Many of us piano teachers love to quote Suzuki, who famously said, “You should only practice on the days that you eat!” but the truth is…I actually disagree with this notion (gasp!). I believe there are times when your child should not practice piano.
I know, I know — so brazen to disagree with Suzuki himself. But my goal as a piano teacher is to encourage a lifelong love of learning. In my experience, if you are constantly forcing a child into practicing the piano when he and/or you are not at your best, you’ll be met with more resistance, less will be accomplished during a practice…and I suspect the “lifelong love” goal shall dissipate quickly.
Controversial as this notion may seem, read on to learn 3 times that I would actually suggest your student should NOT practice the piano.
When your child is exhausted/tired.
If your kiddo is just plain wiped out, chances are that piano practice is not going to go well. Fatigue is likely to cause frustration and discouragement. Your child will then associate practice with those negative feelings. If you notice that your child is regularly exhausted at a particular time of day (i.e. right after school), aim to squeeze in a piano practice when your child is in a better place for learning and having fun!
When YOUR day is rushed.
Telling my daughter to go practice piano while I’m distracted and unable to participate and encourage her is a recipe for disaster. Sometimes I’ll task her with going to work on a song while I finish dinner or get her brother ready for bed and I realize we haven’t yet practiced piano and I panic. What usually follows is her becoming frustrated without someone to guide her, and she ends up in tears. That, or she gets distracted and goofs around because someone isn’t there to keep her on task. It is SO MUCH MORE WORTH OUR TIME for me to make sure I am not busy doing dishes or getting ready for house guests so that I can be fully present and available for her piano practices, guaranteeing that our time is productive and well-spent.
When your child is frustrated.
If your child is reaching a point where things have become so discouraging because she’s working on a challenging piece or section and it’s just not coming together, sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away. While it might be possible to distract your student and end on a positive note by having her play a fun piece that she’s really good at, don’t be afraid to call it a day and come to the piece with a set of fresh eyes tomorrow!
When are times you have found that your own child should not practice piano?