Using Music Lessons to Build Resilience in Children
In my years of teaching, I have found that piano lessons are a great tool to develop discipline and resilience in children. The music curriculum, in the early years, requires children to build a strong foundation through effortful practice. This process builds discipline and resilience in a child.
Since most children begin their music education around the age of 3 to 4, I find that this is a prime time to expose them to the concept of “taking on challenges” through learning and retaining more information and practicing increasingly difficult songs.
The beauty of learning music is that nobody starts out perfect, and yet at the beginner level, it only requires simple hand-eye coordination to begin learning. Yes, it may come easier to some than others, but nobody can escape the need to learn, practice, and grow.
Encourage a Growth Mindset
Children and adults alike, do not like difficulties. We all wish to be able to coast through life without a care in the world – however, we know that the real world doesn’t work like this. Realizing this, I adapted my teaching style and went from a teacher to a coach – guiding my students how to embrace and navigate challenges (through the songs we learn), ultimately building a sense of confidence that they can handle what is thrown at them. My wish is that the “bring-it-on” or “never-say-die” attitude that my students develop in my class will have positive spillover effects in other parts of their life even as they grow older.
Are You Ready for the Next Challenge/Game?
I carried out a simple experiment in my studio where I asked my students “Will you like to learn a more difficult song?” They always replied NO. But when I rephrased it to “Are you ready for the next challenge?”, more often than not, I receive an excited “YES”. With this mindset shift, week after week, my students look forward to the new songs they’ll be tackling this week and are always excited to take it on! Don’t be surprised if you hear my 4-year-old student scoff and say “That was so easy!” (Can you imagine a 4-year-old scoffing? It really gets me laughing!)
In fact, it is this “I can do it” attitude that I love to develop in my students.
Breaking Up the Challenges
This is not to say that building such a mindset is easy. Getting our children to see challenges as fun requires a proper lesson plan, coupled with lots of patience and a steady guiding hand. Not only do we need to encourage them to take on difficult challenges, we also need them to embrace their mistakes and work to improve themselves!
To do this, I like to show my students a difficult song that might get them groaning. Then I’ll say – hold up! Let’s break it down. Perhaps we could tackle level 1 today, level 2 next week, and by the 3rd week, you’ll be an expert at this song – which by the way is for big boys/big girls! Sounds good? (P.S. the growth mindset kids love being treated as big boys/big girls!)
Ultimately, I will guide my students to learn how to break up difficult songs into parts and decide their timeline for learning a piece. I do notice in the growth mindset kids that they love pushing themselves, and some would even take on entire songs in a single lesson!
Your Greatest Opponent is Yourself
Because playing the piano is a physical skill that can be trained and developed, I often tell my students that their only challenge is themselves, and it is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. I remind my students to take a step back and observe how much they have improved, how the strong foundation which we have carefully built is helping them pick up songs faster, and most importantly, to never give up! I believe that this will eventually teach them how to navigate challenges and build a sense of confidence that they can handle what is thrown at them.