When you sign your child up for a sport, what do you expect? I imagine it’s that, with some decent coaching, he or she will learn to play well enough to cooperate in a team setting, be a good sport, be more fit and healthy, get out of the house, get some fresh air, have skills he or she can call on later in life, be more socially acceptable, etc. Your little one will go to practice once or twice a week and play in season games. If he or she shows special talent you might consider a more intense path, but even with average performance, you still value the activity for all the above reasons. Right?
Objectives for signing a child up for music lessons should be similar, except for the fresh air part. He or she will acquire physical, emotional, and intellectual skills that go along with learning to play an instrument. And while musicians (except for the rock variety) don’t have the iconic status of athletes in American culture, learning to read and play music is still valuable for building character, confidence, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and academic skills.
In sports, extra time practicing at home is more effective than only showing up for team practice and games. Piano lessons are the same. Progress will be slower with only one 30 minute lesson a week and little practice. Practicing every day for 30 minutes will have better results and produce greater self-confidence. Realistically, you should set up an expectation or reward system, or even better, you can sit down on the bench with your little one. Even accomplished musicians with years of experience, fame, and fortune must exercise strong discipline to practice like they should, so what will your 10-year-old do?
If you want a prodigy like Tiger Woods, you probably have to act like a tiger mom. Being proactive in your child’s development is a wonderful thing, but I’m not advocating for tiger motherhood. Mainly, I think it’s great if playing an instrument is a normal part of a child’s general education, like learning to how to swim, draw, dance, or play baseball.