How To Talk So Kids Will Practice

How to talk to your kids so they will practice music

How To Talk So Kids Will Practice

Just about everyone I’ve talked to has a challenge with getting their kids to practice. 
I too had this issue.
 
When my son Alejandro was young, not only was I the parent, but also the teacher. It was very challenging and we would often end our lessons in tears – his and mine!
It was extremely frustrating! 
It’s like that quote from the film Cool Hand Luke. 
“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
It’s true. Communication is probably the biggest challenge humans face in all walks of life. 
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” 
– George Bernard Shaw
At age 9, Alejandro went to camp and became “piano guy” as he banged out requests on the old upright in the mess hall. Now at 16, he seeks out time to practice on his own. It’s become an outlet, a passion and a constant companion. Music has become part of his identity. 

So how did we get here?

Flashback to ten years ago. My brilliant and beautiful wife knows a lot about developmental psychology. Besides giving me a time out! – she gave me a book to read. You may already know about it. 
Reading this book was a major breakthrough for me.

In the book, the authors discuss four key strategies:

  1. Listen with full attention
  1. Acknowledge their feelings with a word
  1. Give their feelings a name
  1. Give them their wishes in fantasy

Listen with full attention

This is a rarity nowadays. I’ve seen so many parents staring at their smart devices while their children are begging for some attention. When Alejandro was a toddler, he would grab our faces and literally turn our heads and say, “Look at me!” Pretty funny and effective.
Getting attention is like getting oxygen. Your child wants your attention, approval and notice of what they are doing. Practice time can be an incredible bonding time. Get interested in what they are doing, and they will do more of it. It’s why I recommend always placing the piano in the center of the living space. It shows you care about this and it’s important to you. 
Did you ever notice how sports-crazed kids usually have sport-crazed parents? It’s the same with music, movies, arts, crafts, dance, whatever. Your children want to share in your passions. In other words, where your attention is.

Acknowledge their feelings with a word

It doesn’t even have to be a full word. It can be just, “Oh” or “Hmm” or just a caring look and nod of acknowledgement. One thing that is also very powerful is to just reiterate what they said. This works wonders when your child is upset. They don’t necessarily want or need you to fix things, they just want to be heard. As a man, I know I have the tendency to want to fix the problem, as the book  Men are from Mars, Women from Venus illustrated for me. My wife sometimes just needs me to hear her, not fix the problem! The same is true for your kids.

Give their feelings a name

This is especially useful for younger kids who don’t have the vocabulary to express what they are feeling. Heck, many adults don’t either! There is a movement towards social-emotional learning (SEL) with full curricula to emphasize this. 
When your child is upset, they don’t always have the words to tell you what they are feeling. Giving them a vocabulary is relieving in that they are acknowledged. 
This chart used to be on my refrigerator. It is a useful way of articulating how you’re feeling.
You can try having your child point to the picture that most describes what they are feeling right now.
Bonus points if you make that face too!

Give Them Their Wishes in Fantasy

This is fun and a way to build empathy and connection. Obviously your child knows it’s a fantasy. But they feel heard and acknowledged. You’ll see what I mean below.
Here’s two examples of how to talk about practicing, one obviously better than the other.

Scenario 1

Child: I don’t want to practice 
Parent (looking at phone) : You have to practice! How are you going to get better?
Child: But I don’t want to!
Parent: It’s not a choice just go do it!
Child: No
Parent: You know you need to practice – why don’t you just go practice?
Child: I don’t feel like it.
Parent: Well I don’t feel like doing many things either, but I have to. Do you think I want to go on the stinky subway everyday? Now go and practice, NOW! 
Child leaves crying and bangs on the piano.
Parent: What did I do?

Scenario 2

Child: I don’t want to practice 
Parent looks directly at child: Hm. You don’t want to practice.
Child: Well…I know I should, but I don’t feel like it right now.
Parent: You’re not ready to practice right now.
Child: No.   I want to go to the beach!
Parent: Well, that would be fun. But I know the beach is over an hour away. I wish I had a magic wand to make us just fly to the beach right now! 
Child: Ha ha….
<Pause>
I’m a little hungry, can I have a snack?
Parent: Ok I’ll make a snack.
Child: And then I want to show you the new song I learned!
There’s so much more in the book. I encourage you to try these strategies out. Also share this with your friends and families.

What is the real reason we send our kids to college?

What if we could be limitless?

 

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?  

 

What projects would you work on?  Where would you go? Would you still be doing the work you do now?

 

In the film Limitless, a pill gives one human the power of all knowledge, and unlimited confidence.  In other words, all knowledge is available and failure impossible.

 

“Not many of us know what it’s like to become the perfect version of ourselves.”

– Eddie Mora, played by Bradley Cooper in the film Limitless

 

It’s a fun idea.  

 

As parents, isn’t this what we want for our kids?  Not with the pill, I mean. But, to be limitless?

 

My son Alejandro turned 17 a few weeks ago.

 

We’ve been touring colleges for almost two years now and I started thinking. Why are we doing this?

 

Everyone knows the stories about billionaire college dropouts like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and others.

 

There’s been a lot of talk in the media about whether college costs are worth it? With some tuition over $70,000 per year and rising student debt that can never be refinanced or forgiven, there is good reason to pause. Especially in the fields of study where jobs are not readily available or not particularly high paying like education, and the arts and humanities.

 

Plus, you can learn all the same skills and use all the same textbooks at your local community college or even just the public library. There’s even free courses from the very same Ivy League colleges and universities online 24/7.

 

So, why do we all strive to send our kids to the same 100 or so colleges? Why have parents committed crimes to get them in?

 

The answer dawned on me as I sat in a recent presentation for Stanford University which I attended with my son.

 

There were wonderful slides and a nice introduction by the Dean of Admissions.  But then, they introduced a panel of recent grads. Not only were they poised and well-spoken, but the sense of confidence without arrogance was palpable.  Here were five twenty-somethings who carried themselves as if they were decades more experienced and were already directors of teams and managing projects spread across the globe.  And they all exuded this single quality…limitless.

 

Going to a good school is not just about the curriculum.

 

It’s more than that. College is an experience. It’s a 4-year version of that Limitless pill. It’s about transformation.

 

As a coach and mentor to other business owners and educators, I’ve discovered growth is more mental than physical. In fact, it’s 80% mental and 20% physical.

 

When I say mental, I mean mindset:  the thoughts and feelings you experience on a daily basis. 

 

The college experience is about transforming what you thought was impossible in yourself and in the world.

 

By surrounding yourself with other like-minded people, you share similar expectations and shift beliefs to  what is possible.

 

You are held accountable for your actions.  

 

That’s the real reason we want the best schools for our kids.  It’s four years of breaking and rebuilding beliefs and lifting each other up.

 

“If you want a new outcome, you will have to break the habit of being yourself, and reinvent a new self.

– Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself, By Dr. Joe Dispenza

 

Education, and all experience, is a path to becoming. If we view all life as this path, we can make better choices. Everything is an opportunity for reinvention. But, only if one is aware of this power. We are all authors and composers of our lives.

 

It’s why we enroll our kids in activities like sports, language and music lessons. It’s why we “make memories” with them every time we take them on a family trip.

 

“…your familiar memories related to your known world ‘re-mind’ you to reproduce the same experiences…the way you think and feel – and then see how the external environment is altered by your efforts…”

– Dr. Joe Dispenza

 

We are the heroes of our children’s lives. We have the power to give this gift of possibility. And it doesn’t require a pill. It only takes a shift in mindset.

 

So, take an interest in your children’s hopes and dreams. Give them opportunities to soar.   Invest in your own coaching and model the limitless mindset.

Feel free to share this with your friends.