It Looks Like Those Music Lessons For Your Kids Will Really Pay Off

by Meredith Ethington
Originally Published: 
music lessons
Mariia Masich / Shutterstock

If you’ve ever felt like a tiger mom forcing your kid to play a musical instrument, you aren’t alone. I told my daughter she’s never allowed to quit taking piano lessons. And I’m serious.

While the relentless plucking out notes when she’s trying to learn a new song might make me seriously question my sanity at times, and the pleading for her to practice makes me hate the sound of my own voice, every mom loves a good “I told you so” story.

A new study from the University of Vermont is definitely helping parents everywhere say, “I told you so,” to their kids. James Hudziak, author of the study and a professor at the University of Vermont, and his colleagues wanted to look at whether a positive activity like music might have an affect on the developing minds of kids. And it turns out music might just work like freaking magic on our kids’ brains.

If you have a child you’ve been pushing, coaxing, or more likely begging to practice piano, you might just be doing the best thing for your child. Not only will they end up with mad musical skills, they might just end up being a better person all-around.

The Washington Post reported on this new study that investigated how musical training can affect the minds of healthy children. And the findings are making parents everywhere rejoice in all that money they spent on music lessons.

Some of the benefits reported in the study were found by studying the thickness of the developing cortex in a child’s brain, which can be linked to controlling memory, attention, organization skills, impulse control, and emotional regulation.

Hudziak, told The Washington Post, “What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument, it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.”

So, when your ears feel like they will bleed if you hear the same line of music one more time, don’t worry. You’re helping your child grow in more than one aspect of their development.

But in a fast-paced world, music and the arts are often overlooked in our school system, so I was prepared to fork out the money for lessons on our own. When I made the decision to sign my daughter up for music lessons, I was focusing more on helping her learn discipline, but also acquire a life skill that might help her out in the future. You never know when someone might want you to sit down and play a song in church or school, and it will definitely help her not embarrass herself at karaoke night with her friends.

But beyond this, Hudziak and his colleagues found that pushing our kids to play a musical instrument might be exactly what they need to be better in all areas of their life, and they might just do better at school too. And what parent doesn’t want their kid to be more organized, better at their studies, and more mature emotionally?

Hudziak went on to tell The Washington Post, “I wanted to look at positive things, what we believe benefits child development. What I was surprised by was the emotional regulatory regions. Everyone in our culture knows if I lift 5-pound, 10-pound, 15-pound weights, my biceps will get bigger. The same is true for the brain. We shouldn’t be surprised we can train the brain.”

So that’s good news for us parents. We can encourage our kids to keep practicing because it’s exercise for the parts of the brain we desperately want them to develop — maturity and emotional control. And I, for one, love the idea that music might just help the kid struggling with anxiety or depression too.

I took piano lessons for seven years, and when I reached high school, I decided to quit. I had too many extracurricular activities going on to keep going. But it’s one of my biggest regrets in life. I often wish I could still sit down and play. So, as a mom, it was important for me to push my kids a little in this area, and I’m glad to know I’m making the right choice.

Parents can’t rely on most public school systems to bring musical training into their child’s life. In many schools, the arts are almost nonexistent. At my child’s elementary school, there are after-school music classes offered for a fee. But many schools aren’t so lucky.

Tom Barnes, staff writer at Music.Mic, reports on the scientific reasons we should be teaching kids music in school.

“Three-quarters of high school students ‘rarely or never’ receive extracurricular lessons in the music or the arts. And that’s depriving kids of way more than just knowing an instrument.
School systems that don’t dedicate adequate time and resources to musical training are robbing their kids of so much. Prior research proves that learning music can help children develop spatiotemporal faculties, which then aid their ability to solve complex math. It can also help children improve their reading comprehension and verbal abilities, especially for those who speak English as a second language.”

In other words, music might just make up the difference for a child who is struggling with anxiety, maturity, or even math homework. So it looks like it’s time to sign your kids back up for violin lessons, or keep pushing them to work just as hard at their music as they do their schoolwork.

Building character by practicing music might actually be a real legit argument now. So when your kid is frustrated and saying how they want to quit, make sure to just smile and tell them that it’s for their own good — which is really good news, moms and dads, because we always like to be right. And now you have science to back you up.

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