Does your child have music hiding in their soul?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

It never ceases to amaze me when I watch reality music shows how often the finalists express their love of singing and music.

Many say they have been singing since they were three but sadly that was not my experience. Indeed, I clearly remember being asked to leave the Year 3 choir because I simply couldn't sing – at least not in tune.

Recently we had the honour of having one of our grandchildren – our two-year-old granddaughter – stay for a couple of days.

She spontaneously burst into song all day and could sing Jingle Bells and Mary Had a Little Lamb with the appropriate expressions to match.

She has been making sounds in a rhythmic way since she was a baby. It seems she has music in her soul.

In our current parenting landscape where the 'schoolification' of our children has become such a priority I do wonder how many have music hiding in their souls and may not realise it.

Once, in a workshop about the importance of 'lighthouses' in adolescent's lives, I asked the participants who their lighthouse was and how they made their life better.

A 24-year-old man put his hand up. He explained that his grandmother was his lighthouse because she identified that he had music hiding in his soul by simply noticing that he was forever tapping things, or moving to music.

When he was nine, she bought him a drum kit and that ignited a part of him he didn't know existed. He had such beautiful tears of gratitude as he explained how important his grandmother was in his life.

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If you're unaware of the power of music you only need to see the wonderful Drumbeat program in action. It simply takes drums into classrooms and through the magic of music and rhythm opens hearts and soothes stressed minds. It is so deceptively simple and yet powerfully transformative

The Australian Curriculum's emphasis on STEM has me a little worried. Don't get me wrong, science, technology, engineering and maths are important – but so too are the arts. We need to put the 'A' in this initiative – STEAM – and this includes music.

The research is very strong about the importance of music on the developing brain and also for healthy self-regulation.

With the overcrowded curriculum, music and singing have been squeezed out to the edges and indeed are often relegated not to a teacher who has music in their soul but simply to one who has a music library accessed through technology.

I may not have a wonderful singing voice, however music and listening to other people sing has been a significant part of my wellbeing my entire life.

Songs and certain pieces of music can evoke positive emotions within us and in our stressful and busy world, we need to build these healthy neural pathways that connect us quickly to our joy and our delight

When I was teaching in high schools there were times that students chose a class song that was played often during class. These songs were life-enhancing and upbeat, and so often a student would put the song on when they were feeling flat, especially after lunch. I still remember some of those classes when one of those songs comes on the radio.

My grandfather was a musician who played piano and piano accordion at local country dances.

Apparently as children my siblings would often be asleep in a pram not far from where he was playing. Sadly his innate gift to play music failed to pass through into my gene pool. I gave up the recorder quite quickly as I'm sure it scared the family dog and gave my parents headaches.

In his book, play researcher Dr Stuart Brown shared the story of Gillian Lee who as a child struggled as a classroom learner.

She was sent to a very wise paediatrician who on completing assessments decided to try one last thing. He put music on, left the room and watched through a two-way mirror as Gillian began to move naturally and freely.

His recommendation to her parents was that she needed music and dance in her life. As soon as she took up music and dance, her learning improved and she no longer struggled in class. She also went on to become a famous dancer and choreographer who worked on Cats and Phantom of the Opera.

So observe your children as they naturally move when music is playing, when they tap their fingers on the table or spontaneously burst into song.

They may have music in their soul and for them to become the best expression of themselves they need music, singing or dance to become a valuable part of their lives.

Maggie Dent is one of Australia's favourite parenting authors. She is bringing three leading parenting experts from Australia and overseas to Sydney, Perth and Brisbane in March 2018 for her conference, Raising Children Who Shine: Exploring Childhood from Toddlers to 10-year-olds. www.maggiedent.com