Maybe disaster is too strong a word, but your child’s first guitar lesson certainly didn’t go well. They seemed wholly incapable of holding the instrument the right way. And the few moments your child could get in the right playing position, they erratically strummed and snapped the strings in a way that not even a parent could love.
The teacher ended the lesson by saying, “Great. Just practice that every day and I’ll see you again next week.” I am going to have to make my child practice that every day for a week, you think. You start to wonder if the guitar is for your child. I mean they clearly have no talent for it.
Leaving aside that it is too early to decide that your child doesn’t have talent, is it important for them to be “talented”? Did we sign our children up for lessons in hopes we will unearth some latent genius? Or are we hoping to give our children an experience? If we as parents shift our thinking and stopping worrying about whether or not our child will someday sell out Carnegie Hall, music lessons become a vehicle for personal growth and an opportunity to learn how to learn. Meaning that the fact that you child is not talented is great news!
What is Grit?
Grit has become a buzzword in education over the past few years. “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals” psychologist Angela Duckworth explains in this video. Duckworth’s research shows that grit is a leading predictor of long-term success. In fact, the ability to work through challenges while remain focused on long-term goals is far more important than inborn talent.
Most Youth Activites Don’t Develop Grit
Unfortunately, most youth activities are not structured in a way that develops grit. Whether it is youth sports or art classes, most youth activities meet once a week, with a teacher whose primary goal is to manage children and give them a fun activity for the hour or two. These activites tend to sort talent rather than grow capabilites, with the natural athletes or artists getting all of the attention, while kids who aren’t naturally talented being praise for their effort and participation but given little instruction or guidance.
Seizing the Oppotunity
If you find that your child is untalented at something, you have a unique opportunity to help them develop grit. But this means that you need to make sure they are able to really give their best effort. If they are showing up to their weekly lesson having not even looked at the guitar for the past six days, they are not going to be able to grow. Learning an instrument requires practice. The good news is that practice sessions need not be very long. It is the consistency and the quality of the practice that matters, not the duration.
Of course, their are only so many hours in a day. And between school and social activities, it is easy for families to spread themselves too thin. That is why it is helpful to zero in on one or two activities at a time, and do the deep, consistent work that is required. (I, of course, think all children should be learning to play guitar.)
So the next time your child is squawking away on the violin or stumbling across the basketball court, rejoice. If it is something they want to do but have little talent for, you have a unique opportunity to develop their grit. And a great place to start, would be Awesome Guitar for Kids.