XX has been learning piano in the Yamaha Junior Music Course (YJC) for almost 3 years .  That, to me, is already an achievement to her and me.  Firstly, learning something new is not easy, and to be able to sustain learning is even more difficult.  Piano course is XX’s first enrichment class and in fact her only one till now.  Kel and I have been careful not to stress our kids in taking too many courses.  Ok, I know one is not alot at all and she may have time to learn another new skill.  Or rather, WE as parents can “squeeze” some more time to bring her to a second enrichment class, which means multiply by 2 if you have 2 kids like me.

All parents will know that for their children to take courses, it involves tremendous determination, time, effort, coordination and of course trade-offs.  It doesn’t help that YH has started this year in the same Yamaha JMC course too (The first 2 years being JMC – Junior Music Course, and the next 2 years being JXC – Junior Extension Course).  Luckily I was able to find an exactly same time slot for the both of them at the same Yamaha branch.  In that case, we do not need to spend unnecessary hours waiting for the next class to start.

I have all praises for Yamaha JMC/JXC course.  Having some background in music, I appreciate the Yamaha teaching approach and emphasis on by-ear hearing for children at the age of 4 onwards.  Age of 4 is the golden start year of a child’s hearing.  Parents have to sit in with their children for the initial 2 years in JMC.  So now, XX is already in her 3rd year (JXC) and I am proud that she is independent enough to attend the weekly one hour lesson on her own!  That includes taking down notes and following her teacher, Ms Tan’s instructions!  I could not have believed it half a year back!  One thing I have learnt is that kids will be forever dependent on you until the day you let go and let them be on their own.  How true is that for XX!

These 3 years are not without ups and downs in learning piano.  The ups and downs apply as much to XX as to me.  From the initial enthusiasm to asking for permission to skip the class to tearful practices at home and to current going-to-piano-on-her-own, it indeed is a roller coaster ride for both of us.  I would not say she has great affection for the piano.  But she definitely enjoys it.

How do I deal with her tantrums at the point of low interest in piano?

The ingredients are lots of PATIENCE and PATIENCE and PATIENCE!

1) Patience! Patience! Patience!

There are many times when I feel like pulling my hair or stomp off the seat (which I guiltily admit I did!) when I am coaching her practice.  There are times when I feel like stopping her lessons.  But, this is the only class she goes, and she is good at it, and I can see signs of enjoyment during class and smirk of satisfaction on her face when she masters a piece.  I have to keep telling myself to think positively that both of us must persevere and must not give up learning halfway.  I took a bet on this one despite many negative withdrawal thoughts.  I won, at least until today.

2) Practise in a fun way!

Children love games!  When my girl is discouraged with playing a difficult piece, I put her favourite clip on the back of her hand.  The challenge is to play the piece without dropping the clip.  She takes up the challenge happily and practices more times and it helps her familiarize the song without knowing.  Bravo!  She masters the song!  (By the way, XX is good at memorizing and mastering songs in less than 5 tries!)

As for YH, he practises the piano with his pooh bear behind him as you can see here 🙂

 

3) Have a mini concert

While XX is practicing her pieces to almost passable standard, I will invite her brother YH to have a crazy dance.  We can fall to the floor at the cue of the last note.  We can dance in a slow but funny way with moderato or largo tempo.  We do a fast one with allegro songs.  We tried waltz and tango as well.  Everyone enjoys the concert.

4) Playing for others

Sometimes, knowing too much can be a disadvantage too. XX loves to play for her 爷爷 (grandpa) who doesn’t know how to play the piano.  She finds herself an expert compared to him and loves the applause and encouraging words from him after a song.  He doesn’t criticize much.  For me, I have the urge to correct mistakes and point out improvements.  XX, at her lousy mood times, will throw tantrums when I correct her.  When tantrums flood in, the entire session is spoilt.  I try my best to avoid this.

5) Encouragement and lots of it!

XX’s Yamaha teacher, Ms Tan is extremely good at handling kids.  I learnt from her some silly ways to make practice sessions fun.  When XX plays a song well, instead of clapping my hands, I ask her to tap her nose together with me.  We tap our cheeks and shoulders and anywhere we find silly and funny.  Such amusing and fun actions liven up the entire practice session.  And it works great with the young one YH.

At times, when my girl throws tantrums, I bit my lip and use my most tender and loving voice to push her on.  When it doesn’t work, I stop the practice session totally and announce to continue the next day.  I would rather stop the session abruptly than to let her continue in a sulking manner.  Playing the piano is supposed to be fun and enjoyable.  I would not want her to link piano with stress and lousy feelings.

 

I strongly believe that learning the piano will teach my kids

–                PATIENCE (while figuring out notes and expressions),

–                ENDURANCE (in mastering a piece of song),

–                PERSEVERANCE (in the long road to Grade 8 and above)

–                INDEPENDENCE (go to class alone, take down notes, and practice on her own at home)

–                ENJOYMENT (a way of expressing herself, her feelings, her thoughts through music, that’ll be in the future)

–                PRIDE (to learn a skill and able to display confidence to an audience)

Well, the route of learning is tough.  But, I am happy that I am able to accompany XX and YH in this long journey to reap the intangibles and values that we pick up along the way.

Do you have interesting ways to encourage your kids?  Share with me!