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Music and Parenting: Making the Most of this Powerful Parenting Tool

Did you know that music is one of the most powerful parenting tools out there, whether or not you are musician? Use how to combine music and parenting into the ultimate winning team.

music and parenting

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Why Music is the Ultimate Parenting Tool

Music is one of my favorite parenting tools, and there are so many different ways to use it! Music is a wonderful way for parents and kids to bond, relax, and have fun. Kids can learn self-discipline, focus, and perseverance by practicing musical instruments. They can also use music as a tool for self-expression. Well-chosen music can motivate family members to pull together and clean the house, and it can help kids unwind after a busy day.

I was a music major in college, but you don’t have to be a musician to incorporate music into your daily life! Here are some of my favorite ways to use music in a home setting:

Lessons from Julliard & Oberlin Musicians at Virtu.Academy

Bond as a Family Through Music

Mike took piano lessons as a kid, and he appreciates the fact that he can still play and read music. Even more, he has fond memories of going to concerts with family members and listening to music with his parents at home. I have great memories of singing with family members, and I have a particular fondness for the CDs my mom played over and over when I was growing up. My family always had a string quartet (at least – larger when more children were old enough to play). I rarely enjoyed quartet rehearsals (although I can still play the second violin part to most of those pieces), but I have fond memories of my older brother’s shenanigans (which he was often in trouble for) – and I definitely bonded with those siblings who were similarly un-fond of quartet rehearsals!

Here is a wonderful example of a father and daughter bonding through music.

Practicing Teaches Self Discipline and Focus

Playing a musical instrument is a lot of work! Playing an instrument helps kids learn how to listen – both to what they are doing and what others are doing, if they play in an ensemble setting. My mom used music as a way to teach self-discipline and focus. Every single one of my mother’s ten children can play a stringed instrument (violin, viola, or cello), and several of us play some piano, organ, or guitar as well. My mom loved to help kids practice (a gene I, sadly, did not inherit), and she would spend hours happily listening to scales and making us play the same troublesome part of a piece over, and over, and over. I learned a lot about perseverance and delayed gratification through those hours of practicing!

Music Motivates

I use music to brighten up rainy days at my house, and to while away hours in the car on road trips. The right songs will get my kids to stop asking “how much longer” and start singing along instead, and at home a well-chosen CD gets them dancing instead of fighting. Music also makes it easier for us to face tedious chores. My kids each choose one song for me to sing them at bedtime every night – with lots of help from Anna as you can see in the photo for this post!

Music Helps with Self Expression

I’ve written before that middle school was not the happiest time in my life (is it for anyone?). The piano was my space to pound out frustrations – and apparently the frustration was evident enough that listening to me play sometimes stressed my mom out! My daughter uses our piano the same way – but fortunately, being digital, it has volume control. Some day we will own a proper piano – but I plan to keep the digital one as well, for this exact purpose! If you are looking for a good digital piano, I highly recommend (affiliate link) Roland digital pianos with weighted keys. They are, by far, the closest I’ve found to a “real” piano experience on a digital instrument.

Use Music to Memorize

Music is my favorite memorization tool! I can still recite all fifty states in order because I learned them as a song when I was eight years old.

Build Communities Through Music

Performing music with others and attending local music performances is a wonderful way to build community! Group ensemble pieces teach kids that you can create something beautiful by working with others, and the rehearsal hours make it easy to get to know other kids.

Teach Kids to Use Music as a Source of Comfort and Inspiration

Music is where I go when I find myself confronted with something I don’t know how to face – either because it is too painful or too confusing. Music creates a space where I can clear my head and work out what I need to do to face my new reality. I find playing an instrument especially helpful here, but a carefully chosen playlist could have a similar effect.

What role does music play in your life?

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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

49 thoughts on “Music and Parenting: Making the Most of this Powerful Parenting Tool”

  1. I have no musical ability whatsoever, but my son is ASD and music definitely helps him learn. I have to push myself a lot to help him with what he needs in this area!

  2. I love your list. I have read several articles lately about how good music is for brain development. I am the youngest of 10 and we all learned to play piano and other instruments from strings to brass and woodwinds. So if i understood correctly you are one of 10 also.! I really enjoyed your blog post.

  3. These are all great ideas. While our children do not play any musical instruments (yet…we have a few options from my husband’s days in high school band), we do share our love of music by listening to a variety of artists and genres. I am so glad my kids are into more than just ‘kids songs.’ We listen to a lot of music from the 40s and 50s like The Ink Spots, Billie Holiday, etc.

  4. I love this so much! I am a piano teacher, as well as a homeschool mom, and I love to incorporate music into all aspects of life ❤️

  5. Music is also very important for preparing young children for reading readiness. Most music breaks words naturally into syllables giving them phonological awareness which precedes the phonics coponent of reading, Plus the great thing is children aren’t music critics and love listening to even the tone deaf adults in their life.

  6. Fabulous post, and what a lovely gift you are sharing with your family. I love the picture of you, Anna, and the guitar, too :)

    For me, music is a profound connecting mechanism — to God and to other human beings. (Plus it is a family trade and a way to keep my soul feeling alive.)

    On that note: It was a distinct privilege and joy to accompany your beautiful senior recital. ;)

    P.S. Greg thought your recital was really one of the most moving recitals he has ever heard/seen, and he looked forward to your voice maturing into the 30s — time to let that voice ring! — and also, Will was astounded by your organ-playing and choice of registration when you played in the MemChu. Thought I would pass along while we are on this subject… Love, Y

    1. I agree that music is a different level of connecting – above and beyond words. You were the perfect person to play for my senior recital – thank you forever for that!

      I would love to work with Greg again. It would also be amazing to play that organ again. We’ll see if either becomes a reality :)

  7. Love this! Another reason I am grateful for my training in music as a child is that it is something actually USEFUL as an adult– I’m asked to play the piano all the time! It’s a great way to serve others. How often does an adult get asked to do a cheer, a pirouette, or kick a soccer ball? And how service oriented are those things? (not putting down other disciplines but it’s just a bonus to music)


  8. It’s wonderful that you found such solace and motivation in music. I played violin as a child but only for a few years but my sister made a career out of her ability to play piano. I use music now for two things:

    — music in the car, usually pop dance music to bridge those uncomfortable teens-in-back silence. It makes them all sing. Also to drown out and distract my kids when they are fighting in the car. It works like a charm.

    — my kids play instruments … it’s supposed to be for pleasure but learning an instrument is hard work. Only my son who plays guitar and loves it seems to play for pleasure but even he rarely wants to practice. My middle daughter plays flute; her motivation is competitiveness. Throw down any gauntlet and she’s game to win. My oldest is unwillingingly continueing with flute. We forced her into Middle School band (her flute teacher and I) and she’s surprisingly happy enough that she chose it next year without coersion. She likes the group dynamic/socialization of band.

    It’s funny how all kids are so different and that is also what they bring to their instruments. They all started on piano b/c my sister is a piano teacher. Now, no one is playing it.

  9. I do love music but unfortunately didn’t learn any instruments while young and can’t sing to save my life. I appreciate it so much and wish any of my kids had an interest in it but they don’t. We dance a lot though :)

  10. Such a beautiful photograph! I pinned this post. I so, so, so value the role of music and song in our children’s hearts and lives. I run pre-school communication and confidence enhancing family groups and song is such a huge and valuable part of them. Thanks for a great post.

  11. Music is essential. It expands your mind – it presents possibilities that not otherwise possible. Music is an essential part of a good curriculum.

    Memorization is key – I think. Memorization makes the learning process much easier – at least that is how it is in my experience.

    It helps if music is introduced young – 3 or 4 years old. Not that everyone will be interested in being a Hilary Hahn, however, if it’s encouraged and nurtured, the child will have a life long love – that will bless his or her entire life. And if the child wants to be a Hilary Hahn, you gotta feed the talent. Everyone is born with the possibility of greatness. It’s the encouragement by the parents that is key.

  12. I don’t think I’ve met a single person who can say middle school was their favorite time of their life, or even close to their favorite……..

  13. Music is so great! I started playing the flute when I was 11. I haven’t kept it up much but I do value being able to read music. My kids love it when I get it out.

  14. I wish I could sing or play an instrument. But my Husband he loves the Piano and used to play music for Aarya all the time. But when Aarya turned 2, he mostly just wanted to smash the piano, once he did it so hard that the whole ting went flying down :( Really hurt, my husband just packed the thing and kept it inside ( it is a old but awesome that his brother got it for him from the US – he loves it so much ). Aarya listens to music, we sing too… but I do not think it “touches” him the way it should. I don’t know how I should really make him **understand** the beauty of it. Yes, it is really bad that we have given up… but I really want to start again. Any tips? I would REALLY… like really Appreciate it.

  15. Is there anything you don’t know how to do MaryAnne? You are constantly surprising me. I took piano for years and can read music but I can’t play to save my life. My oldest loves musical instruments and I need to find out how to help her learn to play one. We’ve just bought a recorder and a beginner instruction book but she’s already said that she wants a guitar and a piano for Christmas! I’ll have to check out that digital one you recommend!

    1. The Roland digital pianos aren’t cheap, but I like them the best of everything I’ve tried. I plan to use ours until I can (hopefully someday) afford a really nice upright or even baby grand.

  16. Great post. Collin and Reagan both take piano lessons. Tyler played guitar, but doesn’t really pick it up anymore.

    You mentioned the right music in the car — any suggestions?

    1. It’s hard with the wide age range you have… “The Best of Wee Sing” is a favorite here, as well as the Lullabyes Music Together CD. I love “I Can Do It By Myself” from this CD: http://www.kidsvalues.com/music.html

      Peter, Paul, and Mary is another fun one – not sure how easy it is to find, these days.

      Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a safe bet if you want something classical to listen to.

  17. We need more music, I confess I like the house quiet, and when there is a lot of music playing I find it adds to my stress level, although my husband is the opposite! I tried to get Rebecca started playing the piano, but since our house is too small for it to sit out all the time, it doesn’t get out at all… :-/

    1. I think crafting and art can accomplish many of the same goals, and you do a lot of that! My mom played music non-stop when I was a kid; I like it quieter than that.

  18. Elisa | blissfulE

    I love that picture of you and Anna!!

    I also love the posts you write like this because you think through all the different aspects and put them into words that are inspiring and approchable.

    How did your mom get you to play those troublesome parts of songs over and over and over again??? This is an aspect I struggle with when listening to my children. They’ll do it once or twice more to humor me, but after that it’s like pushing water uphill.

    1. Thanks! I was so thrilled that Mike captured that moment on film – this is one of Anna’s favorite parts of the day!

      I’m pretty sure it was like pushing water uphill for my mom, too! She would sometimes bribe us with chocolate chips (one chocolate chip per time played correctly when we were very small); otherwise it was our willpower vs hers, and – amazingly – she usually won out! She truly enjoys helping kids practice this way, which made it easier. It does not come that naturally to me, even though I grew up watching her. And, as a result, my children are not (thus far) as accomplished as I was at their ages…

  19. We’ve done a lot of music in our house. Both of my kids have participated in Let’s Play Music classes, which are excellent for children. They teach music theory and piano skills in a fun environment and I highly recommend the program. We also do private string lessons (violin and cello), which teach ear training and perseverance. One of my daughters recently declared that practicing her violin is boring (everything is boring to her these days) and we had a great conversation about how practicing leads to good playing, and both of my girls enjoy performing for others. Russ and I want our children to love music, but we also want them to understand that we only get what we put in. Both of my children are bright and academic learning comes very easily to both of them, but learning their string instruments is hard. I want my girls to understand the value of hard work and right now they are learning that through music.

  20. Your kids are so lucky! I am tone deaf and don’t play musical instruments. Unfortunately, it looks like Anna has inherited this gene. Lars plays flute and guitar, and I guess we need to ask him play more often than he does.

  21. Oh I was hoping for a video! Great post. I suppose I use music too. I made up songs with my babies names in them to comfort them, we do a clean up song, and I put on classical when they get a little crazy. My husband is always playing and singing too.
    That is so great your mom had it a priority for you guys.

    1. It sounds like you use music a lot! I make up a lot of silly songs for my babies. I’m afraid I’m not much of a lyricist, but fortunately babies don’t mind :)

  22. I agree all you’ve said. My son started piano with Suzuki when he was in preschool age. There were many frustrating moments during the practice. We have used it as a reminder whenever he runs into something that seems difficult – “remember you practiced xxx pieces? You finally get it after so many practices”. It helped him put things into perspective. What kids learn from music is way beyond music.

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