Esme is the prodigy - she always hits middle C

Can I help? By Penny Sinclair, child psychotherapist
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Last Tuesday Timon put his first Spice Girls poster up. I think Mel B must be his favourite as she is the one with darts pinned all down her front.

Up to now Esme's been the musical one; in fact, when I saw the film Shine, I couldn't help comparing myself to the child prodigy's father. I had my first inkling that Esme might be a musical genius when she picked out the opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth on her xylophone. I was over the moon. With my childcare expertise, I knew I could do better than Mozart's dad!

I immediately took her to see a music specialist, Dr Himmelfarb. He was very negative and even tried to convince me that her grasp of music was below average. Do be wary, prodigy mums, of being put off by so-called experts.

Me: "I'm sure if you'll just give Esme one more try, she'll hit the right notes."

Himmelfarb: "Mrs Sinclair, you are vasting my time, and yours. By her age Mozart had hritten sree minuets."

Me: "Now don't get hoity-toity with me. A decision made in haste is regretted at leisure. Have you ever read how much Decca regretted not signing up the Beatles?"

Because of her talent, Esme had strong personal ideas on music. She simply outgrew her piano teachers - five in succession, in as many weeks. I ended up, like David Helfgott's dad, having to teach her myself. It was a doddle. I bought Teach Yourself Piano, and we can both now play the first two notes of "Frere Jacques".

Teaching your prodigy can be a wonderfully bonding experience, but - please don't forget her less talented siblings. Avoid competition by setting them separate but equally challenging projects. Timon's goal over the last two years has been finding Middle C, and he's now only inches away.

Thank God, both of my kids are brilliant about practising. Whether your child is a piano prodigy or just a plonker, practising has to be handled with extreme care. There's no need to beat the kids with wet towels like David Helfgott's father did in Shine. Save on your laundry bills, mums. I find a "Lucky Bag" given before and after practice can work wonders. After practice we are careful to sing a song (lyrics by P Sinclair!) highlighting the positive quality of a link between music and sweets. To the tune of Bob Marley's "No Woman No Cry" we sing "No Music - No Sweets".

Sometimes the kids can feel so musically inspired that they don't need Lucky Bags. Since they saw Evelyn Glennie using saucepans as percussion instruments on Blue Peter they have developed a passion for expressing personal rhythms with kitchen implements. They particularly enjoy the sound of soup ladles on glasses - no wonder Evelyn Glennie went deaf!

They composed a Tinkling Symphony which they insisted on playing to Chris on the phone from Namibia. All the way through, over their poignantly fragmented accompaniment, I could hear an insistent wailing from the phone receiver.

It worked brilliantly: Chris sounded just like Yoko on "Don't Cry For Me Kyoko". When the kids had finished the kitchen I picked up the receiver to congratulate him.

"Rock on Chris! I just love the sound of breaking glass," I sang.


"You can't stop now. Hallo?"

"Aaaaaah." He must have been well and truly bowled over as we haven't heard from him since.

Perfecting public performance is vital for the prodigy mum or carer. I hit upon the idea of contacting our local dignitaries and offering (completely free of charge) performances by Timon and Esme; in my letters I pointed out that the young Amadeus and his elder sister Nanl were an endless source of delight to their Empress in Salzburg. So far I haven't had a single positive response to my letters; several so-called dignitaries haven't even bothered to reply. The kids did manage some carols for Gran last Christmas but ten lots of tone-deaf neighbours complained to the environmental services. The police called twice: haven't they got anything better to do these days than bust up kids' musical evenings?

Last week I decided to take them back to see Dr Himmelfarb, just to show him he was wrong. I thought he'd be interested to know that Esme had progressed from classical to contemporary music and had formed a family group, Sinclair Sync. He refused to see us, so I was obliged to make my point by setting up Timon's keyboard on the pavement outside.

Though I say so myself, they brought the house down. They had music specialists shouting out of the windows throughout the performance. The passers-by were all screaming. It was Beatlemania all over again.