Question: My daughter is 11 and has been taking piano lessons since she was 5. She has a gift. She’s able to play by ear and it’s only in the last 3 years that we’ve gotten her to read the music. She took Flute briefly and that too came easily to her. She wants to quit and I’m reluctant to let her. She’s very talented and this is the only thing she has started and stuck to. She says she doesn’t like it. My fear is she’ll start a pattern of quitting. Are my fears unfounded?
Answer: This is a difficult situation because neither you nor I know the outcome of your choice before you make it. I have discussed the topic of “quitting vs. not quitting” with hundreds of parents over the years. The results seem to be an inconclusive 50/50: 50% who wish their parents had encouraged them to stay with something and 50% who wish their parents had trusted their judgment as a child and let them quit. I encourage you to buy yourself some time to investigate the basis of your “fears”. Do you really believe your daughter is taking the easy way out, “starting a pattern of quitting”: Is she trying to avoid a challenge? Is she acting frivolously in other situations, changing her mind soon after she starts something? Is she being negatively influenced by her peers? Gather as much objective information as you can. Speak to your daughter’s piano teacher about any changes she might have observed. What is her teacher’s perception about your daughter’s level of interest and participation? Does her teacher think a planned hiatus would disrupt her studies? If the teacher shares your reluctance, maybe she can present another perspective to your daughter. Your daughter may be more willing to hear about her musical gifts and a promising future from her teacher than from her mother. On the other hand, you may believe your daughter has the decision making ability to make a responsible decision. If so, support her through the decision with the understanding that we all learn from our decisions. It’s possible she can return to piano lessons in a few months after she discovers something new about herself or discovers she misjudged the situation. It is also possible that she is ready to commit to a new endeavor. I believe that the decision, whatever it may be, should be a mutual decision by you and your daughter. Listen to your daughter with an open mind. Observe her behavior and her level of maturity. Share with her your perception and concerns. As an adult, you have far more experience and, yes, wisdom. You may even find some alternatives to an all or nothing solution. Possibly, a short term break or a change in teachers. It takes a very wise person to know when to quit something and move forward and when to stay with something through the ebb and flow of interest. Whatever you decide, don’t be afraid of making a mistake. Mistakes are the stepping to growth and knowledge. This is your chance to help your daughter develop lifelong decision making skills. She will also learn a valuable lesson about personal responsibility and personal honesty.
Karen Deerwester, Ed.S.