Friday, February 18, 2011

The Heart of the Matter: Help! My Child Won't Practice!

I saw a sign recently that said:

"A bad attitude is like a flat tire. -- you won't get anywhere unless you fix it!"

In teaching, one must find the most basic root of any difficulties that arise. Whether it be unwillingness to practice, disrespect, or simply a bad attitude, the trail invariably leads to the heart. Matthew 6:21 says:

"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." A child's heart will determine what he values. A student who will not practice has misplaced values. He does not value several very precious "treasures":

  • His parents' sacrifices of time, money, and effort. Piano lessons are a luxury that many children whose families cannot afford them would love to have. Whether or not the student may realize it, they have been given a wonderful and costly gift that ought not be squandered.
  • His teacher's investment. It takes great effort to teach any subject. What most students (and many parents) do not realize is how great an investment their teacher makes in their lives. Although I took piano lessons for at least seven years before I began teaching, I did not fully grasp the importance of my teacher's efforts until I had my first "difficult" lesson. The energy your teacher expends on behalf of your child is enormous. It is not simply a once-a-week task. A good teacher spends time thinking over your child's progress and figuring out how best to help them. Recitals alone take weeks of planning and preparation. Students may never know the amount of time, energy, and care they waste by their uncooperative spirit.
  • His own time and effort. A student who stops practicing or who quits for the summer does not realize the value of the work he has already done. While his parents and teacher have sacrificed for his benefit, he also has invested time and effort into learning to play the piano. He is wasting his own time as well as that of his parents and teacher.
  • The future benefits. By stalling and delaying the completion of an assignment, a student either puts off or completely prevents the prize for which he is working. The difficult assignment must be completed if the student is to progress, and once it is finished, he can then move on to more beautiful and challenging pieces. His pleasure in playing will increase with his proficiency, so the faster he learns, the better he will enjoy practice.

Sometimes, a student needs to be reminded of these "treasures" he is squandering. Other times, he simply needs to learn to obey. I will always be thankful to my parents, who would not allow me to give up, but rather, faithfully made me practice until one day I finally began to enjoy it!

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