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The Piano Parent Trap!

My 6 year old daughter really loves the piano and wants to learn to play, but when I try to help her she gets very upset with me. What should I do?

The parent who asked the above question has fallen into a hole that I call The Piano Parent Trap!

If this is you, you dont have to feel bad. In fact you should be flattered! This is just a problem of conflicting needs. The role of Mom or Dad is very important to the emotional security of children. Your acceptance and approval is everything to them! When parents move out of the parental role into the role of piano teacher, young children can become confused and anxious. The expectations of children are that Mom and Dad will always play the specific role needed to protect their emotional security. Because children must have their emotional needs met to feel loved and secure before they can learn, they may refuse to allow a parent to be the piano teacher, even when they want to learn. And surprisingly, the child who really wants to play the piano may resist a parent's help even more! So, how does a parent get out of this trap? Its not really that hard. Here are two key things you can do.

1. Find the right piano teacher.

Look for a piano teacher you feel your child will be comfortable with. This decision should never be based solely on location and price -- those are important to your convenience, but they tell you nothing about the lessons your child will receive. You should talk with the teacher to get an understanding of how they will work with your child and the type of programs they offer. You should look for a teacher with a warm enthusiastic personality that inspires confidence, and they should go out their way to say, I want to be your childs piano teacher! If upon your interview you dont get this message, keep on looking. Remember, piano teachers are not selling a product, they are the product! The right teacher for your child is someone who will build a supportive relationship that challenges your child to do their best.

2. Be supportive, but dont try to be in control.

From the time your child approached the age of two they most likely have been sending you the same conflicting message over and over: I need you Let me do it myself! Get used to this because it isnt optional and it doesnt really go away when kids get older-- it just comes with the package! There are, however, a couple of options you do have that involve your making a choice. Ill lay it out for you simply. Your choices are between Door Number One and Door Number Two. If you should choose Door Number One, you are in control. If you should choose Door Number Two, you are in charge.

Now you might be thinking this is some kind of a joke -- they are the same door! But not so, they are very different! A Door Number One approach requires you to make all choices for your child without their participation in the decision, such as when they should do their piano practice, what songs they should try to learn, and how fast they should progress. However, because this approach ignores childrens need for independence, they will fight for this control they may actively resist practicing at your appointed time, or could act totally passively and claim that they are just unable to learn new skills.

In contrast, a Door Number Two approach recognizes childrens needs for independence but provides needed support and guidance. It allows children to make choices among options you identify for them, which lets them do it themselves while still receiving needed protection. As a result, here is your real choice in basic terms: Behind Door Number One lurks a hungry lion, while a happy child and family are behind Door Number Two!

3. Guide your child by following an authoritative, not an authoritarian approach.

An authori-tarian approach teaches power and control. In contrast to this approach, an authori-tative model teaches ownership and responsibility. These differences can be seen in the following descriptions.

Authoritarian approach

Parent is in control -- child is powerless.

Child believes parents and other adults are in control them.

Child believes others are responsible for their behavior.

Child waits for others who know more than they do to tell them what to.

Child is passive and does not assert their opinions and ideas or take initiative, or is very angry and acts out! Or, is passive and later becomes very angry!

Authoritative approach

Parent is in charge of setting appropriate consequences for their childs behaviors.

Child has the choice to make reasonable decisions within protected limits where they can learn from their mistakes.

Child learns they are responsible for the consequences of their choices and learns to take initiative and trusts their ability to make intelligent decisions and act responsibly.

Child learns to be assertive and can ask adults for information and guidance when making important decisions, but accepts ownership and responsibility for their actions and decisions.

How can you start to use an authoritative approach to get out of the Parent Trap and open Door Number Two?

An easy way is to reverse roles. For example, after your child comes home from piano lessons, ask them to teach you what theyve learned because you want to learn it too! This lets your child be in control as they share their special piano knowledge with you. Kids cant resist this. Its just so much fun to be the teacher, and children love to reverse roles! Your young teacher will probably even correct your playing, and tell you that youre doing it all wrong, especially if you play their song perfectly! So, be wiling to make a few silly mistakes that your little teacher can have fun correcting. Just dont get defensive. I can guarantee youll get a lot of mileage out of this strategy!

For more resources to help your child in piano achieve their musical dreams visit Piano Adventure Bears Learning Resources for Families You'll find a treasure box full of piano resources to create an exciting musical adventure for your child. Children love these heartwarming stories and games featuring the Piano Adventure Bears, Mrs. Treble Beary and her new student, Albeart Littlebud. Don't wait to give the gift of music!

Related Links:

How To Play Piano Using Chord Symbols

Play Piano As Fast As Possible!

How I Compose a Piece of Music

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