Dedicated to Parents

Dedicated to Parents

Written by: Sandra Martin
Publication: Accord Magazine, USA. Reprinted courtesy of owner/editor Faithe Deffner. Back copies available.
Date written: 1985

(Author's Note: In talking with teachers of music students, I have noted a general consensus that there is cause for concern that through parents' benign neglect, we could be losing an entire generation of young people. These teachers deal each week with problems youngsters face but are rarely in a position to do more than advise. Here is a column dedicated to parents, who have the most difficult job in the world - raising America's children to be solid, law-abiding citizens able to contribute to our society in a constructive, useful way.)

This first column in our new magazine, "The AFNA Satellite," addresses itself to the problems facing advanced music students who are too old to be called children and too young to behave like adults. Their families face many challenges and this column attempts to point out some dangers facing them and offers some heartfelt solutions.

The biggest single contribution parents can make to their child's musical education is to maintain a quiet interest in their progress. Attending classes, enforcing practice at home and developing a parent-teacher relationship will guide their student through what can be and should be a magical discovery in the wold of music.

This world of music can teach discipline, inspire confidence, and introduce children to a world of abstracts and subtleties portraying a roaring river or a soft rainfall. It can make them feel the freedom of jazz or the beauty of a symphony. It can let them explore through song the mood swings of different composers and it can let them create, through an exact discipline, a feeling all their own.

The simple truth is that none of this will take place unless parents accept the responsibility of supervising their child's learning process. By attending class with your child you can enforce at home what the teacher says in class. By requiring practice, every day, you are creating a habit of discipline that will help your child all of his or her life. By establishing a direct contact with your child's teacher, you are signaling your approval of this teacher to your child. Nothing means more in the relationship between teacher and pupil than parental support.

Eighteen Years' Experience

Having been a music teacher since the end of 1967, I have seen some students succeed and gain much from their experience in music and others give it up during a crisis with parents or teachers or both, and unable to fill the void with constructive activity, begin to associate with a crowd totally different from their old friends. While psychologists may give many reasons for this change in attitude, I firmly believe it is not the child who changes, but the child reacting to changes in their parents.

Children who are used to having their parent accompany them to class and band rehearsal will be thrilled to drive alone when they get their new driver's license. But, weeks later, they begin to miss the companionship of their parent and it shows. Teachers miss the parental support and have to rely on their rapport with the student to accomplish the end result.

I have seen heartbreak on both sides when teenagers and parents decide that they can't cope with one another. I have seen students begin to distort the truth to get around their parents' orders. I have seen parents in tears and shock upon finding out that their child has lied to them. They cannot understand what happened. How can a child who has been wonderful all of a sudden resort to lying and cheating to go behind their parents' back? How can a straight A student suddenly be failing classes? Where have we failed?

Loss of Communication

Well, in part, the answer is that they have lost communication with their child. When a child is eight years old and is moody, a parent will be concerned and show concern. But, when a teenager shows the same moodiness, it is often passed off with the phrase - "They're going through that stage."

I don't know what "that stage" is, but I do know that a parent's failure to take the time and make the effort to get to the truth of the matter with their child can cause the entire family to go through changes that produce trauma and duress. A parent who spends time with their child regardless of age, who listens to them - sometimes for hours - who knows their friends, who dares to say no, and mean it, will have a better chance of raising a well-adjusted child.

Teenagers have a hard time reacting to approaching adulthood. Their bodies may be full grown, but their emotions are not. Parents may think their 17-year-old son is grown up enough to make his own decisions, but the fact is that he may be more confused and scared than he was at the age of ten. With schools pressing students to make decisions about their future, the armed services recruiting kids right out of high school, and parents screaming about the high cost of auto insurance, who can question their confusion? Who can blame them for wanting to escape the pressures for awhile - even if it is with the wrong crowd.

I am not upholding this kind of escape, to the contrary, I think its consequences can be serious. What I am trying to point out is that at the age when your child looks like he or she needs you the least (and may tell you that they can take care of themselves) they actually may need your love and support an guidance more than ever.

I have spent countless hours talking to students, who over the years have become friends, about their future, their problems, their parents. I have seen basically well adjusted students 17 or 18 years old, become withdrawn and detached in lesson because of a problem at home. They need someone to talk to. And that talk-session can be extremely important for them. It allows them to let off steam, to cry, to laugh, but most importantly to communicate with someone they can trust and who cares.

Most of these students want to talk to their parents, but are afraid of their reaction. They don't want to risk future restriction because of a fear they have given to an otherwise docile parent. They crave attention and affection and they turn to outsiders, teacher and friends, when their parents are not available.

For parents who ask for my suggestions in dealing with their young man or woman, I tell them this:

1. Maintain your presence at their music lesson and band. Acknowledge the fact that they don't need you to drive them, but that you would like to go anyway to be with them, and to visit with other parents. Stress the fact that you will miss this activity that you share, when the time comes for them to quit music lessons.

2. Encourage them to study music for as long as possible. It is not only a discipline, it is a release. When musicians are tense or tired or under pressure, it is the most natural thing in the world for them to pick up their instrument and "lose" themselves in their music for a while.

3. Invite other music students and their parents to your home for dinner or a swim party. You know these families, you know the background and when your child is with them chances are that the outing will be good for all concerned.

4. Support your child's music teacher when he or she makes certain judgments or recommendations. This teacher (who is usually, at least in AFNA, a professional) knows your child and has his best interests at heart.

5. Discourage absenteeism. This destroys the momentum that has built up and encourage your child to find other avenues of activity.

6. Attend the Music Festival with them. Let them know that your are proud of them and that you want others to know that your are their parent. Do not be afraid to say no when you have reason to disapprove of something your child wants to do. Listen to him and then make a decision but let him know that your are doing this because in your judgment it is the best thing for him. Children and teenagers will accept discipline and rules with which they don't agree, however grudgingly, if they think the person in charge is fair, concerned, and just.

American kids are, in President Reagan's words, "the best damn kids in the world" but they are heading into uncertain times and they need our judgment to rely on until they can develop their own. Give them the chance and they won't let you down.

The author obviously feels deeply and strongly about her subject, and speaks frankly about problems that can arise between parents and their near-adult children. She shares her first-hand experience and offers some worthwhile advice.

Sandra Martin and her husband, Randy, are co-owners of Martin Music Center. They are active members of AFNA and both have held offices. Currently, Sandra is Vice-President.
© 2024 Accordions Worldwide • All rights reserved. To comment on these pages, e-mail the webmaster.