Are you feeling it yet? You know, that burn out, the one you hadn’t even thought existed. The surprise burn-out that comes right after the excitement of music lessons dies down.
Your child just figured out that it’s actually going to take some work to do this thing right, and you just discovered that you’re probably going to have to practice WAY more with your child if they’re going to do this thing right. Who has that time in their life?!
Of course, you might still be on that high, and that is awesome, but I’d like to give you some tips on how to beat the burn-out before you get there, because it’s going to happen, and it’s ok.
Why do we burn out around this time of the year? Because music lessons are hard! But you’ve stuck with it so far, and you haven’t given up.
But I don’t think you will. I think you and your child are worth more than a month and a half of music lessons and practice. I think you deserve to triumph over finding time to practice, getting to music lessons on time while eating dinner in the car, learning that first song and everything else that comes with music lessons. Why? Because you, and more importantly, your child are SO worth the joy of overcoming and reaping the benefits of something that was once tricky. You deserve to spend this much time together doing something special, just the two of you. You deserve to watch your child grow and flourish, becoming more and more creative and inventive. Your child deserves to experience the joy of sharing music with others.
Getting burnt out is part of being human. It’s not the optimal way to live, so obviously we’re not ok with staying burnt out, but know that being burnt out does not mean you’re not a good parent or a bad student.
So let’s get un-burnt out!
Sometimes, even if you should practice, you shouldn’t. I know... who ever thought you’d hear that?! If your little kiddo is screaming or threatening to trigger a household revolt if you practice, don’t practice. Music lessons do not deserve to be relegated to the bottom of the dreaded chore list. Take a day off, don’t mention it until tomorrow and come back when you both are more fresh and ready for it.
Often burn out comes from or is exacerbated by not having anyone to lean on when the going gets tough. Find other parents or people who are in the same boat as you, but also parents who have been there before. Reach out to other WSM parents and start making connections and bolstering each other up. There’s nothing like a good whine and cheese date to clear the air.
Read a book or a blog
There are tons of resources about being the parent of a mini musician. Plucky Violin Teacher is a gold mine blog of parent tidbits and encouraging pieces of advice. Beyond The Music Lesson by Christine Goodner is an excellent book about parenting mini musicians if you have a bit more time to read.
Talk to your teacher
Keep your teacher up to date on what’s happening at home. They can’t help you if they don’t know what you’re struggling with. They might have a hunch and should be able to remedy to a certain extend without knowing how well it’s going at home, but keep them in the loop anyways.
Not all the time, but when you sense one of you is pre-burn out, ask your child how they want the practice to go. Give them some ownership over the practice process and the routine, with some strong but flexible guidelines. For example: let them pick what they’re going to focus on while they play, but you stipulate that they’re going to play it 5 times that way in this practice. Having us adults constantly telling them what to do takes away the enjoyment of ownership and responsibility they would feel if they set some of the rules.
Think a little
Take a few minutes and meditate on what got you started on this musical journey. Why did you sign up for music lessons? How exciting was the first lesson? The first time you laid hands on your instrument? The first skill you mastered? Those are the things we need to remember day after day when the going gets tough. Deep down, we really do love our instrument, but we need to remind ourselves why every now and then.
Once more, let me remind you, it’s hard being the practice parent and it’s easy to get burnt out. So when burn out comes, take a break, walk away and come back tomorrow after taking a few deep breaths and venting. It’s ok. Every day of practice you achieve is a teeny, tiny victory that you’ll look back on and appreciate in time as the much larger victory it actually is.
Eat some ice cream or whatever floats your boat, have a glass or mug of your favourite drink and sit back and remind yourself why you’re doing this. It’s going to get better and easier, I promise.