-your-own-pace, step-by-step, online course to bring you more effective, positive, and fun home music practices. Registrants receive a special package in the mail from me, and I am with you in person with Q&As to answer all your questions.
Learn more about PPA and join the waitlist HERE for the next Practicing Pro Academy course. It's only offered once a year so you don't want to miss it. The registration will only open for a few weeks and I'll let everyone on the waitlist know immediately so that you can grab one of the spots.
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