I’ve heard countless people tell me that they don’t sing to their children because they “can’t sing” or are “tone-deaf.” We all have varied levels of abilities, but there are very few of us who actually suffer from tone deafness. Most people who claim to be tone deaf are actually people who are uncomfortable singing and that insecurity has led to a lack of practice in singing. Like any physical activity, if you don’t practice, you are pretty clumsy when you attempt that activity. The same is true of singing. If your voice cracks, you sing some notes out of tune, or if your voice is just unappealing, that isn’t tone deafness; it’s a lack of practice- and that’s ok.
Your children don’t need you to be perfect, they just need you to be an example. I’m a musician, and as I’ve mentioned before, my mother was very insecure about singing. About the only time she would sing would be lullabies at night. Despite the fact that I know now that she wasn’t a very good singer, there was at no point in my young life that I would have asked her to stop singing to me. I have no memories of my father singing, even though he was somewhat of an audiophile. Her bad singing did not affect my musicality, but the lack of singing in our house most certainly did.
As a child I loved singing to the radio. I’d spend hours and hours listening to music, singing, and dancing in my room. Later, I’d spend many of those hours practicing my flute. Luckily for me, I had a natural drive to be musical. My brother, however, did not. My brother doesn’t sing, doesn’t play an instrument. What would have things been like if he had grown up with music as a part of everyday life? Despite my love for music, I was insecure about my voice. Even though I sang in school choir, I did not want to sing individually. It took many years, many music education classes, and many reassurances to make me want to sing in front of other people on a daily basis. If I hadn’t, I’d probably be teaching band classes instead of early childhood music classes.
Your child doesn’t need you to be the perfect singer, or even a good singer. He needs you to sing like you love it, like there isn’t anything else that you would rather be doing. Throw away your insecurities. Sing like no one is watching, because during these early years your child your perfect audience. They love you, and your singing, no matter what.
Try this: At home or in the car, sing more. Sing loud and proud. At first, sing along with your favorite CDs. As you get more comfortable singing (and better at it, too, with all of that practice!) sing without the CD more and more. You can also dance or play instruments with your children if it takes you a long time to get used to singing.
If your child is interested in piano or violin lessons, seek out a teacher trained in the Suzuki method. Learn with your child. If you are just beginning your musical education, they might catch on faster than you do! That’s perfect! Imagine the confidence boost they’ll get from being better than Mom or Dad. The more you become involved, the more they’ll see that music is something that is important to you, too, no matter how musical you are.
Remember, somewhere you do have a musical bone in your body. It might be out of shape, but it’s there. You may not be a musician, but you are musical. After all, most of us are mathematicians (me, included!), but I don’t know anyone who would admit to being unmathematical… and especially not amathematical(which I’m pretty sure isn’t even a real word, and seems pretty silly, unlike it’s counterpart, amusical). You are not amusical. It’s not about how musical you are, but that you are musical for your child. It could change their relationship with music forever.