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Re: How to motivate a child
johan d #2482353 11/19/15 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Candywoman
I'm frustrated by the number of spoiled kids not using the opportunities they are given.


The problem with this is that passive voice - "the opportunities they are given" very often means "activities that someone else selected".
If the kids don't have ownership over the choices then it is not reasonable to criticise them for being insufficiently enthusiastic about someone else's choice.
(Not directed to the OP & her son in particular!)

Originally Posted by Gary D.
Originally Posted by hreichgott
Young teens never have short-term work habits that match up with their long-term goals. Ever.

I have to challenge that idea. I wanted lessons. I played every day. No one ever told me to practice. No one ever told me I had to.


Me too, but then I had to push so very very hard to be allowed to learn piano. I was 13 by the time I started, but we didn't actually have one at home until i was 15 (I was allowed to practice in school up to then, and sometimes in a neighbour's house).

For more general study, Heather's description fits all too well, even though I was quite academic.


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Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2482374 11/19/15 09:32 AM
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If it's the social side that he enjoys - why not exploit it? I was very much like that when I was his age, which led me to loads of adventures. My other instrument was classical voice, and I was in love with lieder, so I spent my lunch times with my friend practicing together (he accompanied me). I spent some piano lessons with my piano teacher accompanying me too (and had extra sessions on this).

There might also be opportunities for him to lead an ensemble, or to accompany a band. The possibilities are plentiful, being a pianist is lonely, but it doesn't have to be.


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Re: How to motivate a child
johan d #2482458 11/19/15 02:38 PM
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Originally Posted by johan d
Originally Posted by Candywoman
I'm frustrated by the number of spoiled kids not using the opportunities they are given.
Wow... Did you when you were 13?


Yes. Why not? I practiced 45 minutes per day. I also did all my homework and then some, to attain high marks in all subjects. I was active in all sports as they came along at school and home. The only thing I balked at was housework, but that's not really an opportunity.

Johan D: did you do what was asked of you? If not, why not?

Re: How to motivate a child
barbaram #2482460 11/19/15 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by barbaram
Originally Posted by Candywoman
I'm frustrated by the number of spoiled kids not using the opportunities they are given.


The problem with this is that passive voice - "the opportunities they are given" very often means "activities that someone else selected".

From a purely grammatical standpoint, the usage of passive voice is an indication of emphasis. In the above sentence, the word "opportunities" (direct object) is emphasized rather than the giver (subject). In English, that's all passive voice accomplishes. You can read all sorts of implications into the writer's choice of using passive voice over active voice, but without further context such intent is not provable.


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Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2482493 11/19/15 05:09 PM
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I think there are interesting views here.

When people are talking about how they enjoyed practicing as a child, they found instruments and learned on their own, the motivation was inner motivation. The whole process was owned by the child - the desire, the learning, the practicing, the enjoyment.

More recently, there are very few activities that are owned by the child. Child might have asked for piano, but the parents gave them piano with strings attached - you need to practice x amount, you need to take x tests, I invested x dollars on a piano and lessons, as a parent, I want results. So the initial idea "I want to play piano" becomes the least important idea to the parent. I see this in every sport, after school activity. Sometimes kids need things that only belong to them. What does your child/teen have that does not involve a parent? Do they have a passion for it?

Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2482558 11/19/15 09:28 PM
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Some people are self-propelled, some are not. If your son is willing to be prodded, perhaps it's just what he needs. If he's not, and it annoys him, let him pursue his own musical interests. I'm very self-motivated with most things, but I do like it when a friend stops by and says, "Come with me, we're going to the gym!"

Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2482564 11/19/15 09:47 PM
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Good to know that there are (or were) some young teens who are self-motivated to practice on their own smile that's encouraging.


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Re: How to motivate a child
Candywoman #2482602 11/20/15 02:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Candywoman
did you do what was asked of you? If not, why not?
As I was 13... Definitly NOT! I thought I had more fun doing what i did then... playing with neighbourghood friends. Of course now, I wish I had have more interest in music back then.

Last edited by johan d; 11/20/15 02:04 AM.
How to convince mom to get her daughter a real teacher?
Beans47 #2482608 11/20/15 02:56 AM
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@Candywoman: in order for kids (of any age) to take advantage of the opportunities they are given, they first need to *see* them as opportunities.

The same way you say you "balked at housework because that's not really an opportunity", some other kid will balk at piano practice because s(he) doesn't see the opportunity in that.

Have you ever watched master chef junior? Ten-year-old kids cook restaurant-quality gourmet meals on that show. They are the kind of kids who don't balk at housework. They do the shopping, the prep, the cooking, and the washing up after. A kid who really likes music, and wants to excel at it, will practice beautiful repertoire and "boring" scales alike. It's part of the deal. But for someone who only does it because it's what the grownups expect, it can be torture.

Why don't thirteen-year-olds always do what's asked of them? Because they don't always have the same interests and values as the adults in their lives! You may be convinced, as a parent, that you are providing your offspring with a whole host of marvelous opportunities, and you may (or may not) be right. That's not to say your offspring will necessarily see it your way.

Plus, for some kids in some situations, being asked by a specific person to do something they don't particularly want to do is more than enough reason not to do it; even if they don't actively dislike the activity in question.

I know that's why I stopped diligently practicing the trumpet as a teenager. My brass teacher had said I could have a future in music if I reached for it. From that point on, I did the exact opposite. My becoming a professional musician would have been what my father wanted. I didn't want to give my father what he wanted. He didn't respect me, therefore I didn't respect him, therefore I didn't think he "deserved" for me to make one of his dreams come true.

In hindsight, that may have been kind of like cutting off my nose to spite my face. But sometimes, that's how teenagers think. They don't all have the maturity to realize that in exercising what little control they have over the adults in their lives, they may be hurting their own future.

@OP: Unless you genuinely believe that your son has a professional future in classical music (in which case he should be practicing on his own anyway, because the kind of talent that career path requires is usually self-reinforcing), I would advise you to just back off and see what happens, at this point. He already has grade 6 ABRSM. That can be considered a pretty solid foundation, I think. It won't just go down the drain; not even if he decides to quit piano altogether for a while. Worst case, he can always pick back up where he left off in a few years, or a few decades. Many people do.

Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2482643 11/20/15 05:54 AM
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I think there is a lot of truth in what you say @Saranoya. It would be nice to think that if I give my son the chance he will choose his own path and end up playing some other instrument / sport or whatever but the truth is some kids will just choose not to do anything at all. We always gave the kids the opportunity to choose and my daughter did and now dances, but I am insistent that they will do *something* as I've seen the problems of bored kids with too much time on their hands.
Also, I do see this come up a lot where someone gives up music when they are young only to take it up again in later life and regret the lost opportunities. I'm sure there are therefore lots that are grateful for having been prodded to carry on, (even if they don't admit it. ;))

Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2482659 11/20/15 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Beans47

Also, I do see this come up a lot where someone gives up music when they are young only to take it up again in later life and regret the lost opportunities. I'm sure there are therefore lots that are grateful for having been prodded to carry on, (even if they don't admit it. ;))

My youngest sister was far more talented musically than me (- though most people are, she was also more talented than most....), but she gave up piano after her Grade 5 ABRSM, and never returned to it, even though the piano at home was always at her disposal. It's still there, untuned, unloved and unplayed, now with several notes not sounding.

Whereas I was sent off to another country to continue my education at 15, and never had regular access to a piano (the school's practice rooms were locked on Sundays and after 6pm), yet I made use of every opportunity I had to continue my piano studies, until I achieved my performance diploma. What is the difference between us? I loved classical music; she didn't, even though music came easily to her.

She never regretted giving up - my parents weren't bothered either, as they had no interest in music themselves: they only bought a piano and started their children on lessons to keep up with the Joneses - principally our four cousins, all of whom started lessons between 5 to 7. (BTW, all of them gave up piano after Grade 8 - and they were all more talented than me too).

I've now been playing a regular monthly recital for over three years - all classical music, mixing the unfamiliar with the well-known, and have had several people come to me afterwards to tell me that they wished they had continued their piano lessons when they were kids. (Some were seriously thinking of taking it up again, and even re-starting lessons). The most common reason why they stopped was because life took over (friends, and building up friendships became more important, and none of their friends played piano) and they lost interest in the piano.

Practicing piano is a solitary activity - without a great love for music, few kids will continue with it. In the early years, children do need pushing (just as they need pushing to do their school homework etc), but by your son's age, the motivation has to be from within. Let's also be realistic - at Grade 6, he's already much more accomplished than most piano students will ever be, and for the kind of music he enjoys, there's really no need for him to get better.

So, why not just ask him if he wants to continue his lessons and ABRSM exams, or just play on his own, with his friends, the music he enjoys rather than what's required for pursuing with the ABRSM syllabus? It doesn't have to be a choice between playing or not playing.


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Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2482662 11/20/15 07:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Beans47
I think there is a lot of truth in what you say @Saranoya. It would be nice to think that if I give my son the chance he will choose his own path and end up playing some other instrument / sport or whatever but the truth is some kids will just choose not to do anything at all. We always gave the kids the opportunity to choose and my daughter did and now dances, but I am insistent that they will do *something* as I've seen the problems of bored kids with too much time on their hands.
Also, I do see this come up a lot where someone gives up music when they are young only to take it up again in later life and regret the lost opportunities. I'm sure there are therefore lots that are grateful for having been prodded to carry on, (even if they don't admit it. ;))



Yes, he does need to do 'something'... but I agree this does not need to be classical piano above Grade 6. Is he interested in jazz? improv? If yes, find a teacher and an outlet.

Give him the option to quit but that he must find 'something' else.
You will also find adults who gave up piano as a child, with no adult regrets. My sister is in the same group as Bennevis'. When I speak to adults who gave up piano and did not return, many will state they wished they had stuck with it... but when you discuss it further, not really.. and they do nothing about it as an adult. It is just a 'wish', as in 'I wish I could fly over the moon', rather than a real, lost opportunity.



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Re: How to motivate a child
Nahum #2482664 11/20/15 07:50 AM
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Ah. The Premack principle lives on.


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Re: How to motivate a child
dogperson #2482695 11/20/15 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by dogperson
When I speak to adults who gave up piano and did not return, many will state they wished they had stuck with it... but when you discuss it further, not really.. and they do nothing about it as an adult. It is just a 'wish', as in 'I wish I could fly over the moon', rather than a real, lost opportunity.



I wish every parent and teacher read this. :-)

A lot of people confuse the real motivation to be good at something with a pretty general wish that things could be better in some way. The majority of the people in this world probably wish they are more capable in some way than they actually are: I wish I speak a foreign language, I wish I'm more athletic, I wish I can play music, etc. But this doesn't mean that they want to work for these. In other words, these are not their goals, these really are just a general sentiment that things could always be better.

For the OP, I agree with a lot of the suggestions about letting the kid decide what fits his goals. Not every opportunity is a real opportunity, only those that help you shape your life in the way that you want are real opportunities. If you insist on musical activities, you can tell your son that he needs to stay with one musical activity, but he can choose which activity.

Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2482719 11/20/15 11:31 AM
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I'm not a child development expert or anything, but just from experience with teen piano students (and having been one myself) -- there's a significant difference between young teens and older teens. For the most part, 13-14 year olds are starting to dream about their future lives, develop their own identities and goals, and sometimes form intense obsessions, but they don't yet understand how to work in small steps towards the goals and dreams they have developed. 16-17 year olds are different. They really have a strong emotional and practical investment in activities outside the home, they understand the connection between short-term work habits and long-term results, and they care much more about their work and play among external peers and outside adults than they do about the opinion of their parents. If they have chosen piano as something they love that is part of them, they will take the reins and work hard, or at least work hard on the elements of it that they feel are most important to them. If they don't really want to do it, there's no pushing them.
Many people have shared stories and opinions that are, in my experience, more typical of older teens than of young teens.


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Re: How to motivate a child
hreichgott #2482780 11/20/15 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by hreichgott
I'm not a child development expert or anything, but just from experience with teen piano students (and having been one myself) -- there's a significant difference between young teens and older teens. For the most part, 13-14 year olds are starting to dream about their future lives, develop their own identities and goals, and sometimes form intense obsessions, but they don't yet understand how to work in small steps towards the goals and dreams they have developed. 16-17 year olds are different.

That depends on the kid and the 'maturity' he has at the age.

For my part, by eleven, I was already hooked on classical music, even though living (then) in a tiny, obscure country, I had no access to classical music other than what my teacher played for me and what I could play myself. When I finally saved enough money, I bought an LP of Beethoven's Emperor Concerto - my first record.

My parents didn't care whether I continued with piano lessons. My brother and other sister had already given up, after Grade 1. My youngest sister was just starting lessons, and she continued with it for three years, mainly because I was at home constantly playing music for her, and because she found it easy. Once I left home, she gave up piano.

Incidentally, if you listen to what many classical music-mad kids say (those who practice by themselves without nagging from their parents, and constantly pushing themselves towards greater accomplishments), almost all of them had formed their ideals at the start of puberty, rather than in mid-late teens. Here in the UK, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain is a national institution which gives concerts of demanding music, like Messiaen's Turangalîla-Symphonie and Mahler and Shostakovich symphonies. The kids' ages range from thirteen to nineteen. Hearing them talk about when they realized that classical music was for them, and the musical instrument they play had become an important part of their lives, it's always well before they were 12.

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Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2482795 11/20/15 04:03 PM
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It is rare for a 13 year old to have a passion that is all encompassing.

I think at 13 there is no way to "motivate a child to do what I want them to do" with long term results. The better question is "how do I have my child learn what motivates him." The strong majority at this age are sampling - they try a little this and that.

What if the answer is "You can not motivate him to practice on his own or have him ace a music exam"?

If your road does not change, do you still want to travel on it? How can you make the road music but have a different route?

Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2482850 11/20/15 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Maggie
I think at 13 there is no way to "motivate a child to do what I want them to do" with long term results. The better question is "how do I have my child learn what motivates him."


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Re: How to convince mom to get her daughter a real teacher?
Saranoya #2483875 11/24/15 02:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Saranoya

@OP: Unless you genuinely believe that your son has a professional future in classical music (in which case he should be practicing on his own anyway, because the kind of talent that career path requires is usually self-reinforcing), I would advise you to just back off and see what happens, at this point.

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You can push him to pass level 8, if the goal is to get him the certificate for some reason, that is the easy part.

Not only it takes huge effort to get to the higher level of playing, it also takes significant daily effort to maintain the playing level. If he doesn't have the passion, the chance is that he won't retain the playing level.

I have seen some kids, who passed the high level piano exams (RCM level 10, ABRSM level 8) at a fairly young age, but practically didn't retain much after a couple of years. Apparently passing the exams did not make them musicians.

Well, I suppose they can pick it up if they have really want to, but they just don't seem to have the will, and the parents, of course, couldn't care less the day after seeing the certificates. I couldn't think of a worse way to waste time and money.

Re: How to motivate a child
Beans47 #2483913 11/24/15 04:28 AM
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I admit that my goals as a teacher are heavily influenced by my "spiritual" approach to music. I see music as one of life's great gifts.

So from day one I make it clear that the enjoyment of music IS the goal and if the parent is bent on exams as a yardstick of achievement, then they are politely directed to another teacher. If the child never touches a piano after his lessons with me are over ... then at least I hope he will love music. For young students I insist on a reasonable age .... no children under seven or eight. They must practice regularly and have an acoustic or full size digital piano ... no tiny keyboards after the first 6 months or so. And there will be NO time wasted on exams. They will learn first and above all to READ the notes. For adults ... the main demand is that they schedule regular practice time, since most adults are "voluntary" students. And adults trot out more excuses not to practice than the children, surprisingly.

The KEY for me is that I regularly play fragments of the great classics for my students. I try to keep the pieces within an "attainable" level and I sit down and give a full on concert performance .... combining Lang Lang and Gould. I've had children gather around me absolutely fixated by a "Prestissimo" passage and adults tear up. One adult actually crawled under my piano to see if I had hidden an electronic device underneath the sound board.

A teacher should be able to PLAY the piano. I had a master teacher with arthritis who struggled with some of the notes ... but the artistry was there and I didn't miss it. I had another fresh from a short hiatus from the concert stage who rendered me awe-struck. Too many teachers can't or won't play the piano ... at a level which is exciting for their student. And far too many rely on a rote schedule in a syllabus which they apply to all their students. Each student is an individual soul ... and each should have as much "personal tailoring" of the lessons ... within reason of course. But a schedule of exams is the surest way to kill interest.

Music lessons shouldn't be just another "chore" ... just another extension of those school classes and exams so hated by generations of students. That 13 year old boy will do better and be much happier with his jazz band .... those exams are a waste of time. Let him play what he wants to play and be happy he's found a jazz club which he enjoys. There are many genres of music.

Music is a gift of the Gods ... And should be a celebration! laugh yippie

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