No-Stress November

by Amy Turner

I rented a violin, my younger child's life's dream-come-true (according to her). She begged for a solid year and we ignored it until we started whispering the what-ifs, "What if she's great?" and "You started at a young age, after all." and "We could do a short-term rental and see how it goes." The day we rented she oohed and ahhed over it, bursting with pride. She even showed potential in her first lesson. But then we reached an impasse. After a couple of weeks, I realized practicing was - ahem - not on her agenda each day. Did I know this would happen? Pfft, of course. ...to other children, but not mine; the child of two professional musicians! How could this be? The faces of my piano students' parents flashed before my eyes. I was officially "them."

You know who you are. You've walked into my home studio pre-apologizing for how Johnny didn't practice much this week. Maybe you coerced at home, maybe you bribed, maybe you lost your temper. No matter how much you reminded your little angel that you were shelling out money each week to make this happen, he wasn't buying it. Yeah, I get it. 

I called her violin teacher, embarrassed and ashamed, and I said, "She doesn't want to practice AT ALL." Desperate with "What do I do?" questions, I relaxed when she reminded me to stay calm and most of all not to squelch her passion for the instrument. After all, her passion at this point is merely loving the lesson and fiddling (no pun intended) around with it at home, usually not with her assignment in front of her. And let's not forget that she is a small child with small attention span and small fingers; not an adult. In less than a month I had turned into a person who was pushing my child away from my own passion and her budding passion. What really pushed me over the edge was our return to her violin lesson after a particularly rough week of cajoling to no avail. As I slumped down to watch an inevitable failed lesson, my little one behaved wonderfully, played well, and received accolades from her teacher. Scoff. I was the only one having a horrible time. So I let it go.

A particular dear parent-friend  - after butting heads with her own sweet one about practicing - is accepting the challenge I put before her to walk away or be hands off her child's practicing, saving herself the stress. She jokingly remarked on her way out the studio door (after her child had a great lesson, of course), "It's going to be 'No-Help November'!" Her comment struck me and I immediately loved it, deciding to issue the challenge to the rest of my students' parents and any who are struggling with how to encourage but not burden beginners. Altering the catch-phrase a bit, I am calling it "No-Stress November." Want to try it? 

Be encouraged by the following:
1. Your child does a great job behaving in lessons and the teacher is proud of his/her progress. No stress.
2. Your child is progressing at a normal-to-advanced pace in lessons (and that's everyone!). No stress.
3. Your child loves to tinker around on any piano anytime, anywhere. Awesome. That means he or she loves it! No stress.
4. Your child's lack of practice or inability to play an assigned piece is blatantly obvious to the teacher. Hey, it's out in the open anyway, and your teacher isn't mad. No stress.
5. Your teacher is training your child to play piano without you and your kid probably doesn't need your help anyway. No stress.
6. Most of all, your teacher loves teaching and loves your child! No stress!

Sit back and enjoy! No-Stress November is coming.

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