Music is absolutely a great things for kids. No matter what instrument they learn, there are life skills to be learned from it.
– Concentrating on tasks
– Problem solving
– Manual dexterity
– Develops patience
– Develops brain areas involved in language and reasoning
– Helps develop spatial intelligence which helps visualization and math skills
– Provides a medium for self-expression
When Should They Stop?
There is nobody who’s worse off for having taken some music lessons as a child. The question then becomes, when should the child stop?
I’ve never met a child below the age of 10 who was totally against taking music lessons in the beginning. But I’ve met plenty that weren’t too hip to the idea after a couple years of lessons. That is not the fault of the parents, the teacher, nor the student.
Not everyone is meant to have a lifelong passion for music. Your child’s passions may lie elsewhere: Sports, Visual Arts, Science, Community Service, or many other positive activities. And many of those activities help develop similar skills as music.
I think a year is a good amount of time for a kid to get an idea of how much they enjoy playing an instrument. That’s enough time to gain some of the benefits and learn an appreciation for the process of learning an instrument. If after that time your child is more interested in something else, let them experiment with that instead.
There needs to be some kind of commitment period so your child doesn’t develop into a flighty person that drops one project for the next every other day and never actually accomplishes anything. But you also don’t want your child to dread their music lessons. Music should be fun and if it’s not, there’s not a lot of point in doing it.
Communicate With Your Child
Most children will not voluntarily tell you they don’t want to play music anymore. They know you want to them to continue and they don’t want to disappoint you. So ask them about it. Are they still having fun with it? Is there something else (useful and positive) they’d rather be doing? Is there another instrument they’d prefer? Is there something they’d like to do differently in their lessons?
That last one can be a bit of a powder keg depending on the teacher. Most kids just want to play harder, more interesting things faster. But since music is a cumulative skill set, a good teacher will be taking them through a carefully planned curriculum designed to give them the skills they need as quickly as possible. Often, jumping around to other pieces outside that curriculum can throw the whole system out of focus.
Certainly bring up any concerns with the music teacher and get their ideas and feedback on it. But it may simply be the child isn’t prepared for what they’d like to play yet and will find it more frustrating than enjoyable.
I also heavily encourage my students to experiment with any pieces or songs they’d like outside of the lesson curriculum I give them. It helps them really make sense of the skills their learning in their lessons when they have to apply them to a new piece on their own. So while you’re making sure your child practices their lesson pieces, don’t scold them for playing other stuff outside of that.
The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Keep Them Interested
Expose your child to as much music as possible. I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve had come in for piano lessons that have never heard a piano played before. Most children learn about music from their friends. And most of the pop music now is made on synths and computers. (And your child may even be interested in learning to create music that way.)
The only way your child will be interested in learning a traditional instrument is if they’re exposed to it. Play lots of different kinds of music around the house. Take them to concerts. Everything from marching bands to rock bands to mariachi bands. The more music they know about, the more likely they are to want to learn how to do it too.
But please don’t torture your children with music lessons. Get them started, give it a year or so. And if it doesn’t work out, no harm, no foul. Let them move onto something else. As you may remember about your own childhood, it takes a lot of experimenting to the find your passion.