By Paul Kwo
“That's Great!” Says Tony the Tiger. I remember this commercial from my childhood promoting a cereal brand that is supposed to be well-balanced. It gives the child the right amount of fun as well as the right amount of nutrition that's needed. The same really goes for a teacher in the performing arts.
Certainly many children and teens begin their studies in the performing arts with positive attitudes, enjoying the fun that these performing arts bring to them. But over the course of a year or two, the majority of the students begin to grow tire of the constant practice and the nagging of their parents to practice. Many parents push their kid so as to not waste their hard-earned money paying for the weekly lessons. But quite often to the detriment of the student's enjoyment, these aggressive pushes often turn the students away from the art that they once enjoyed or even loved.
But the opposite is not any better. Some parents believing that the arts should be fun and that the child should simply enjoy their time spent studying the art decidedly not to ever push their child to strive for some form of excellence. Some of these child end up, with the help of incompetent teachers, studying for years with little to no advancement in their skill level. Thus wasting valuable time the child has and the money the parents spent.
So how do we find this balance between pushing a child versus maintaining the enjoyment?
1. Foster an environment friendly to practice. (Do NOT replace fun time with practice time.)
So often do I have students telling me how they simply don't have time to practice. I have heard so many excuses in my life ranging from homework to family obligations to bizarre tasks or chores they had to do, the underlying issue remain: A child does not know how to properly manage their time.
A parent's job is NOT to yell at a child to practice and to demand the child perfection in their practice. It is the teacher's job to demand the perfection and to help a child understand the importance of practice. A parent's job is to help a child manage their time so that they can actually be freed to practice. But so often I see parents instead of managing their child's schedule, they simply replace a child's existing free fun time with practice. If a boss replaced their employee's break time with more work, the employee would certainly build up resentment about the work they are to do over a long period of time. Why would we think a child would behave any differently? Do not replace a child's fun time with practice. Rather schedule out your child's time outside of school to equally balance fun time and work time including homework and practice.