One of the most common things I hear when someone tells me they stopped taking lessons is that they were tired of being shamed into practicing, or they were tired of the guilt of not practicing. I have to admit I felt that way sometimes too! Music easily starts feeling like a chore rather than a joyful hobby. A huge reason for this is because negative reinforcement is much easier to do than its positive cousin. Here are a few reasons/ways positive reinforcement or encouragement is a game-changer in music lessons for parents.
1. Studies show that a compliment is far more powerful than an exhortation.
To give a simple example, saying “you sounded so good on the piano yesterday!” is way more powerful than simply asking “did you practice today?” This article gives several studies and publications showing exactly why positive reinforcement increases the agency, motivation, and happiness connected to a certain task.
2. Positive reinforcement leads to more internal motivation.
Consistent encouragement leads to greater internal motivation. The more someone is given honest compliments and encouragement about a goal or habit they have the easier it is for them to keep going. We have all experienced both sides of this coin. Maybe we lost a love for math because a teacher lost their cool when helping us with a topic and told us were would never be good at math. And we have all experienced a time when someone said something that spurred us to greater action towards what we wanted.
The latter is what makes the difference in a child’s musical journey.
3. Positive reinforcement isn’t always verbal.
Children, especially young children want nothing else than the approval of their parents and to see their parents smile because of something they did. One of the best things a parent can do for their musical child is sitting on the couch and listening at the end of their practice session. Kind of like a fake concert. Not only does this help them with performance anxiety, but it also shows that what they do with their music is worthy of time, praise, and makes people smile.
The role of the parent in music is vital. Encouragement and positive reinforcement can be a parent’s greatest weapon against practice boredom and lack progress.