Whether your child has been playing a musical instrument for a week, a month, a year, or even a decade, the announcement by them that they want to quit is upsetting. Setting aside the cost, investment of time, and commitment vested in your child’s chosen instrument, the thought of him or her quitting can be utterly distressing. However, this experience does not have to be a negative one. In fact, your child’s desire to quit playing an instrument can be a positive growth experience. (Yep, one of those.) Here are some thoughts on what to do when your child wants to quit piano lessons.
Virtually every parent has been told by their child that they want to quit something, albeit a sport, hobby, or playing a musical instrument. We like to keep in mind that the adventures a child have, including playing a musical instrument, all help to make up an enriching array of life experiences for him or her. That being said, after investing hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars into a musical instrument and lessons, the thought of your child quitting can be depressing. Don’t panic! We’ve found it helpful to first try having a heartfelt discussion with your child to determine why he or she wishes to quit playing their musical instrument.
- Maybe your child is physically unwell, extraordinarily tired or feeling particularly stressed. Some children who have unknown physical issues, such as hypothyroidism, can cause them to be unusually tired and unmotivated to play their instrument. Other children may have allergies or asthma that is affecting their play, especially those children who play woodwind instruments like the clarinet. Emotional struggles, which are common during the pubescent years, can also lead to depression and anxiety, causing your child to not want to play. Evaluate if your child is struggling in other areas of their life as well.
- Once you have discussed with your child how they feel physically, we suggest looking into their emotional desires to quit playing their instrument. Maybe your child has a new group of friends that they want to spend more time with, and playing their instrument cuts into this time. Or perhaps your child has found a new activity that he or she enjoys, such as ballet, karate or soccer. Making room for new hobbies can be important for the emotional and social growth of your child. If the reason for your child’s desire to quit is the advent of new activities, people or hobbies, you may suggest they reduce their schedule of musical instruction and practice. Sometimes taking a short break from lessons for a period of time, or reducing practice time can make your child feel more relaxed about playing their chosen instrument and trying new things.
What happens if your child insists that he or she doesn’t want to reduce playing time and that they just want to quit? If this is the case, here are some suggestions:
- One method is to tell your child that you will drastically cut back on lesson and practice time, giving them the opportunity to try new activities. Explain that playing the instrument they chose is a commitment, and encourage them to keep their commitment, even if it is for a reduced amount of time. This will enable your child to feel comfortable getting back into their instrument at a later period of time, while not forgetting everything he or she learned altogether.
- If you cannot manage to convince your child to stick with their instrument on a limited basis then encourage them to take a break for a specified period of time, like one month. Tell your child that you will put the instrument away for one month, and that you will only take it out for your child to play per his or her request. This action will relieve the stress of playing their instrument and enable them to find other things to fill their time with. Many children will actually find that they miss playing and ask to have their instruments several times during their period of time off. Tell your child that after the agreed upon time period has passed that you would like them to reconsider playing and taking lessons for their instrument, even if it is on a limited basis. This break may be all that is needed to make playing their instrument seem fresh and exciting.
You may have tried every trick in the book to discourage your child from quitting his or her instrument, even demanding that they play no matter what. If all else fails and your child truly wishes to discontinue playing the piano, trombone, or drums you may decide it is time to accept their choice, but be sure they understand the ramifications. How many of us have said, “Oh, if my mother had only made me continue, I’d still be playing today!”?
We also suggest you keep the instrument for a period of time, like six months, before deciding that your child will never play it again (just in case!).
Hey, at least you can say you tried your best. Now on to the next challenge, right?