By Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers
May 8, 2013
From our panel of staff contributors
You've already taught your child to eat correctly, get dressed and myriad other skills. How did those teaching sessions go? Did your child eagerly adapt or fight you every step of the way? The answer should guide you as to whether to hire a piano teacher.
It depends on how serious your child is about piano. By all means, sit down at the keyboard with your kid for some casual instruction. If there's a good rapport, go forward from "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." But once it's time for more advanced pieces, perhaps it'd be better to be the parent and turn the instruction over to a teacher. That doesn't mean you can't be part of the kid's piano experience — but more for support, which is crucial.
For a few sessions, great. Equate it to Little League. It is wonderful to teach the basics: catching, batting, discussing rules, explaining piano keys, reading music, playing scales. But would you want to be the only coach your young baseball player ever has? Same with music teachers.
"Here are the conditions under which this would work," says clinical psychologist Wendy Mogel, author of "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee" (Scribner). "One: If this girl is begging for lessons. Two: If the parent has been a professional piano teacher for a minimum of five years. Three: If the mother has a very special trick she knows for helping children get the hang of the metronome. Four: If there will be no other child related to the parent in the house at the time of the lesson. Or any pets. And the parent is willing to turn off her phone — including vibrate — during the course of the lessons. Five: If the child is willing to do extra chores or pay the mother for the lesson."
In other words, it probably isn't going to work.
"You're taking your children's musical future into your hands," Mogel says. "And the circumstances we live in make it harder than ever for a parent and a child to sit and concentrate and do work together in a patient, respectful, skillful, impersonal way."
The "impersonal," part, Mogel says, is key.
"People who get paid to teach your child piano care just the right amount how well your child does at piano," she says.
It's not personal.
If you teach your child? "Because we're so invested in our children and every snapshot predicts your child's whole future, their love of music and their ability to appreciate and entertain other people is, at each second of every lesson, on the line," she says.
"The odds that your child will have an enduring and positive attitude toward piano is much greater with a professional teacher," Mogel says. "It's hard to teach people things. You need tricks and skills. And you need a nondistracted approach that doesn't leave room for answering the phone or tending to a sibling or a dog or the doorbell or dinner."
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