As an educator, I’ve both learned from experience and learned from research about the importance of empathy. Teachers and parents who empathize with their students and children can transform a negative dynamic to a constructive one.

Reflect on your language at home during guitar time and if you are an educator, during class. Phrases like, “I bet that will get better with a bit more work, right?” or, “It’s starting to sound better,” or, “wow, you have really worked hard at getting that to improve!” help a child understand that it is a process. This process requires some hard work at times. This hard work yields results.

From a bit of different angle, I also find that children (and adults!) do not like to fail if they don’t need to. However, small failures lead to successes. Making mistakes provides material to reflect upon. And, to change the mode of attack, so to speak. Reminding your child that they had to stumble and fall before they could walk is one of my favorite analogies. Sometimes a child can use a reminder that even though a few repetitions don’t yield noticeable results, that if they are trying hard, they are still improving. It just takes the brain a little more time to figure out how to control the fingers in such a specific and complicated way!

During lessons, I find myself repeating these ideas a lot not because I do not mean them but because the more a student or child hears them, the more they realize that we are in it together and that together we can solve problems, collaborate, and ultimately go deeper into learning and music.