How Kids See The Piano Keyboard
How kids see and feel about the piano keyboard is very important to their progress at the piano. For example, kids don't really see the black keys. They are a set of controls that aren't obvious to them, since you can do so very much with just the white keys.
They don't understand why the black keys are raised above the white keys, or that the black keys are consistently organized in groups of 2's and 3's. Kids don't realize that the piano's controls are less than a foot wide, repeated seven times over the distance of the keyboard.
To them, it's five feet of confusing buttons, no pattern or reason to it. One hand is enough to consume the average child's brain. Two hands is nuclear physics. One finger is a reasonable controller for them.
The Logic Of The Keyboard Is Mysterious
Direction and dimension do not exist. It is muddled semantics to them that the piano keyboard turns up and down into "sideways." "Why would you do something that crazy?" they ask themselves.
When an adult plays something complex on the piano, it is magic to a child. There's no other explanation, because clearly humans can't move their fingers that fast, can they?
Kids don't understand the relationship between skill at the piano keyboard and practice/deferred gratification. To a child, your skill was acquired instantly, magically, mysteriously. Telling them that if they practice they will acquire your level of skill sounds like a lie and a fairy tale to them.
They cannot comprehend time in the sense of developing piano talent and skill. If you intimidate the child with your demands, the piano is a torture device. If you delight a child with the piano, it is a mutual toy. And if you delight them, eventually you might be able to demand a little and get it.
Hundreds Of Skills Put Together
For a child, it is difficult to summon the simultaneous skills required. Few children's brains can segment their concentration, as the piano requires, constantly. When you ask for too many skills at once, the child becomes overwhelmed and soon discouraged. A better ploy is to build certain skills while ignoring others until later. With some children, this is the only approach possible.
Rhythm Is The Hardest Skill
Of all the skills at the piano, rhythm is the hardest for kids. They may be able to dispatch several skills admirably, but if you add the constraint of time, the whole piece may easily fall apart. That's why I give the widest latitude to rhythm, at first.
This is so that the child is not pestered with a constant stream of corrections, as would be the case if you insisted on rhythmic perfection or anything close to it. A child sees the piano as an fun opportunity to make music. If you let them do that, they may learn your more serious version of the piano, too.