I believe learning music should be a combination of fun, challenge, hard work, successes, failures (yes, failures – learning to fail gracefully is an important life skill) and pride in a job well done. All these things will help a child as he grows and learns to deal with life’s challenges.
I work my students hard, expecting them to make good progress at home during the week. I am somewhat reserved, but entirely genuine in the praise I give. I often have jams or other “events” to give the children opportunities to have fun with their music. I want them to experience the joy and pride that come from doing their best.
About “Quitting” (I prefer to use the expression “stopping lessons.” It sounds less negative.) It may become obvious that your child is not interested, or you do not have the time or energy to give the necessary home support. If this is the case, your child will not be successful in music lessons. It would be good to recognize this and move on.
I’ve been known to tell students they can’t stop if they have a poor attitude during home practice. (They’re children. They actually think I have some authority in this matter!) I tell them that first they need to get a good attitude and work really hard to be successful for two or three weeks – then I’ll let them stop taking lessons if they want to. I use this tactic when I think the student just needs to get to a place where he will feel some success – then he’ll enjoy it and want to continue.
But I’m as good as my word. If the student still doesn’t want to continue after doing well for several weeks, I believe him and encourage his parents to go along with it. At least he’s making an intelligent choice then, and not just walking out because he feels he has failed.
Important: You can’t make your child take lessons from me. There’s no way you could pay me enough to teach a child who doesn’t want to learn. I’m not talking about the occasionally reluctant kid who’s just had too many late nights recently or is on the verge of coming down with a cold. I’m talking about the one who really doesn’t want to be there learning to play music.
About Performing: When children have reached a level where they are able to participate in a performance group, I have certain expectations you should be aware of.
I want my students to be successful, and I do everything I can to make that happen – but my definition of success may be quite different from yours. If we disagree at a fundamental level about what we are trying to accomplish, the child will be the loser. It is best to find someone else to teach your child if this becomes evident.
Success Is/Is Not: I truly do not care how many contests my students win, how much money they earn or how much ink they get in the local (or even national) press. I don’t care for them to be exalted above their peers or idolized by the community. And I don’t care to gain a reputation for myself through the activities and achievements of my students.
I DO care that their experiences with me will help them become the wonderful men and women God created them to be. It is in this way that I am much more than a music teacher. I am a friend and mentor to the children I teach. I take them with me to many events where they can meet and play with other musicians. I take them on “adventures” where they have opportunities to interact with others in the world, outside the immediate influence of their parents (but still under supervision). And I provide opportunities for them to learn stage presence – an extremely important life skill. (The number one fear of adult Americans is the fear of having to speak in public!)
I do not go out and try to find performance opportunities for the kids. If we’re as good as we think we are – they’ll come find us. I do not seek publicity and I do not advertise for students. This method has resulted in many, many gig offers in the past (usually more than we can handle) and so many students that there is always a waiting list. I don’t like to argue with success.