Recently an acquaintance and mother of five was talking to me about music lessons for their son.  Her husband highly valued music education and wanted all their children to have lessons during their childhood.  But, one of their sons had absolutely no interest and regularly announced he did not like music, did not want to play any instrument, etc.   The mother asked me what I thought about them making their son participate in music.

Oh, strange question with lots of considerations…  On one hand, I don’t like the idea of forcing a kid to do extra-curricular activities that they hate, and yet there are many things in life we have to do that we may not enjoy but are very valuable: chores, schoolwork, eating healthy….

I have MANY memories of wanting to quit piano lessons as a child but my mom made me stick with it.   I am SO GRATEFUL she did! (Thanks, Mom!)   I’ve talked with countless adults who said, “I wish my parents hadn’t let me quit music!” Building discipline in our children is another great byproduct of music lessons, so is learning the cause and effect of hard work producing a better result.

On the other hand, I hate it when sport fanatic parents make their kids play, when the child is obviously not enjoying it.  This can happen in music too.  What will I do, a musician and music teacher, if one of my boys doesn’t like music?!

I don’t believe there is one right answer to this question.  But here are some things to think about as you consider lessons or classes for your little music-rebel:

  1. Why do I want them to participate in this activity?  List out all your reasons.
  2. Have your exposed them to a variety of music styles?  Take them to live concerts of all kinds.  It’s likely they’ll suddenly hear an instrument or a genre they are drawn to.
  3. Do they just not like the particular teacher they are taking with?   Some people just don’t click.  That’s ok, try a new one.
  4. Take a little break. Maybe the summer off or just a few months away from the instrument/lessons.
  5. Is your child usually very shy about starting new things and needs a little push?  It may be fear of the unknown or afraid they won’t be good.
  6. Give it time.  If you think this really is best for your child and you’re happy with their teacher, wait out this season of unrest.
  7. Is there too much on their plate?  Is it soccer/music/scouts/homework/baseball every night?  Then it may be too much.   Maybe they don’t hate music, they just need less on their schedules.  Take seasons for different activities.  Music in the spring, baseball in the summer, etc.
  8. Are they a very social child and the solitude of practicing is hard for them?  Maybe split up the practice time–half with a parent playing or singing along, half on their own.  Would a group class be better or singing in a choir?  What if they had a friend who played the same thing they could share the process with and perform together?
  9. Maybe they are more into visual arts, drawing, painting, sculpting.  Maybe they need movement and gymnastics might be great for them.  If cultivating an appreciation for the arts is the main goal, there are other ways to accomplish that.

Certainly not an exhaustive list, but I hope it gets your wheels turning on how to incorporate music into your child’s life, even if they aren’t so crazy about it right now.  You know your child best. Good luck!

Should a parent ever force a kid to take music lessons?