I think a lot of parents can relate to the internal battle of “do I let my child quit the activity they have decided they don’t want to do anymore?” Are the arguments and the pressure on the relationship between parent and child really worth it? In my case, my twelve year old daughter wants to quit the violin.
As much as I want to give in and let her stop, I feel that in the long run its in her best interest to continue. I think she will regret not pushing through the arduous practice sessions. But what I “feel” isn’t much of a case against a 12 year old girl determined to get her own way.
So I’ve been doing a bit of research and what I have read has taught me that the benefits of learning to play a musical instrument go far beyond the beautiful sound produced once the skills of playing the instrument are acquired.
Even if hours of practice only allows you to have an audience of those who will love your music unconditionally, the benefits of learning an instrument at any stage of life are substantial for factors such as the discipline of delayed gratification, cognitive function, brain development, depression and so much more. Use it or lose it; learning to play an instruments gives our brains a good workout.
The Australian Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as a “research-based practice and profession in which music is used to actively support people as they strive to improve their health, functioning and wellbeing.”
Listening to or making music releases endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin triggers. Anything that increases these has got to be a good thing.
In this blog I will look at one of the benefits of learning to play an instrument– delayed gratification.
At a time when consumerism encourages instant gratification, delayed gratification is the discipline of being able to forgo an immediate reward for a larger reward later; exercising our self-control.
This can be a hard notion to swallow or live by in a world where there is not a lot of discussion on how to wait and to learn to want for things. Everything is about now and to get things now has become so much easier. Dress shops have signs in the changing room offering the option to “Buy Now, Pay Later.” Rather than saving for a trip away we use our credit card and borrow from our future self. Advertisements on TV constantly encourage spontaneous gravitation. Why wait and delay the gratification when you can have it now?
Learning a musical instrument is a great way to practice the discipline of delayed gratification. This is especially true for our children who are growing up in a world where instant gratification has almost become the norm.
Having to have instant gratification all the time does not enable long term goals to be achieved and therefore the chance of having a meaningful, purposeful life with moments of happiness, becomes very low. When things get tough they are put in the “too hard basket” and most likely not looked at again as life becomes a fixation of other forms of instant gratification. This “too hard basket” eventually overflows with resulting increased levels of stress and anxiety.
Studies such as the marshmallow study in the early 1970’s where children were given the option to have 1 marshmallow now or 2 if they waited 15 minutes has shown that when followed through life, the children who were able to hold off have done better in life. Their ability to impose self-control has served them well in being able to achieve their long term goals.
Learning an instrument requires painstaking hard word and discipline. Perseverance to keep tackling the most difficult parts of the piece of music, till finally it happens and you feel the gratification of your hard work and patience. Muscle memory kicks in and you can play with enjoyment. This creates a sense of accomplishment that you will naturally want to replicate, so you strive for the next challenge in the piece. Learning this type of attitude has a flow on effect if applied in other areas of life as illustrated in the marshmallow study.
Here is an interesting read on Instant Gratification from Psychology Today. This talks about how we should slow down, think and assess to reduce stress and anxiety. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/our-health/201410/instant-gratification-instant-fear.
If you are interested in exercising your brain have a look at my page on Inner West Institute of Music.
I would love to hear from you if you can add some input to my blog or tell me where I am completely off track. I think it would be a great conversation to have and I would love to learn more.
As for my daughter and her violin, the jury is still out!
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