September 6

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The Strong But Reasonable Alpha

Having worked with hundreds of families over the years, I've noticed three types of parents and their approaches to music. And perhaps other things.

There is the parent who pushes their kids through things, whether they like it or not. This parent believes that more is better. Working harder pays off, even if it's unpleasant. Because it will make them stronger.

While well-intentioned, this often leads to burnout. To the point where even the parent needs to stop pushing because the student is on the verge of a breakdown.

Whether it's because of overload, or the months of containing not-so-great feelings are finally coming to a head.

And then, there's the opposite end of the spectrum - the parent who is blown on the same winds as the kids' experiences and emotions. 

These parents are also well-intentioned, with a different angle on it. They want their kids to be happy. But if their kids have a hard time or are stressed, they feel that hard time and that stress themselves.

But rather than helping their kids deal with it, the approach is to remove the source of stress.

These are the parents that quit piano because the student had one rough month. Or change piano teachers on a whim. In fact, it's not uncommon for these families to change teachers a number of times in search of the one who will solve everything.

But the pursuit of a stress-free existence also causes an experience-free existence. And without the learning of experience and resilience, the student doesn't progress and eventually stops.

And then, there is the balance of the two. The strong but reasonable alpha, as I like to call it.

This is the parent who won't let their kids quit when they have a tough time. Because they see there is a lesson to be learned.

But, they won't force them through tough times either.

The strong but reasonable alpha understands the longer-term lessons at play, and helps their kids stay the course so they can get the most from piano. And all the life lessons contained within piano lessons. 

This parent can intuit when a challenge is insurmountable, and help the student speak up and say so. This parent can also see when a student is trying to take a pass or make excuses, and knows the value of holding them accountable.

These are the students who stick with piano the longest.

Keep in mind, though, every approach is well-intentioned. As parents, we all want the best for our kids, however we can get it.

But, we also have to keep in mind whether we're pushing too much, or not enough.

Because either one, however well-intentioned, will likely lead to quitting.

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About Jonathan Roberts

I am the founder and director of the South Shore Piano School, and I have been teaching the piano for nearly 20 years. My work centers around bringing music to the lives of kids, parents, and adults in an enriching, meaningful way. At the South Shore Piano School, my incredible colleagues and I accomplish this through skill-based teaching, community, and an innovative, people-first business model. You can read more about me here.


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