A child who is learning to play an instrument, WILL tantrum. I say this with such confidence because I was, THAT tantruming child. And of all the children I have looked after during my nannying years… they have all tantrum-ed too.
My own personal childhood tantrums whilst learning to play the piano followed a very predictable chain of events:
- Start growling and repeatedly returning to troublesome part of the piece
- Growl and play louder for every repetition
- Simultaneously hit both piano pedals whilst using two full hands to hit every key of the piano, starting with the middle keys and working my way to the outside keys
- Blame Mum
- Cry and run to my room
I remember Mum getting very frustrated with me, and now for me as an adult, I too find it very frustrating when a child throws a paddy during their practice. But, as adults we are (usually!) far more capable of problem solving and reasoning. From a child’s perspective, the inability to play those crucial few bars of music… might as well be the end of their little world!
So here are my top 5 tips for dealing with the musical tantrums…
Keep anger at bay and get them away!
Getting angry with an instrument is never going to be productive. The instrument can’t fight back and you’re more likely to damage it. Also, an angry rage is blinding- so the chances are the rest of their instrument practice is going to be quite unproductive if they continue in this mindset. So try to keep your own frustration at bay also, and get the child to take a little break. 5 or 10 mins and a biscuit can do wonders.
This too shall pass.
It’s just a tantrum- they’ve had them before! In the grand scale of their musical career, a tantrum here and there isn’t going to make too much of a difference. Especially for those parents who perhaps don’t play an instrument- it’s good to remember that sometimes when playing you can have pretty major off days! I know that when I have an off day, I don’t want an off day, but singing or playing through the mistakes can be a bit debilitating on the musical ego. Just leave it or do something different with your practice.
Don’t make music a chore. Both kids and adults need days off and time to rest. Prevent a few tantrums by not pushing the young musician EVERY day.
Move along please!
If the tantrum seems manageable, or you are able to interrupt them before it gets too bad. Suggest moving on to the next part of their practice. Cleverly suggesting something they are more confident with, might also be a good idea. Then return to the troublesome piece/section/scale when they’ve almost forgotten about it.
Variety variety variety!
Now for some advice on how to actually tackle the difficult bits that are causing these tantrums. Your child might respond well to some calm input and advice from yourself. What bar of music are they falling over every time they get there? Take it apart, bit by bit, note by note. Play it slow, very slow, different rhythms (very good for scales and music with runs, loud, soft, look for the chord progressions if there are any, staccato and legato. Then move away from the specific section, take a relaxing breath and start the piece or section from the beginning. You’ll find when you reach the tricky part, that it should have made some improvements.
The main thing with all of the above, is that you keep them coming back to their instrument. After all, they need to learn that practice makes perfect! Hard work is the key to success and nothing comes easy… all those cliche phrases! As long as they return, in 5 minutes or tomorrow, or the next day… then the tantrum is almost worth it.