Finding it Hard to Practice the Piano?

I just have to tell you a story about something that happenned this past Sunday. I was tossing and turning all night trying to figure out how to deal with this predicament. My daughter doesn't know I am telling you this, but that's okay. She won't mind (I think).

My daughter, Claire, is 10 years old and in the 5th grade. I tried teaching her the piano when she was in 2nd grade. She wouldn't practice and I became impatient. She'll practice for someone else, or so I thought, so I signed her up for lessons with another teacher in 3rd grade. Still, I had to nag her all the time to practice. Well, if she's not going to practice, I'm not wasting all this money, so I pulled her out of those lessons.

What next??

I figured, she is older now, 4th grade so I'll try again but we always found some reason not to meet for lessons. In walks the saxophone at school. Group lessons begin in all band instruments in 4th grade. Claire lasts three weeks on the saxophone before switching over to the clarinet. Do you know how heavy the saxophone is? (for real)

So now Claire is really kind of into the clarinet. She is a "natural".(I'm not bias, really). She can actually make beautiful sounds come out of it. I still can't get more than a squawwwwk, squeeeeek!! Wow, is she doing well. Don't even have to get on her case too much to practice. She likes the band and enjoys her lessons.

Okay, fast forward through 4th grade and enter 5th grade. Now do you have a 5th grader? Are hormones actually starting to move in at this point? Do those hormones say "don't practice, it's not fun anymore, aggravate your mother"? I swear they are saying that.

Can't get her to practice for the life of me. Well, it all came to a head this past Sunday. I said, "Claire, before we can visit the pet store, you need to practice". Now, Claire is normally quite a cooperative child but the look she gave me would kill a pack of flies. We butted heads and you can probably guess what happenned. She said she wanted to drop clarinet. I said such hateful things as "You're a quitter, in music you are a quitter" (at least I qualified that, avoiding her requiring prolonged therapy as an adult).

I don't know how much of it was my ego as a musician and teacher that couldn't deal with having a child who wouldn't play an instrument OR was it that I hated her to miss out on the joy that playing an instrument brings. (I already mourned the loss of her not playing the piano, forgetting that there is still time left in a 10 year old's life).

I tried not to really be disappointed in her but I was just mad, mad, mad and she felt extremely bad about herself. We are very close. She even typed a note to me that said, "I know you are very disappointed in me in so many ways (not true)and I hope you don't stay MAD AT ME FOREVER!!!"

As tears were flowing down her cheeks, a couple of interesting things transpired. Which leads to the whole point of telling you about this. (Next time will be a heavy-duty piano lesson, I promise!)

She said that she really wanted to play the piano again but that she wanted to play by ear. She wanted me to teach her how to play chords so she could sing to her playing. I thought that was so cool that she knew that she could do that(I don't talk to her much about the specifics of what I teach). That really excited her (and me!).

Next interesting thing was that I asked what if we had a chart and everytime she practiced, she got a point. Each point stood for $1 and she could save up for something that she wanted. The flood gates stopped. Imagine that.

Well, you might be thinking, what is so amazing about a bribe? I suppose you could look at it that way, but I think of it more as a GOAL. She has a purpose. Maybe 2 years from now, the purpose will be to make beautiful music but right now, while it's difficult to find the discipline to practice, the goal is a reward. And that's okay! Plus, it puts the responsibility back on her rather than my nagging her.

Then Claire said something else that was cool. She said "Maybe, every 30 points, I could download a song on iTunes for .99 cents just to pump me up". Small chunks. Incentives. Small rewards. Realistic goals. Lots goes on in these little minds, eh?

So it got me thinking. Isn't this applicable to myself, and maybe you? Setting realistic goals, working toward them in a regular/sytematic way, making sure to reward yourself along the way. This is how I have built my business, in fact, and how you might approach piano. Do a little every day or every other day. Set tangible goals for a practice session or a week or a month. Reward yourself with a walk, a talk with a friend, and of course food always works for me.

Do you know I wrote most of "The Piano Express" at Panera? My creative juices flow best when there is chocolate nearby. And diet coke.

Well, so much for an intense "content-filled" newsletter this week. Just a little story and motivation for ya.