Mistake #5 You secretly hate listening to them and it shows

Kids know when they sound bad.

And believe me, they hate hitting those nasty sour notes as much as you hate hearing them.

But you wanna know what they hate even more?

Knowing you hate listening.

You might think you’re hiding it, but your body language has a way of letting your secret out every single time.

And the nervous tick you can’t hide, along with your facial expression that looks less than impressed, has a way of shutting them down – for good.

Why Your Body Language Shuts Your Child Down

I know.

Hearing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for the 200th time isn’t up there with “stuff you like to do with your free time.” Honesty, I don’t know any parent who loves listening to their kids practice the first few years. It doesn’t become nice background music until later on down the road.

But until kids feel comfortable playing, they’ll always look to their audience for validation. And right now, that’s you.

Didn’t think you were that important in all of this, huh?

This isn’t a guilt trip. It’s actually a compliment. And the best part? You hold the key to helping them without doing much of anything at all at home. Your opinion means more than anyone’s. But any frustrated sigh, annoyed look, or nervous pen-clicking, foot-tapping, technology moment you give off gets in the way of those perfect confidence building moments they’ll need to play anything worth listening to later on.

And since you’re audience member #1, I’ll clue you in on the responsibilities that come with the position if you ever want them playing for someone other than yourself.

“Ma’am, please come with me.”

Imagine.

You’re in a beautiful concert hall, sitting in plush velvet seats, dressed to the nines, and looking fabulous. The diamonds you’re wearing catch the light from the sparkling chandeliers above you. The lights begin to dim, the conductor comes out, and now you’re listening to one of the most renown symphonies in the world – the kind that sells out of seats in a matter of minutes.

How would you be sitting for their performance? What would you do with your face? How would you look like, in your comfy plush seat, listening to music like this?

Chances are you’re not going to cross your arms, furrow your brows, or sigh angrily while these brilliant musicians play breathtaking concertos. I’m guessing you wouldn’t bring out your computer, sit it on top of your black beaded dress, or check your email while someone plays a solo. And you’re probably not going to take out your phone, make a quick call, or play a game to pass the time away.

You wouldn’t do any of that.

Why?

Well, for one thing, the people around you are going to shoot you some really dirty looks. Your date’s going to go beet red, dart you a wide-eyed stare and whisper angrily, “What are you doing?!” And if that hasn’t shut down your bad behavior, you’ll be approached by an usher who says, “Ma’am, please come with me” escorting you out of the concert hall without a second thought.

Have you seen those ushers who seat you, standing at the doors of the auditorium? They don’t mess around – they even make me nervous. And I used to be one of them.

Everyone lets you know this behavior doesn’t fly.

And they shut you out of the experience – for good.

You Are The Only One In The Audience

In a concert hall, there are hundreds of people who make up an audience.

When your child practices a song for you, you are the audience.

This is why your reaction to their half-finished piece “gets” to them a little more than you think it should. It’s why they get so sensitive when you shake you head, looking disappointed with their performance. And it’s why bringing out your constructive criticism or shouting a command never works as well as you hoped.

When they see your sour reaction to their music, they personalize it more than a professional musician for two reasons.

1. You’re their world. They want you to be proud of them, and acknowledge how hard they’re working. It’s hard for you to see that sometimes because progress happens slowly for most kids learning tough music skills.

Sure, it’ll be tempting to throw out ways for them to improve while they play. And there’s a time and place for that, but that time is not now. Why? Because behind a lot of sour notes and tantrums is a determined spirit who wants to play beautiful music for you – let them.

2. They’re looking to you for validation because they’re still trying to find their own. Their confidence isn’t strong enough to handle much criticism – especially yours. Professionals deal with critics all the time, but they keep on playing because they know they’re good. It doesn’t matter if you like their work. They’re getting paid by people who do.

But kids? Not so much. Instead of thinking, “Mom thinks my music sounds bad,” they think, “Mom thinks I’m being bad.” They consider it a personal and emotional attack on your relationship with them. So to protect it, they shut the whole practice down. They’re not quitting – they’re protecting. 

Parents who raise kids who are respected by others, respect them before anyone else does.

We’ll find just about any excuse to tune someone out

If you think your child’s worthy of being listened to, you have to show them by actually listening and responding back to them in a way you would of someone you respect.

Commanding respect is hard in a world of attention seekers who lack substance. We’ll find just about any excuse to tune someone out because there’s too much noise already. Our world is packed full of garbage! It’s filled with people throwing out opinions with no consideration who they insult and loud messages that don’t make our lives any better.

So when kids speak up, all our energy’s gone by the end of the day. The outside world has abused it! We barely have enough energy to listen to other adults. Kids don’t stand a chance! I guarantee most everyone will pass over your child for being too small, too young, or too silly to play anything worth listening to (except for your teacher who gets paid to listen to them).

But there’s no magic fairy dust that suddenly makes your child “worthy” of respect. No one gave me the official, “You are now worthy of being respected as a musician” medal before I started making money with my music. I had great people on my side as a child who treated me with respect years before any of my success happened.

There are a ton of smart talented people, but not many who feel confident enough to speak up and share their voice and ideas with the world.

So we have to teach them how to respect themselves before anyone else does. You have to show your child they are worthy of being listened to just like those phenomenal musicians who get paid to play on stage. You have to show them they’re good enough to be taken seriously today – in all their squeaky, sour note glory.

And you do that with your actions.

It starts with you – their first audience member.

And it starts now. 

What You Can Do This Week

You don’t have to pretend their simple song sounds like a #1 Billboard top hit up for a Grammy. Just because they take your opinions seriously, doesn’t mean you need to over do it with ferocious clapping and a standing ovation every day. Kids see through fake, and they’ll get just as annoyed with that kind of reaction to their playing.

Here’s how to find a happy medium between the two this week.

  • Be genuine. Let them know what you did like. Don’t worry you have no idea what the “right” music word for it is. Sing the part of the song you liked. Chances are they’ll get a kick out of it, both of you will laugh, and they’ll like that you took the time to notice how they improved.
  • Smile when they look to you for validation. Not a fake smile. A real smile that says, “You can do this. I believe in you. Take your time.”
  • Let them know it’s ok to mess up. Don’t criticize them while they’re playing, or make a scrunchy face like you drank a cup of lemon juice. It won’t make them play their notes correctly because they’ll just be thinking about how they’re disappointing you.

Don’t beat yourself up for not being the “perfect supportive” parent everyday. When you listen to them, do only that – listen to them. If you need a break, step out of the room, and come back when you can listen again. Be in the moment for however long you can, when you can – then stop.

It’s better to give them some positive affirmation once in a while than it is to give them non-stop help that’s not really helping (just makes you feel like you’re helping). You’ll notice the difference.

I’ll talk to you soon,

Elizabeth

P.S.

If something is really bothering you when they practice, ask their teacher to bring it up during a lesson. They’ll know how to bring it up in a way that feels more like a teaching moment, and less like a disciplinary one.

P.S.S.

Get here from a link from a friend?  This article is part 5 of a 7-part free email series on the mistakes you make getting your child to practice. Click here to get them all.