“Ever heard the saying, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’?

Well, in the realm of your child’s musical journey, truer words have never been spoken. I’m willing to bet that, at some point, you’ve found yourself unintentionally flipping through the pages of the old reverse psychology playbook.

You know the move — a subtle comparison between your child and your family friend’s prodigious musician offspring, all in the name of motivation.

Sure, it might give your child a momentary push, a spark of inspiration. But here’s the kicker, and trust me, you’re not alone in this — over time, this seemingly innocent motivation tactic unfolds into a less-than-healthy cycle. It plants the seed that your child’s worth and confidence hinge on their ability to match the achievements of others.

Moreover, they will feel unsupported by you, and sense their parents are prouder of the achievements of other children than their own!

“So, how can you steer clear of this common pitfall?

Once again, the solution is simple and lies within you encouraging your child to find their own voice and develop their own musical style.

Not only does this allow your child a chance to be the truest version of themselves, but you will provide them with an incredible amount of support that will do their confidence the world of good, knowing that their own parents believe in them.

How I learnt to break the cycle of comparison and help my students be themselves

I grew up in a Chinese-Vietnamese household, and naturally my parents, aunties and uncles always compared their kids to each other.

It’s something that is embedded in a lot of cultures, and despite the negative effects, people still use comparison as a means to encourage their kids. I’ve been guilty of doing this myself throughout my career both as a player and a teacher. Early on in my teaching career, I’d often tell parents about other students of mine who practiced far more than their child. I was so naive and ignorant at the time, I didn’t realize I was destroying my student’s

There is nothing wrong with looking to others as inspiration and motivation. Growing up, I looked up to my mentors and fellow musicians, and learnt so much just by listening to them talk and play music.

The problem arises when you start comparing and saying things like:

· “If you play like them, you will get better”

· “Your friend just won an award for music, why haven’t you won one?”

· “You could be like the people on TV if you put in more effort”.

Whenever I compared myself to others, I felt like I’d never be good enough, and if I didn’t achieve the same accomplishments my fellow musicians did, my confidence would take a hit.

In September 2016, I almost quit music entirely because I was trying to please others, to the point I completely lost my self-worth and identity. When I realised this, I had to make a change and reframe my mindset so I would be pursuing goals that aligned with my values and principles.

Since then, I’ve committed myself to encouraging all my students to find their unique musical voice, and instead of comparing themselves to others, take the best parts of other people’s journeys, and morph them into their own.

As a result, this led to one of the proudest moments in my career to date when I had my student concert in November 2022.

On that day, 20 of my students came along and performed a set each, and every single one of them played their way and showcased a different aspect of guitar repertoire. The cherry on top was seeing the smiles on all the parents’ faces, with some being overwhelmed with joy and tearing up.

In today’s day and age, many young people are becoming increasingly robotic and lack any individuality.

Music is one of the few things that genuinely allows young kids to be themselves, find their voice, and create a unique story for themselves. In order to do this, you must allow your child to work things out for themselves, make their own mistakes, and learn from it. As a result, this will allow your child to live a life that represents the truest and most authentic version of themselves.

Isn’t that what it’s all about?

P.S If you’re a parent of a child who is learning a musical instrument, you can download my free guide on how to help your child unlock their musical potential — https://unlockyourchildsmusicpotential.com/

This article was originally published at Medium. Republished with permission from the author.