What’s the right support for your child if they show an aptitude or interest in music? Here we’ll discuss the best ways to encourage your child with singing.
There are huge benefits to getting kids involved in music from a young age, but pressuring them is counterproductive. As a result, it can be tricky to know how best encourage your child with singing. Parents must find a balance and learn how to be supportive.
If you have a gifted child who loves to sing or dream of your offspring finding fame and fortune in the entertainment industry, read on, to find out what you should – and shouldn’t – be doing to help them.
How best to encourage your child to sing
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 licence 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.
What does it mean when a child sings all the time?
Probably simply that they enjoy it. It may be a phase, or it may be the first signs of a passion. However, be aware that if their singing becomes obsessive, and they disappear into their own world much more than their peers, it could be a sign of ADHD. But don’t try to diagnose – if you find your child is behaving very differently to others of their age and stage in this respect, speak to a teacher and/or doctor who will be able to advise.
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.
You can read about the benefits of music for children in more detail here.
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.
Signs of a musically gifted child
As children don’t always have the knowledge and experience to network and find out what’s out there, it’s up to you to find appropriate opportunities for them to try at their level. This may be a music club, weekend stage school, singing lessons, competitions, or open mic nights.
Musically gifted definition
It can be difficult to define who is and who isn’t musically gifted, especially when it comes to a subjective art form such as singing. Some children’s potential goes unnoticed, as they’re not provided with the resources and opportunities to develop their gifting. Others less gifted, have lessons and become very successful, appearing gifted.
Signs of musical genius
If you are not musical yourself and have no experience in the industry, beware of labelling your child as a musical genius. It is usually a music teacher or professional who will be able to spot and define their talent. These are the factors generally considered to point to musical gifting and the elements of their skills that they’ll be looking at…
- Can harmonise naturally
- Can perceive and sing fine differences in musical tone, pitch, loudness, timbre
- Has high self-standards, discipline and commitment
- Remembers and accurately reproduces melodies with complete accuracy
- Expresses emotions through music, and communicates this to an audience
- Has a high degree of tonal memory
- Is highly creative
- Shows confidence in performing
- Can identify a variety of sounds heard at a given moment
But the judgement of many of these is subjective (this is why we have judging panels at Open Mic UK and on TV talent shows – not everyone thinks the same and talent can be debatable). If you’re unsure if your child is a supremely talented singer, take them along to a good, recognised vocal coach or singing teacher, who will be able to tell for sure.
Singing lessons for kids
If you think your child shows an aptitude for singing, the best thing is to get them some lessons. Formal vocal coaching shouldn’t begin until puberty, but younger kids can take lighter lessons, in a more relaxed style. If this is too costly, you can send them to group lessons at a weekend stage school, encourage them to join a school choir, or take holiday workshops – it’s also a great way for them to socialise and make new friends.
Can singing be taught?
Your singing voice is partly genetic and physiological. But your voice and musicality can be improved and developed massively through lessons and self-improvement. Good breath control makes all the difference and you can be taught to sing harmony, as well as how to read and understand music – excellent life skills.
Here’s some advice from singer Katherine Jenkins, on how to support your kids without pushing pressure on them, and why she thinks lessons are so important.
How to teach a child to sing harmony
Unless you’re musical yourself and can sing in harmony, it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Either hire a music teacher, encourage your child to take music classes at school if they’re available, join a choir (a cappella choirs are popular and fantastic for learning vocal parts) or use YouTube tutorials. Some people harmonise naturally, especially if they come from families of harmonising singers. Others struggle. Here’s some more advice on singing different vocal parts without accompaniment.
How to raise a musical child
It’s all about fun and enjoyment. The best way to encourage anyone to anything, particularly a young person, is to present it as a positive experience. There may be times when your child doesn’t feel like it and doesn’t want to take this week’s lesson. If this persists and they continually say they don’t want to do it, it’s probably not a good idea to continue.
However, if it’s just an off day of something they otherwise really relish, then it’s right to explain the benefits of discipline, commitment and persistence – especially to teenagers who may not want to do anything at all.
Musically inclined toddlers
It’s possible to spot musical ability from a young age. If you take your little one to music workshops and they hold rhythm better and longer than others, pick up tunes and show a love for participating, they might be musically inclined.
Keep an eye on this and give them opportunities to continue as they grow, without trying to steer them as a musical prodigy.
It’s all about listening. Above all, listen to your child rather than your own desires. Listen to what your child is saying about their relationship to singing. Are they continually reluctant and stressed by the prospect? And listen to how they’re singing. If you and others think they show signs of real talent, don’t let it slide – get feedback from an experienced professional.
But then listen to that professional – they’ll be polite, so if they’re not saying your child is exceptional, they’re probably not. Give your child love and support along with the space to grow, create and express themselves – do this and even if they don’t end up becoming a pop star, they will do amazing things in life.
- How do you find your child’s talent?
Provide plenty of opportunities to try different things. These should include activities from the worlds of academia, digital, sports, creativity and the arts, rather than focussing on just one area. Don’t force hobbies that they don’t enjoy and talents will emerge.
- How do I find my child’s passion?
Passion and talent mostly overlap and if they don’t, the interest, focus and commitment that’s generated from passion often bring skill in that area. Take the same steps to find their passion as you do for their talent. Put aside your personal ambitions and introduce them in a fun way.
- Can singing help with speech?
Yes, particularly with speech impediments. Singing uses slightly different parts of the brain and so it can be easier to sing than speak for some. It also improves diction, enunciation and confidence.
How do you encourage your child with singing? Have you experienced pressure to succeed as a young person? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.