As your child approaches adolescence, the social, emotional, physical and cognitive changes they’re experiencing become increasingly evident. Your 11 or 12 year-old is being pulled in so many different directions by their desire for independence, their need for family and support, their hyper-awareness of their bodies (which are suddenly growing wildly and can become strange and difficult for your child to understand and relate to), their huge increase in logical thinking and competence, and their extreme moods and reactions.
In short, being 11 or 12 is tough, and it can be hard for adults to remember this when they are dealing with a volatile pre-teen who is suddenly pulling away from the family and towards their friends or into themselves. Your 11 or 12 year-old may reject all the family activities they used to love, yet be afraid to be alone. Their much improved ability to think logically and critically may cause them to develop the new (and sometimes irritating) habit of constantly correcting adults and others, and yet this growth can mean a more developed sense of humor and a sharper insight that make them much more interesting individuals to be around. Just know that whatever frustrations they may cause at home, they are feeling twice as strongly inside themselves. Your 11 or 12 year-old is struggling to find the balance between what they want, how they feel and what they’re capable of, and doing it in a fog of peer pressure, hormones and shaky confidence. It’s little wonder they sometimes behave erratically, seem sensitive and overwhelmed, or make poor choices!
What to expect in your 11 or 12 year-old music student:
– Practice: Your 11 or 12 year-old is absolutely ready to handle the responsibility of practicing on their own. If you have a student who is not managing this well, look at the bigger picture. Are they having the same difficulty following through on school work that requires ongoing work at home? If so, they may need help finding more effective ways of staying on task, planning and following through. Remember, your student’s music teacher can help with this, especially if your child is not so keen on advice from Mom and Dad right now. Tell your teacher what your child is struggling with and have them offer your young student some tips and tricks for tracking and following through on practice.
– Development of personal musical tastes/interests: By now your child is really beginning to get a handle on what styles of music they do and don’t like to listen to and play. They might want more control over the types of pieces they learn, and may want to learn more popular music or movie themes, for example. Giving them a say in what pieces they learn can help keep their love of music and their instrument alive and give them a healthy outlet for their need for independence. Rest assured that a good teacher can still use these types of music to teach good reading skills, music theory and musicianship. You may be surprised to find that popular music can still be quite complex and challenging for your student, so if allowing them to play “their” music keeps them engaged, give them space to do so. These personal choices can also be mixed with more traditional or classical pieces on their instrument to give them a good balance.
– Overconfidence mixed with insecurity: This is an age where your student may be waffling between thinking that they’re much better at things than they really are, and feeling that they are not and will never be good enough. Why? They are just leaving a stage of their lives where overestimation of their abilities and bragging are common, because they have been throwing themselves into their interests and think they know absolutely everything about them. On the other hand, they are experiencing a big development in their critical skills and their ability to evaluate the quality of books, movies, art and music. This means that they are beginning to evaluate their skills more objectively, and comparing them not just with the neighborhood kids anymore, but with their heroes who they cannot possibly measure up to yet.
What you can do for your young student:
– Offer encouragement and praise: Helping your child boost their confidence in their music skills and telling them that you are proud of their practice and performance can give them a positive source of self-esteem that can help them resist peer pressure and the temptation to find self-esteem in negative places. It can also help smooth out those bumpy periods of self-criticism and judgment.
– Be patient: Your child’s emotions and behavior can be challenging at this stage, but as I mentioned before, it is important to remember that they are feeling twice the turmoil they are creating. Realizing this may also help you not to take their actions too personally, especially if they are seeking independence from the family, which can be difficult for parents to adjust to.
– Ask your child’s teacher for help and input when needed: While your child may be pulling away from their immediate family, they may often still seek the guidance and wisdom of other adults. If your student is especially fond of their teacher, or if they have been taking lessons from their teacher for some time, their teacher can be a positive and helpful influence. If you see that your student is struggling to make time for practice, or is feeling inadequate about their abilities, or is in need of any other guidance or assistance where their instrument is concerned, talk to your teacher about it. They may be full of insight and creative ideas!
As always, we welcome you to share your comments, stories, questions and ideas in the comments below. And remember, we love speaking about music education, music therapy and child development. If you are interested in having us speak to your group on these or other related topics, please contact us at email@example.com today!
Sara R. Longwell, M.M.Ed, MT-BC
Community Relations Manager & Music Therapy Specialist