The cliche of the ‘stage parent’ is no myth. It’s wonderful and right to be supportive, especially with music, but parental pushiness – in any field – can lead to mental health issues, decreased personal skills and poorer relationships. For some mums and dads, their own value and self-worth get wrapped up in their kids’ achievements.
Unhealthy comparisons come from social media boasts, or the conversations taking place at the school gates about the latest successes. And with fame being the number one goal for lots of people, ‘making it as a singer’ is something many people aspire to.
Taking up singing in itself is excellent for kids – there are a host of benefits, which we’ll explain later. And many show exceptional talent and a real joy for it – and without the support, they won’t have the opportunity to shine. So while you shouldn’t be pushy, it’s well worth encouraging and helping them find ways and means to pursue music and song. Introducing children to different activities and hobbies gives them the understanding and license to find their passions and opens doors for their gifts.
How do I get my child to be a singer?
You don’t. If you have unfulfilled musical ambitions and aspirations yourself, it’s never too late. Take singing lessons, join a choir, start a band, but don’t project your own desires onto your child. Becoming a singer is exciting and fulfilling, but also challenging and hugely competitive – it’s not a path for anyone whose heart isn’t fully in it. By trying to coerce your child into it, you may well be setting them up for a fall.
The flip side of this is that neither should you get your child not to be a singer. Parents who are cynical or unfamiliar with the arts are often discouraging when kids wish to pursue these careers and pastimes. Sometimes children are told that they’re not good enough to succeed – when in fact they’re in the process of developing and getting better. This is because many adults are afraid they will fail, be humiliated, or disappointed. This may be as a result of their own negative experiences in childhood. Many a star was told at some stage – ‘you’ll never make it’.
Are parents putting too much pressure on kids?
A research project was undertaken at the University of Arizona, examining the effects on kids, where one or both of the parents place too much emphasis on achievement. They found that not only did it not improve the children’s success rates in grades and the like, but it was also often the case that they developed to be more critical of others, less kind, and more depressed and anxious than their peers. As their self-worth was achievement-based, they experienced elevated levels of insecurity and lower self-esteem. And this was regardless of whether it was coming from the mother or father. On the other hand, parents who raise their kids to focus on kindness to others proved to be happier and well adjusted.
How do you encourage a musical child?
The key to finding the required balance lies in encouragement. Parents who are fearful, overly protective, pressurising or pushy are deeply unhelpful. Encouragement isn’t about telling them they’re talented when they’re not. It’s about instilling a sense of achievement, empowerment, freedom and confidence while keeping them in touch with reality.
When can a child sing a song?
It’s likely your child will be 4 or 5 before they can sing a song fully, holding and tune and potentially harmonising. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be introduced to song prior to this. Singing should be enjoyed as a fun and free activity, giving the child the opportunity to express themselves, rather than focussing on technique. Singing lessons can be added in later, but in the early formative stages, it should be carefree and natural. Sing to them and they are more likely to sing as they grow older.
The benefits of singing in early childhood
There are huge cognitive and social benefits to singing and being exposed to music from pre-birth, right through life. Adults too benefit from the mindful, meditative nature of singing, as well as the increased oxygen levels, breathing stamina and core strength that comes from it.
How does singing help a child’s development?
Children’s’ development is impacted in the following ways:
- Learning and listening to lyrics helps build language and memory skills
- Singing develops motor skills by working the body and mind in unison
- Children develop rhythm through song
- Friendships are formed by singing with others
- Confidence is built, along with increased freedom and less inhibition
Singing promotes fun and laughter along with better mental health
What age does a child start singing – when do babies start singing?
From around 2 upwards it’s possible for a child to hold a tune. And there are lots of great music sessions and workshops you can join from pre-natal to toddlers. But be careful. Some experts such as Sylvie Hetu, author of Too Much, Too Soon, believe that packing baby’s schedule with classes erodes the bond between mother and infant and overstimulates. Instead try singing lullabies to your little one – a brilliant way to expose them to musicality, in a natural and soothing way.