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#929180 - 06/08/08 09:52 PM Motivating a 7 year old boy
johnnymb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 39
Loc: Southeast Pa.
My seven year old son has been taking lessons for a little over a year. In the beginning he showed alot of interest and it was easy to get him to practice. Now it is much, much harder, because his lessons and plan are more difficult. He is in Hal Leonard Student Library Book 2 (both books), which aren't terribly difficult. I see the potential in him as does his teacher. My goals for him are not to be a concert pianist, but to simply have a music education and background. I also play and take lessons.

I realize that Piano may just not be his forte, but when I ask him why he wants to quit he just says it's too hard, which to me is a copout. But after all he's only seven. Question: Is this simply a difficult age for boys? He prefers to play with his toys and friends outside. Are there some creative ways/tips any of you can share to increase his interest? He does play quite well when he puts his heart and mind into it, which I talk about with him. But sometimes it's such a hassle to try to get him to practice. HELP!!!!
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#929181 - 06/08/08 10:40 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
miaeih Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 267
Loc: SF Bay Area, CA
For almost any child, they'd like to play outside and do other things besides practice but it can be overcome.

This may be a stretch but, does his friends play? I taught in a neighborhood where they introduced me to other families. Once their friends started taking lessons, it was more fun. I was then able to set up duets for the boys. On the other hand, once one wanted to quit, the others did too =/.

Also, does he play any music he likes? I always ask my students for movie themes they would like to play and condense the music to the level that they can play at. Tunes to their favorite cartoon or tv shows also work.

Also, talk to the teacher. It should be the teacher's job to engage your son and be creative with the lesson.

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#929182 - 06/09/08 01:02 AM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
keyboardklutz Offline
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Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
Never mind the MTNA (Music Teachers National Association), what is needed is an MSLA (Music Students Local Association). Here in London loads of children do piano lessons and exams. All my students know others who are doing their exams so there is plenty of competition and Camaraderie.
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#929183 - 06/10/08 02:02 AM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Candywoman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/14/03
Posts: 824
I'm sorry I'm not familiar with the Hal Leonard books yet. But essentially, if he says it's too hard, it probably is. I find some teachers go too fast at the beginning. They also race through pieces instead of appreciating them for four weeks.

It might help to have him practice early in the morning at the same time each day.

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#929184 - 06/10/08 02:15 AM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Morodiene Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 10775
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Well, piano *is* hard. A boy at the age of 7 doesn't really understand the value of hard work yet, so this is probably his first experience. In Book 2, the songs get more involved, and so he must work on them for longer than one week. He's probably not enjoying them as much because they're harder and require more effort, and he's not yet putting that in to see the "light at the end of the tunnel."

What probably needs to happen is not to make it easier for him, but to make it fun. What is practicing like? A drill? That's not fun for most people of any age. Does he enjoy lessons, or is that a struggle too? Let your teacher know what's going on, and ask her/him for advice on how to make practicing fun. Think of some ways on your own, too. Since you take lessons as well, maybe do a partnership practicing game. Let him help you make up the goal, rules and reward. Be creative, using things away from the keyboard as well, like drawing a picture about a piece he's learning, a map on where the piece takes him, dancing/moving while you play the piece, etc. Children this age require a multisensory approach, because they aren't used to the concept of the work itself being the "fun" or reward.
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#929185 - 06/10/08 07:48 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
johnnymb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 39
Loc: Southeast Pa.
Thank you all for your responses. I also was thinking about talking to his teacher about some fun music that he will like to play, very good idea thank you. We were letting him practice on his own but saw that he was missing some things and making mistakes without noticing, so I or my wife sit with him. Actually he plays well at his lessons and likes his lessons and is more encouraged after them not to quit. I like your idea of a joint practice, to make it fun. His teacher is giving a little bit less to do than before, she is a very good, patient teacher, and good with kids. She said it's a difficult age for an active little boy and she said to not be overbearing with it, just encourage him alot and be patient. You are correct he doesn't realize yet the value of hard work and perseverence, although he is learning, he just completed first grade. When he focuses on his practices he plays quite well. I try to keep his practices pretty short, 20-30 minutes everyday, although sometimes it's not everyday.
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#929186 - 06/10/08 08:18 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Akira Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/27/07
Posts: 1645
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
I think children, like adults, are motivated by different things. Maybe this article will give you some ideas on how to identify what types of things your child will respond favorably to. Perhaps you can talk to the teacher to get some ideas on how to make it fun or find out how you can become an activate participant in his practice (maybe sing along?). Its so lonely there sitting there all by yourself (trying to picture myself as a child). Some parental support might do the trick. \:\)

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#929187 - 06/10/08 08:50 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
You must find what motivates him which will be very different than what motivates all the other billions of individual inhabitating the planet. Probably asking him directly is the best solution. But beware that the answer might also be that nothing at the piano motivates him enough. Everyone would prefer playing outside or with toys or going at the bar and have a beer if older if they don't really have a passion for the piano. Those who have passion just don't even feel the problem at all. I know a 9 year old passional piano student who just reply "it is normal for me!" when he is asked if it's normal to desire to spend the whole free time at the piano and rarely play. The point is that piano might not be his thing and there's no reason for him to feel pressure on playing nor for the people around him to feel desperate for motivating him. Piano might not be his thing like baseball is not my thing.
When people of whatever age really have the chance to get involved in what they really love attention span, interest, motivation, hard-work, laziness cease to be a problem and disappear overnight.

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#929188 - 06/11/08 08:45 AM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Dramaqueen Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/18/07
Posts: 70
Loc: Canada
Hi Keycrazy,

I teach a 7 year old boy and I agree that they are a challenge to teach. Not a bad challenge, just a challenge. They are bundles of energy and trying to contain them for a certain amount of time is trying at best.

This boy I teach is an average student. He learns well and is progressing favorably but he squirms, fidgets and complains at practice time, especially at home. He constantly tells me, it's too hard, it's no fun, and I can't do it. I have learned that the best way to help him is to ignore the comments, not try to change his mind. I agree with him that yes, it is hard but I know he can learn it and we keep plugging along.

I have used a reward chart with him that has helped him to stay motivated. It is just a basic sticker chart with the days of the week and he puts a sticker on each day he practices. At our lesson he gets a sticker if he concentrates, works hard and doesn't complain (too much). Then at the end of the lesson (last 5 minutes) we get to play a 'fun' game. I have a box full of piano games which he gets to choose from and we spend some time playing. Of course it is still piano related and he is still learning but he does not feel that way. \:\)

I do use a lot of gross motor skills during his lesson, marching rhythms, tapping rhythms with drumsticks etc and if I intersperse those with his sit down at the piano time, I find he concentrates better.

Hope this might help a little. Good luck. Oh, and by the way, I really like the idea of joint practice times. Let him also see that you need to practice and that you don't get it right the first time and that it can be hard for you too, it may help is confidence level. I know it helps my perfectionist daughter. \:\)
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#929189 - 06/11/08 11:31 AM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
keyboardklutz Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/21/07
Posts: 10856
Loc: London, UK (though if it's Aug...
I use chocolate money with my 7 year old. I think he was six when I started teaching him. The real problem was always the same squirming etc. that dramaqueen mentions plus weird/fun ways he found to articulate his movements. Basically like all young children he likes to have fun with his body. He's now 8 (I think) and we can have intelligent conversations about how piano playing is disciplined fun with our body.
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#929190 - 06/11/08 12:42 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3344
Loc: Western Canada
Motivating a 7 year old boy! Thinking!

Well, at that age sometimes 7 year old boys can be getting teased about taking piano cause it's sometimes considered a girls pasttime. So, strange as this sounds I would hide his books and tell him not to tell anyone he's taking piano.

Also, suggest to him that he can quit when he reaches Grade 5, otherwise he will constantly ask to quit. By the time he gets there, he'll have forgotten he wants to quit!

Sounds to me too like the teacher may be going to fast! The early stages are critical to get the basics down, and down well. So make sure he gets the fun pieces. The Faber and Faber pop books are great for this.

So when you sit with him for practice. and I would make him practice everyday, play some of his pieces and play them like you are having fun! Nothing motivates better than seeing someone else having fun when they are playing the piano!

Hope this helps!
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Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher


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#929191 - 06/11/08 12:51 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11190
Loc: Canada
Diane - clever! Were you a little boy in your past life?

KS ;\)

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#929192 - 06/11/08 01:04 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3344
Loc: Western Canada
keystring,

No, but almost all of my students are "boys"! \:D
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Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher


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#929193 - 06/11/08 01:04 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Danny Niklas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/15/08
Posts: 905
Loc: Switzerland
 Quote:
Originally posted by Diane...:
Also, suggest to him that he can quit when he reaches Grade 5, otherwise he will constantly ask to quit. By the time he gets there, he'll have forgotten he wants to quit!
[/b]

Or he will want to quit even more and will regret having wasted precious time with something he had already realized wasn't for him. He should be free to choose to quit and find his real passion. If piano is really his passion than having the freedom to quit would just reinforce this and not endanger his future as a pianist at all. But having no freedom to quit when you're frustrated and unmotivated might actually trigger conscious spite making the desire to quit a natural reaction to the coercion rather than the real desire of the person. We all act like that all the time.

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#929194 - 06/11/08 01:38 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Diane... Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/06
Posts: 3344
Loc: Western Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by Danny Niklas:
 Quote:
Originally posted by Diane...:
Also, suggest to him that he can quit when he reaches Grade 5, otherwise he will constantly ask to quit. By the time he gets there, he'll have forgotten he wants to quit!
[/b]
Or he will want to quit even more and will regret having wasted precious time with something he had already realized wasn't for him. [/b]
Well Danny,

Grade 5 is a great milestone for anyone, and if he grows up and decides he wants to take up piano again, he would have no trouble getting back into it. Also, with his theory background in Grade 5, it would most definitely help him with any other instrument he so choses to explore.

I say it can't hurt!
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Diane
Jazz/Blues/Rock/Boogie Piano Teacher


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#929195 - 06/11/08 01:56 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Less Rubato Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/23/08
Posts: 266
Loc: Washington state via OH-IO
I have this problem with my little boy ,too.

(I sent you a private message--keycrazy.)

Right now, what is working for me is finding music my son WANTS to play. He enjoys singing and humming so when I hear him concentrating on a certain tune..I immediately try to find the sheetmusic. Honestly, it has helped.

I also break up his daily lesson into two or three parts
1. drills, scales, inversions, arpeggios,etc..
2. Theory with his notebook ( which he loves--thank you Bastien!!)
3. assigned sheetmusic.

We also reward major milestones like crazy. He had his yearly recital last weekend and got a bunch of ribbons and certificates. That thrilled him ,but so did the surprise Lego set that we bought him to celebrate the achievement.

His teacher gives him stickers and a lollipop when he's good. When he gets a certain amount of stickers, he gets to choose a toy from her toybox.

It's constant work --and sometimes discouraging--but worth it when you know they've learned something.

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#929196 - 06/11/08 08:03 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
SantaFe_Player Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/31/08
Posts: 607
Many teachers won't start a student until they are at least 8 years old, having read some of the research (and experienced themselves, no doubt) that a kid who begins at 8 or 9 is likely to catch up to the skills of a kid who started at 5 or 6 within a year or so. That having been said, I agree that if he can develop some friendships with other children who also play, it may help to motivate him. In my own students I sometimes had to search around for a motivation when interest was slacking. In one very gifted child, nothing seemed to work until I tapped into her competitive nature and entered her into some contests. This got me at leat two years' worth of motivated practicing! Does your boy ever attend concerts or recitals of really accomplished pianists? Sometimes more exposure to the beauty of the music can help - hearing lots of piano music records as a kid prompted me to delve into some literature that none of my teachers had even considered, as they were stuck on method books. At his level, your son isn't quite ready for Chopin polonaises, but routinely hearing well-played piano music might help elevate his interest some.

But at age 7, the outside play may be a big draw. Hopefully he has time for both, as the exercise and athletics are important. They're important for his piano playing as well.
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#929197 - 06/22/08 07:07 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
johnnymb Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 39
Loc: Southeast Pa.
I know I started the thread and haven't chimed in for a while, sorry. Thank you all so much for the very good advice. We're still struggling to get through practice times and I will implement some joint practices and some fun stuff, and some tasty rewards. Funny thing is he just practiced a little while ago and played quite well, and he's got a low fever! As someone pointed out, it's all desire. When he focuses on it, he plays so well. He also does the Hal Leonard "Notespeller" book which is written theory homework, he breezes through it every week, easy as pie.

We have taken him to some concerts, piano and gospel, he played in his first recital in April and memorized and played his song very well. We can't wait for Jim Brickman to come around again to take him. Two good friends of his play piano, a friend from school plays the cello, so there is some peers doing it also which helps. Thanks so much again, if there are more ideas we're all ears.
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#929198 - 06/22/08 07:38 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Fillanzea Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/17/05
Posts: 26
If he is very squirmy and active, I wonder if it might help for him to do something active before and halfway through practice, to get just a little bit mellow and tired out.

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#929199 - 06/22/08 09:30 PM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10297
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
Hello keycrazy,

From my avatar, you can guess that I have a kid involved with the piano!

He started at age eight .... couldn't sit still much before that!

The secrets that work in one case may not always apply in others, but some methods for keeping young students interested do seem to have a lot of success. For me, the supervising of practice was key (no pun intended). You are now doing that. This is a way to give positive feedback and correction/steering all at the same time. It makes the time at the piano more productive. And when the time at the piano becomes more productive the payoff becomes clear to the child as well.

That was certainly true in my son's case. He quickly became aware of how fast he was advancing, and that proved a motivator. That might not be a motivator to others. Not all kids have a competitive streak and not all respond to outside approbation. Some are more internally driven, and that takes a different set of approaches.

As Diane notes, she teaches a lot of boys. Does your son's teacher have such a collection of Y chromosomes? As he gets a little older that may become more important.
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#929200 - 06/23/08 01:48 AM Re: Motivating a 7 year old boy
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5278
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by keycrazy:
He also does the Hal Leonard "Notespeller" book which is written theory homework, he breezes through it every week, easy as pie. [/b]
Hi, Keycrazy:

Does your son do the theory book that comes with Hal Leonard books? They are fun and helpful, though kids usually spend more time on the pieces than the theory. My students use Hal Leonard to start, but I take them off it at different times. Students seem to struggle halfway through Book 3 when they start teaching hand positions. Does your son enjoy the piano duets with the teacher? Those in Hal Lenoard are tons of fun--even I enjoy playing teacher part!

If Hal Lenoard doesn't work, try Faber/Faber Piano Adventure series, in particular, Gold Star Adventures (with CD). I swear, those CD's work like drugs. Children get addicted to playing with the CD, which feature excellent synthesizer accompaniments, sound effects, and some children singing!! I'm not kidding you. I am currently teaching a 7-year-old girl who started with the Gold Star Adventures books, and she's now playing Kuhlau Sonatinas and Bach Preludes. When she was in her method books, she would crawl onto the bench and drag the CD player along so she could play the pieces with the CD. Her mom was amazed that the kid would practice by herself at age 5. \:D
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