Pushing Piano Lessons

Dear Sara,

I have always loved the piano and still play almost every day. I have a son twelve and a daughter eight and started them on piano lessons when they were six years old. I insist that they practice every day and they are making good progress, however, they both complain constantly that they don’t want to do this anymore. My son is on the school baseball team and my daughter wants to spend time with her neighborhood friends. My husband says let them do their own thing, but I think that the discipline and learning music is good for them. What do you think?

Dear Sheila,

You love the music and playing the piano so you don’t understand how difficult it is to continue lessons and practice when you don’t really care for it. Your children seem to resent the time they have to spend and don’t really enjoy the piano like you do. Your kids are trying to tell you that they need to have a choice and you should listen.

I know your kids are young and you feel that they are making a mistake, but your husband may be right on this issue. Even if your kids don’t play the piano, I think they will be happy with a home filled with your music and remember it always.


  1. Donald Korndoerfer says:

    I have a somewhat different take on this. For most kids, unless they are gifted like Mozart, learning an instrument is tough and can seem like punishment. If left to their own devices, most kids will opt for the easy way out. When I was a kid signing up for band, I wanted to play the drums, but so did everyone else, so the school required you pick a 2nd option. I didn’t want to, because I was sure they would force me to take the 2nd option. But my Mother, being a stickler for the rules, made me write down trumpet as my 2nd option since my older brother was taking the trumpet. Sure enough I was assigned the trumpet and resented and resisted every minute of it because I felt it was forced upon me. I found every excuse to avoid practicing until I was eventually thrown out of band, to my delight. Years later, I now regret not putting in the effort to learn the instrument and I think that is probably a pretty universal sentiment.

    I think rather than force it upon your children, encourage them by showing them your love for music without placing demands on them and perhaps even make a bargain that if they’ll put in a little effort, they can be rewarded with something that they do currently enjoy doing. Then they’ll either stick with it until they learn to love it as you do, or they will eventually give up on it because they don’t have the same inherent love and/or talent that you possess. But at least you’ll know that they gave it a serious try and perhaps they won’t be left with the regrets that I have for not trying at all.

  2. Lynette Farrand says:

    I have both worked in church music with children & adults for 40 years and taught piano, my degree is in piano performance. I can’t say that I agree with Sara’s answer because through the years I have had probably 100 adults of all ages tell me that they took piano lessons when they were young but wanted to quit and their parents let them. EVERY SINGLE ONE has said they regretted it and wished their parents had made them continue. Not once has anyone said they were glad they quit.
    I was one of those kids who was required to sit inside practicing while my friends were outside playing. I hated practicing and wanted to quit – so I have sympathy for Sheila’s kids. But there are times when parents need to find a loving but firm way to say “this is the way it’s going to be.” It doesn’t have to be rammed down their throats or ruled with an iron fist, but music lessons, especially piano lessons, are hugely beneficial to the development of a child’s brain…many studies have been done on it. So I’d tell Sheila make them stick with it. She may have to suffer through glares and griping now, but her kids will look back later and be grateful she didn’t let them quit. (Sheila’s son may like to know that when he’s older, girls like guys that can play piano for them! I’ve heard that MANY times!)

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  4. Hello Sheila,
    This would be coming from a Dad who was one of those “must play instrument” kids. Honestly, I lean in your direction – and can do so from confirmational experience. My 2 brothers and I all had to take music lessons from age 6 “through high school… after that you can do what you want”. There were plenty of times when this was just not fun. My mother would say “You may not like it now, but when you’re an adult you’ll appreciate it. There will be times when you can sit down and just play…” I have to say she was right – on quite a few fronts.
    1) During my undergraduate days at Stanford, I took music for my humanities breadth classes. Nice to have “Easy A’s”.
    2) I actually started to appreciate the power of music then, and even seriously considered a double-major
    2.A) When I called home and let Mom and Dad know that I was thinking of a major in music, Mom’s reaction was ironic, “We didn’t send you to Stanford to get a music degree” I look back now and just laugh. “No, but you made me take lessons for 12 years…”
    3) Now, some 40+ years later, I find myself as the keyboard accompanist at Church – and enjoy seeing that I can create an environment that warms peoples’ hearts and lets them encounter God

    So, net of all this – I think that the dedication to studying music is a good one. It is a powerful lesson to learn perseverance, especially during childhood. What I might offer, for the children’s sake, is for them to feel empowered to engage — work with you and the teacher to find things in their music studies that they like. Help them to find ways to appreciate the time that they *must* apply to learn music.
    Also — do you play? Perhaps you could play songs together with your children. I really appreciated playing with my brothers….!

    I hope this helps you…

  5. Make a deal with them. If they continue with their lessons 3 days a week you will support them in the activities they would like to do. It has been my experience that children and even us as adults become products of the people we spend time with ( moniter their friends ) and make sure you and your husband are on the same page so there is no manipulation. Also BE your children’s parents and mentor them as such that they know your love is unconditional. I didn’t have the discipline that I needed but the discipline and direction I received as a kid is still with me. Let them fail so they can learn lessons of life and encourage them to pick themselves up. Failing is not failure unless you quit!

  6. You are exactly right! My 10 year old bGrandson also plays the piano. Your encouragement is vital and if you let them “do as they please “, believe me, you will regret it in the future. A child needs a certain amount of discipline in their growth. I am a retired police officer and I have seen so many kids turn “bad” because they lacked discipline in the “growing, maturing “ years. You should also include attending the church of your choice and take them, don’t just send them or drop them off. They will develop friendships with like minded youth and will be much less likely to associate with the “wrong” friends. Do this until they reach adulthood. You will be extremely greatful, if you do. Ron Beasley, retired Deputy Sheriff and author

  7. I used to complain that my mom made me take piano lessons for 5 years. Now I wish I’d continued. So I do have regrets that I didn’t become proficient in a musical instrument. Maybe give them a choice to switch to violin or guitar but stick to your guns. They’ll thank you when they get older.

  8. I would almost guarantee that every adult wishes they had continued with their music lessons when they were young. Sadly, kids don’t have the ability to see into the future. My middle aged son regrets that he quit his piano lessons, but I got weary of nearly having to tie him to the piano bench to get him to practice. When he got older, he taught himself to play the guitar. Have you thought about letting your kids choose another instrument? Perhaps that would be a good solution for everyone. All the best!

  9. Gynne Prestage says:

    As an adult who had parents who did not care, I would have given anything to have you for a parent. I wanted so bad to have piano lessons but it was not allowed. I still resent it. Your kids will regret not continuing their lessons!

  10. Very many are like me who have regretted not having continued completed piano lessons. My teacher told me that if I quit then I would always regret it later for life, and now at 50 that has proven to be true. But I would try to motivate them through rewards or trade offs, but stick to that is a needed item they WILL thank you for later. With my wife we enjoy our God given family now, with a family ensemble and most of our children play the piano on some level and two or three other instruments, so we have our own orchestra too! This is good training for them for their development also. Their wanto level is high and because of this they learn fast and excel. This is key. Learning must be desire based, or filling a felt need. DO they have a use for their piano playing? Is there some useful ways they can use the talent and have grateful listeners? There a plenty of elderly and grandparents who would be happy to hear music. Maybe when there is a practical use for the piano playing, competitions or whatever form the motivation will be increased.

  11. I complained almost every single day that my mom made me take piano lessons when I was young, but to this day I greatly appreciate her for doing so, and I am 44 years old now.

  12. Jan Siskin says:

    As a piano teacher, I can tell you that there are many students who regret not continually when they were young. Piano and music itself is a fantastic discipline. Do they like their teacher? I would not force them to play to the point of resentment however I believe so strongly in the discipline, focus, and many other benefits of music study, that it is worth continuing.

  13. Joltin Joe Annunziata says:

    Yes ..I went thru it…I am 83. and disliked the dreaded piano lessons..having three older ssiters.who also were made to take piano lessons,,,however my Dad persisted for me to continue,,,thank goodnessI ….I started at age 12 to 15..at the age of 22 ..I was in the US Navy…and would play the piano every time I found one….after I retired from the wine and sp[irits business…I got gigs at different resturants anmd supplemented my retirement income…I still play every day and I love it…thanks to my parents..2.50 for a half hour/hour lesson 1946…1946-1950…

  14. Patricia Novello says:

    My husband succumbed to our daughter’s complaints. She regrets it. Our granddaughter used to complained but she is happy we made her stay. I started teaching her when she was three. At 4 and a half I put her with a professional teacher. Our granddaughter has performed several recitals and has won several competitions and will continue to do so. She is 12 years old. Our daughter is very happy and proud of her. So are we.

  15. Wendell Banyay says:

    I agree with Randy T.
    Make a deal and stick to it. The twelve year old might soon switch to a band or string instrument at his school. It’s easier to go along with a group than go it alone. I taught band for 15 years after a career in Army music. I would tell prospective parents who said my child plays the piano but doesn’t enjoy it the same thing. I rarely had a child quit band once they started and about 90% of them continued through high school.
    “It’s a social occasion where they play music!”
    Plus the mental and social benefits of performing music makes the whole thing even sweeter!

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