Parents of music students are often faced with the decision of whether it's best for their child to take a break from their lessons, or if they ought to encourage them to keep at it. It's important, as a parent, to determine if your child truly does not find enjoyment in their practice or if they are merely struggling through the challenges necessary in order to become a better musician.  

Mental Health sign with clouds and sky background .jpegIs it The Dip?

In his bestselling book, The Dip, author Seth Godin explains when it's wise to quit something and when it's best to struggle through a challenge in order to achieve true success. He describes three scenarios: the cliff, the cul-de-sac, and the dip.

In a cliff situation, you are headed for inevitable failure and ought to change gears to avoid wasting time and energy. In the cul-de-sac example, things may look appealing, but you aren't really progressing at all and are essentially stuck in a dead end.

The dip, on the other hand, is the long road between being a novice and achieving mastery. If you are in a dip, you need to power through the challenges in order to become the best at what you do. He advises that you learn to quit the wrong pursuits at the right time (cliffs and cul-de-sacs) and instead find the right avenue in which to place all of your energy to power through a dip become the best at it.

You can easily apply this model to the study of music since most musicians probably feel at least some of the time that they are always on the uphill climb to being a better musician. This is an especially important concept for newer students to grasp as they set out on the road to learning their new skill.

Music may have come to them relatively easily initially, but mastery doesn't come without pedaling through the dip. There will be lots of sour notes, botched rhythms, and complicated theory to understand on the way to perfecting their technique. Teaching your child to embrace the ongoing challenge of improving their music skills through consistent encouragement and positive reinforcement can end up being the very boost they need to keep them from giving up. 

Red Flags that Your Child May Need a Break from Lessons

Violin lessons for kids

While some students will embrace the dip and want to follow through, other students may feel truly overwhelmed by the demands of their practice and in some cases it can be best to give them a break rather than forcing them to continue when they are sincerely unhappy. Here is a list of some red flags that might indicate it's time to ease back on your child's lessons at least temporarily:

  • Is getting them to practice stressful for both of you? Does your child resist or fight you every time?
  • Does your child ever initiate playing on their own? It may be rare among children and teens, but if they willingly practice without being asked even occasionally, it's a good sign.
  • Once they begin playing, do they watch the clock the entire time or do they get caught up in practicing and play for longer than the minimum amount of time?
  • Do they enjoy playing a favorite piece that they've mastered? Do they take pride in their progress?
  • Is there no improvement despite your child's best efforts? Do they feel stuck at a certain point no matter how much they practice?
  • Is there another activity about which your child does show enthusiasm, such as sports or art?

Hand with marker writing Whats Your Next Step?.jpegOptions to Try Before Taking a Break

Even if your child exhibits all of the above signs that they are no longer enjoying their practice, it still doesn't mean that they have to give up entirely. The number one thing is to speak with your teacher. Share your concerns and ask for ideas and help. If you are lucky enough to have an outstanding teacher, you'll be relieved to find out that your teacher has already been sensing this and is one step ahead of you, armed with suggestions backed by years of experience. 

Sometimes changing up their approach to music is all it takes to give them a renewed sense of satisfaction when they do play. Some students benefit from practicing first thing in the morning when they have more energy, while others may do better in the afternoons or evenings. Changing lesson days or cutting back on the number of practices scheduled per week may offer them some relief and free up some time for them to relax, pursue other interests, or socialize.

Encourage them to find fun ways to make music such as joining a band, whether it is through school or with friends in an informal setting, or even experimenting with new instruments other than their primary one. Reminding them that music can still be fun while also remaining challenging may be all it takes to help them pedal through the dip and see how rewarding all of their hard work can prove to be in the end. 

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