Whether they’re attached at the hip or have nothing in common, sharing a musical experience can be a great learning activity for siblings to participate in together. Whether it be in the context of a music lesson or life in general, students of any age can benefit from the positive competition and encouragement that only siblings can provide. Here’s a couple thoughts in favor of co-op music lessons for siblings.
When siblings take part in a shared activity, some element of competition is bound to arise. This is doubly so when the students are learning the same instrument. One question inevitably arises, though more often than not it’s disguised as simple curiosity: “How is my sibling doing and how am I stacking up?”
When siblings express their competitive desires, it’s important not to deter them from feeling competitive. A little bit of competition is healthy! It’s equally important, however, to remind the student that the only person they should be competing against is themselves. While it may be gratifying for a talented student to know they’re doing better than their sibling, it’s far more constructive to understand that their primary source of competition comes internally rather than externally. Strive to be better than you were yesterday--not how good someone else is today. How others are doing, even siblings, is ultimately irrelevant to your own personal growth.
The Growth Mindset
One positive thought exercise is to ask a student, “What did you do well yesterday?” then instruct them, “Do even better today,” with specific examples unique to their own track. Alternately, if they’ve had a rough day of practice, ask, “What do you think you need to improve on?” With these lines of questioning, the natural instinct to compete can be applied inward with a positive frame of mind, as opposed to being directed outward with the consequence (intended or not) of potentially putting someone else down.
The flipside of competition is encouragement, and when it comes to encouragement few can have a larger impact than a sibling. Every student can find their own way of encouraging a sibling, whether it’s with compliments and kind words or with actions. The latter is especially significant--when one sibling sees another reaping the benefits of consistent and focused practice, they are much more likely to mimic the behavior.
Watch out, though! Just like good habits can be passed from sibling to sibling, bad habits can spread just as quickly. This goes for students of any age. When one sibling throws their hands up and declares, “I’m bored!” or, “I hate this!” the other is much more likely to follow suite. In this regard, a positive mindset is just as vital as a good set of practice habits.
At the end of the day, making and studying music with a sibling can provide a deeper, more meaningful experience. Sharing common musical experiences, striving to improve and compete, and providing encouragement the way only siblings can, all add up to better lessons and a higher quality musical life. The more music-making, the better!
- Pat Petrus, Music Instructor at Vibe Music Academy.