How to Help Your Musical Child as a Non-Musical Parent

By: Sara Chatalbash

Owner | Teacher

Nervous about helping your child out at home with piano? Well, you don’t even have to know how to play the piano or how to read music to help your child make progress at home.

In fact, you really only have to achieve one goal each day: get your child to play the piano.

Most parents have never played the piano or any instrument (except maybe for a year or two in grade school) and their idea of practice is determined by minutes on the timer without ever listening to what their child is playing.  30 minutes?  Good.  On to the next thing.

Most piano parents think that they need to nag and beg their child to practice piano, but there are more effective ways to get them on the bench.

The best way to encourage daily piano practice is to be engaged!

An engaged piano parent is a parent that takes an active role in their child practicing at home. This can be accomplished in various ways, but it really doesn’t require you to be musical at all.

Your main objective as a piano parent is to support daily practice in an encouraging way. Nagging makes piano practice miserable and seem like a chore and will have the opposite effect that you want on your child. Nagging will never help create a natural routine.

So What Can I Actually Do to Encourage Practice?

Here are 12 things you can do to facilitate, motivate, and encourage your child to practice each day without nagging or having to know anything about music!

1. Be the guard

Keep family pets, siblings, and friends out of the piano room. For older students, this includes keeping cell phones out of the piano room, too since this is the biggest distraction students tend to have.

2. Ask to hear an old piece

Every now and then, request to hear an old piece that your child has already completed and feels proud of. It’s good to revisit pieces that they’ve mastered and just be able to play something without having to work on it. 

3. Help read directions

A lot of the time, children are confused simply because they don’t read the directions or maybe don’t understand them. Sit next to them and read the directions out together and ask if they know what to do. If they don’t, then flip back in the book and find the answer together. Lesson books are very simple to follow and understand even if you’re not taking lessons. 

4. Sing along

Once your child has completed their song and they’re confident playing from beginning to end without mistakes or pauses, sing the lyrics as they’re playing! It’s a great feeling when you can play something so well that someone can actually sing along with you.

5. Help find fun songs to learn

Hop on YouTube or Google some cool songs they love to listen to and see if there is a beginner version they can print out and learn. Maybe you can suggest some songs they’ve never heard before and have them listen to it first as a fun bonding experience.

6. Tidy up

Although you should definitely be trying to instill organization skills in your children so that they do this themselves, it’s nice to pop in and tidy up every now and then if they’ve left without putting things back. This will make the next practice session smoother since everything will be easy to find. Maybe leave a little note of encouragement on the music stand for them to see next time.

7. Ask them to play for others

If friends or family come over, ask your child to play something they’re confident in for them and act like it’s a mini concert. On regular days, you can even just sit down and ask them to play something for you! This will help them get rid of the anxiety of playing in front of others and be more comfortable with recitals.

8. Create a routine

Piano practice that happens every single day is by far the most effective. Practicing only a few times a week won’t cut it and your child will start to forget things because they’re not being reinforced daily. This means slower progress. Setting a time of day when practice happens as a routine no matter what will instill a level of discipline and it will carry over to many other areas of life where they will have to stick to a routine as well. If you have a very young child, ask them to play twice a day at certain times to break it up. 

9. Role Reversal

Ask your child to teach you something they’ve learned! It’s a fun experience for a child to feel like they’re teaching their parents something. 

10. Read and check lesson notes

Oftentimes, children don’t bother reading the detailed notes and assignments written in their notebooks at home. So open up their book after each lesson and read what it is they’re supposed to accomplish that week to your child. Check off each one as your child practices to keep track!

11. Words of encouragement

Whether you’re musical or not, you can absolutely still give words of praise during practice time. Saying simple things like you like how they played so softly or how they played without pausing or just how you thought it sounded beautiful goes a long way. It lets your child know that you’re actively listening and care about what they’re doing.

12. Interpreter

Children are not great at vocalizing or expressing their feelings sometimes or what they’re struggling with and teachers don’t know what may be going on at home to cause these feelings. Take note of any changes or struggles at home that may be affecting piano and jot down a little note to their teacher to let them know.

Helping your child with practicing is easier than you thought, right? It’s not so much about making sure they get the minutes in, it’s focusing on how they’re spending those minutes. How are they practicing? What are they practicing? 

After reading all the ways you can help your child succeed without having to know anything about music at all, I hope you feel more confident that you can still be a part of their journey! 

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