If you learned a musical instrument as a child, you know that it’s often a struggle to stay motivated and continue with lessons and daily practicing. And as an adult, you may find yourself facing the same struggle with your own child, especially after the first few months of excitement wear off and progress seems slower. And if you discontinued lessons yourself, or never had the chance to learn in the first place, it can be especially difficult to see the value of a serious commitment to music education.
Here’s the good news for parents in need of a little inspiration to help their student stick with learning an instrument: research shows that making a long-term commitment to music lessons is one of the best things you can do for your child’s development, with benefits that last well into adulthood. So while there’s lots of ways to encourage a daily motivation for music practice— celebrating small successes, performing regularly, and setting goals— it’s also important to remember the big-picture reasons for staying dedicated to mastering an instrument.
A recent psychology of music study interviewed adults about their experiences learning an instrument. Those who reported taking music lessons for several years also reported a significantly higher tendency to participate in the arts community as an adult. Whether attending music or theater performances, performing themselves, or embracing an entirely new medium like painting or photography, children who study music develop a lifelong love of for art and music, and each person reported that their interest in the arts significantly improved their quality of life. In the end, it doesn’t matter if your child never becomes a professional concert pianist. What matters is that they dedicate their time to something that will bring them joy, satisfaction, and meaning for their entire lives.
Similarly, neuroscientists at Northwestern University recently studied the brain responses of senior citizens, testing how quickly they could identify and respond to speech patterns and their ability to process sound. The participants who reported studying music for at least fourteen years as a child and young adult showed significantly faster language comprehension, as well as better memory recall. The scientists concluded that music is a key factor to healthy aging, and can help prevent age-related cognitive difficulties, which seems awfully important if you’re a parent who sometimes forgets where they left their keys.
Lastly, music teachers will tell you that encouraging your student to stick with music lessons is often just a waiting game with the finish line in sight. Kids develop quickly, and once a student reaches age 12-13, they’re developmentally ready to start making long-term decisions on their own. After spending their childhood taking lessons, they’re often invested enough to keep going without needing the same level as external motivation as a young child. Even better, they’ve already experienced the benefits of learning a new skill, and they’ll continue to benefit into adulthood. So keep your head up, and keep encouraging that daily practice. Your adult children will thank you, especially when they grow up and attend music performances on their own, and can always remember where they left their keys.