Bruce H. Lipton Ph.D. in his book ‘The Wisdom of Cells’ describes how a child’s brain from birth goes through different stages of learning starting from the low frequency of ‘delta’ in the first 2 years (a frequency in adults that only occurs when sleeping or unconscious) to the next stage from ages 2 to 6 years known as ‘theta’ then from 6 years they move into alpha (consciousness) and finally at 12 years beta. Lipton’s conclusion is the young brain is simply in a state of absorbing information. This could be compared to downloading information into a computer’s hard drive. In the case of a child straight into the subconscious bypassing the conscious brain.
Surround your child with music for best results
The obvious recommendation for any parent is to simply surround your child with music and if possible musical instruments. Children naturally learn language because they are surrounded by it 24/7. Therefore if you really want your child to do anything your best strategy is to begin by doing it yourself. Parents who learns guitar and practice daily are far more likely to find their child also wanting to learn guitar in years to come. There are no guarantees of course because children see many things going on in their lives but the more you play the more likely they are to want to play. No force required. These days I interview many guitarists wanting to become professional guitar players or teachers. While I have no actual statistics I would guess that close to 50% have at least one parent or close relative who also plays guitar.
Advice not necessarily for everyone
When parents learn guitar at the same time as their children every situation will be unique so the advice I am about to offer is based more around the majority of cases I have seen over the years. This may or may not apply to you but if you are at least aware you can look for early signs of trouble.
Practicing together can lead to problems
When parents learn with their children they sometimes see it as an opportunity to spend quality time together but problems can arise. For example children under 12 years typically progress at a slower rate due to hand strength and fine motor skills and sometimes even grasping general concepts is a challenge. This means that when Mum or Dad start to move ahead the child can quickly lose confidence which may be expressed in the form of restlessness (frustration) or disinterest (“I’m bored”). Conversely as an adult you may get frustrated because your child is not keeping up. But the most important reason to avoid practicing together is so you can focus on your child when they are practicing. By all means play along but keep the spotlight firmly on your child. Move at their pace and support them to build their confidence. Be aware that if your relatively rapid progress may be intimidating for them. When they can successfully execute a new song it’s time to perform in front of friends and family. When you play together it should be for fun and within their limitations.
Find shared musical interests
It’s never too early to introduce your child to the music you like but don’t be upset if they find it boring or just not cool. Keep searching until you find something you both like. This means also listening to their favorites. The more you look the more likely you are to find shared tastes. If your child is still very young don’t just assume that they only like ‘Twinkle twinkle’. Young children may not respond to your Santana collection when they are 2 years old but if they hear it enough by the time they are 5 or 6 they will be trying to work out the riff to ‘Black Magic Woman’ on the guitar. It never ceases to amaze me how many children love the classic songs from the 60s and 70s such as ‘Smoke on the water’ ,’TNT’ and ‘Stairway to Heaven’.
Find the right teachers
It can be easy to assume that when you as an adult find a good teacher that same teacher will be good for your child. While there are certainly teachers who can teach both adults and children equally as well it’s more the exception than the rule. I mean no disrespect to my fellow guitar teachers but every teacher has a unique set of skills and while one teacher’s skills may match your needs quite nicely it’s a mistake to assume they will also be the best choice for your child. The best advice I can give you here is to ask yourself the following questions. No.1. Does your child have good rapport with the teacher? No.2. Is your child making reasonable progress? (the teacher should be using some kind of method or system of measuring progress that you and your child can easily follow). No.3. Does your child’s confidence appear to be growing? If yes to all then you have found the right teacher.