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Dear Ali,
What is your take on kids and musical instruments? When I was growing up I played the violin. I was good but I hated it, so my parents let me stop. Today I wish I knew how to play violin, and I hear the same from many of my friends whose parents let them quit. My daughter asked me to get piano lessons. She’s been playing for one year.  She is doing well but wants to quit. What do I do?

My personal opinion is that kids should be exposed to playing and listening to as many different instruments as possible. Let them narrow down their interests. I’d certainly support any interest—as far as you can afford. Lessons are not cheap! And practice takes time. If they choose to play an instrument, hold them accountable to a reasonable age-appropriate amount of daily practice time.

Playing an instrument improves concentration, coordination, memory, organization, fine motor skills, listening skills, and both reading and math ability. Practicing to improve your skills teaches discipline, perseverance, commitment, responsibility, and time-management. It reduces stress—if you aren’t forced or judged. It fosters self-expression and creates a personal sense of achievement.

Your daughter committed to something for a year! That’s fantastic! How old is she? Why does she want to quit? For how long has she wanted to quit? Does she want to try a different instrument? Take a break? Is she bored? Over-committed? Stressed? Not knowing the answers to these questions, I’d say in your daughter’s case, maybe let her quit for a week and then revisit the idea. Or perhaps have her cut her practice time in half for a while, so it feels like less of a burden to her. Change up how she practices. Maybe let her play whatever she wants, as long as she’s playing. Or scales every other day. Have her teach you something. Maybe give her something fun to look forward to after she practices. Spend 20 minutes practicing and get 20 minutes of screen time or pleasure-reading time. Find out why she wants to quit. Maybe you can save her from resenting you for letting her quit.

Most adults who learned an instrument they chose to play are resoundingly grateful for having been given the opportunity. Some carry resentment for having been made to do something they really didn’t want to do. Most resent their parents for letting them quit! I don’t know anyone who wishes they didn’t know how to play an instrument. Help her to find the balance between joy and work, but tip it so the joy wins. Base it on her interest in the instrument. A little nudging is one thing, but be too strict and your relationship with your child along with their love for the instrument are likely to suffer permanent consequences. Keep it fun.

“Playing an instrument improves concentration, coordination, memory, organization, fine motor skills, listening skills, and both reading and math ability.”

Dear Ali,
How do I know I am in an abusive relationship? Probably, if I’m feeling like I’m in one, I’m in one. Right? It’s not physical, but every time I feel strong enough to take the reins to get out I feel like I get manipulated back in. How do I get out? This is crazy. Are there good organizations like AA for abusive relationships?

“Emotional abuse is any sort of verbal assault, name-calling, put-down, humiliation or manipulation. While physical abuse may leave visible scars, emotional abuse can be just as damaging.”

You’re right, it is always okay to trust your intuition. If something feels bad, there is probably going to be a really good reason for that. There are counselors out there who focus on supporting people who are being treated abusively. Abuse is about power and control. Often abusers will escalate their manipulative tactics if they feel their partner may leave or in order to get their partner to come back to the relationship.

Leaving an abusive relationship and staying out of it is so hard!

Emotional abuse is any sort of verbal assault, name-calling, put-down, humiliation or manipulation. While physical abuse may leave visible scars, emotional abuse can be just as damaging.

You deserve to be safe and feel safe. It sounds like you already know the answer to your question. If it doesn’t feel right, and you want out, but feel like you are trapped, it’s not right. Maybe you are or maybe you aren’t being abused—either way, you certainly sound like you want out. You may need help getting out. It is okay to ask for that help. Maybe you need emotional support, financial support, or even a place to just get away and feel safe.

If you have children, you need to make sure that they are safe. I don’t know if you share children with this person, in which case you may need to seek legal advice before taking the children away—unless you suspect child abuse, in which case, get them out immediately.

It takes courage to reach out! I honor you for writing to me. Talk to friends. Journal. Seek support wherever you can find it. Allow people to help you.

While there’s no AA for domestic abuse per se, there are support groups and help out there! Getting into such a group is a wonderful way to find local resources and create a supportive environment. You can find free or low-cost groups at your local counseling center. It’s hard for me to recommend a place when I don’t even know what country you live in. But if you are anywhere in North America, here is where you should start:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or online at are there 24/7 if you want to speak with someone, or you can do an online chat from 7am-2pm CST. They can even connect you directly with local services as well as help you immediately with your questions and concerns. I highly recommend calling them. Their website has a ton of great info and links. I personally love their self-care board on Pinterest.

Some of these additional resources may be helpful to you as well:

Why do people stay in abusive relationships?

Is this abuse?


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