Family Forum – Don’t want to be tiger mum over violin

Family Forum answers how to motivate children to keep playing music.


Our 10-year-old daughter has been learning violin for two years. Her music exam result last year suggested she had the potential to do well, and she wanted to continue, so we bought a decent violin. This year, however, I had to push her to practise and she says she doesn’t want to do it any longer.

My husband says she should see out this year’s lessons, because she committed to them. One friend says we need to keep her at it a bit longer, until she begins to see the benefits and starts enjoying it more. Other friends say I should cut my losses because it’s a never-ending battle. I don’t want to be a tiger mother, but I don’t want her to waste her potential either. What should I do?


It is relatively common for children to lose interest in practising music. The underlying reasons may include finding the next level difficult, or issues with the teacher. Have a gentle conversation with your daughter to find out more. Perhaps the teacher is moving along too quickly.

Consider asking the teacher for suggestions on how to motivate your child. Ten-year-olds are generally receptive to rewards. In return for committing to violin practise for the rest of the year, perhaps she could select a different instrument to study next year? The violin could be sold to contribute to the hire or purchase of a new instrument.

Small and regular rewards might also be well received, such as a favourite evening meal. Alternatively, your daughter could keep a record of the number of practises undertaken using a star chart on the fridge and when the desired amount is reached at the end of the term, attending a movie with the family could be the reward.

The learning of a musical instrument should be joyous, and it is a bonus if older family members can actively participate. A child going to her room away from family activity can be experienced as a negative. Sit down with your daughter so she can show you what she has learned. If either parent has an interest in learning the same instrument that their child is learning that could be a great joint activity. Interestingly, when children grow up they have been known to say to parents “I wish you had made me stick to learning music…”. The panel urges you to be creative and continue to encourage your daughter with her music tuition.

It is of course important to check that your child is feeling safe in the presence of any people they are having unsupervised contact with, as well as teaching her protective behaviours.

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