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My talented daughter hates taking piano lessons

Published 1:10pm Saturday, January 12, 2013

Question: When my daughter was 6, she begged me to let her take piano lessons. She really enjoyed it for a while.

She has a natural talent for the instrument. She is now 11 and has tried two different teachers, but wants to quit because she doesn’t like it anymore. She gets so upset before every lesson and is not practicing. Her dad and I love to hear her play, and I know how much she wanted to take lessons in the first place. If we let her stop lessons, we think we will be encouraging her to become a quitter. We also would hate to see such talent go to waste. What should we do?

Answer: A young girl wakes up at 4 a.m. to catch her ride. Even though exhausted from the previous day’s events, including exams, a powerful force at work deep within her spirit prevails.

Ever since she was able to crawl, she has displayed a uniqueness, something about her grace of movement, her flexibility, her coordination.

She hasn’t seen her family in several months and battles with loneliness and being homesick. She is just 16.

Her ride arrives. After a nap in the car, she arrives to a warm yet business-like greeting. She goes to work.

After one hour, she walks to the calendar and marks off one more day. The Summer Olympics are 23 days away.

She will push through any and all trials to win a gold medal. She will settle for no less.

Her passion is her motivation. Twenty-three days later the same young athlete would find herself standing proudly atop the platform with a medal around her neck and singing her country’s national anthem.

Simply put, excellence awaits those with talent and natural-born passion. Suppose the budding Olympian, despite her immense talent, woke up every morning and said “I hate training. The only reason I do it is because mom makes me.”

This negative attitude is not a reflection of her lack of drive or ambition; it simply indicates the teenager is not pursuing her passion. Talent without passion cannot produce desire. If there is no desire, there is no dedication, and without dedication, there can not be excellence.

You must accept you cannot make your daughter become inherently passionate about anything, including the piano. You can only help her unearth her unexcavated passion and encourage her to pursue it.

To begin “project passion excavation,” ask your daughter for something she would like to study instead of the piano during the time allotted for practice and lessons. The continued structure of this approach reassures her you are not encouraging or allowing her to quit, only to refocus.

Once your daughter’s list is complete, review her ideas. Ask her why she included each of the items. Watch her expressions for that spark you aren’t used to seeing in her and listen carefully for those things about which she can’t stop talking.

These signals represent the first glimmers of her soon-to-be-fully excavated passion.

Reduce the list to one exciting idea that she, you and her dad can support wholeheartedly.

Do not become disheartened if she only sticks to the new pursuit for a couple of months and gets tired of it. Keep her focused on the learning aspect by enforcing flexibility, not freedom.

Your daughter is likely a child with a beautiful yet unquenched thirst to learn and to whom routine becomes frustrating and unchallenging. Remember the more learning experiences your daughter encounters, the more knowledge she stands to gain.

In addition, as she continues to work within the rules, boundaries and limitations set by her parents, she will develop a very high respect for discipline and good work ethic.

Your daughter may not be the next Mozart, Beethoven or Brahms, but who’s to say with your support and encouragement she will not become the next Washington, Jefferson or Lincoln.

Abbie Long is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to askabbie@tidewaternews.com.

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