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How to Encourage Your Child to Practice Music

Updated on September 7, 2012

No matter how inspiring the music teacher, or how gifted the student, or how supportive the parents, every single child in the world goes through a phase which can last for months or even years, sometimes over and over, where children just don't want to practice their musical instrument. Although this is frustrating for students, parents, and teachers alike, in fact, this is perfectly normal and expected behavior in the instruction process and is not a cause for worry unless the behavior lasts more than a month or two. Here are some things you can do to encourage your children through the difficult times and help them keep at their instrument, and they might even learn to enjoy the time they spent practicing! Consistent application of these steps will help everyone to get along much more happily, as well as helping students to learn their compositions efficiently, and helping them get the most from their music lessons.

  1. Break it Down. Rather than make practice into a long session, help by dividing it into manageable 10-minute chunks.
  2. Make a Schedule—and Keep It. Help your child stick to practicing by avoiding interruptions during his several short practice times per day. Take phone messages for him or her, and arrange predictable times every day: ten minutes before dinner; ten minutes before school; ten minutes before bed, etc. Children respond well to routines better than to absolute times. Don't forget to allow for a little practicing on the weekends, too!
  3. Show You Child that Practice Time is Important. Don't interrupt your child during practice time. If possible, postpone other chores to make sure that practice time is seen as very important. If you see it as important, your child will, too.
  4. Help Your Child Prepare. Depending on his or her age, your child may need some help. Keep an extra copy of the music, a pencil, a metronome if needed, and any other materials so that in the case, as often happens, of chaos, your child can still practice.
  5. Help Your Child Understand What to Practice. If necessary, speak with your child's music teacher and make sure that you understand what your child is supposed to practice that week. It's important that parents be involved in the learning, and helping your child set goals is a great way to pass on some useful skills and bond with them. In addition, it gives you a great opportunity to reward them for a job well-done!
  6. Take Charge. Don't allow whining or grumbling to be a method to skip practicing. Point out to your child that you must go to work even when you don't want to, and no-one gets to do exactly as they want 100% of the time.
  7. Avoid Criticism. It's the job of your child's teacher to correct any but the most obvious mistakes. Allow the teacher proper authority.
  8. Reward Good Practice Habits. If your child practices without fussing, spend a few seconds celebrating. Your child will remember those few seconds far longer than any nagging or criticism, and want to repeat them, so she or he will naturally put up less of a fuss about practicing.
  9. Measure progress. Keep a chart. Hang it in your child's bedroom, showing good practice days (cooperation, no goofing off) and not-so-good ones. Have a chart key and notate each practice session (did it start on time? did your child practice the right music? was your child cheerful and cooperative?) with stickers or draw on the right key. When the chart reflects five good days in a row, reward them with their favourite meal, a little extra playtime or family time, their choice of radio station to play in the car, or anything else that will motivate them to keep going.

Don't get discouraged. Even Maurice Ravel, the great composer, had to be bribed to practice!

Comments

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  • askformore lm profile image

    askformore lm 

    3 years ago

    My wife and I can't play any instruments, but our 2 boys do. One trombone and one baritone horn.

    I have learned a lot from your hub and from your answers. I will follow one of your tips and buy a metronome for them.

    Thumbs up!

  • classicalgeek profile imageAUTHOR

    classicalgeek 

    4 years ago

    I have to differ, but it's mostly because even my youngest students aren't studying for enjoyment, but for careers. However, since music lessons have been shown to have significant benefits for your lifelong health, I compare it to learning to eat broccoli or spinach. Children don't generally eat that kind of food because they enjoy it, but because it's good for them. Parents don't generally serve broccoli or spinach because it's their children's favorite food, but because children need good nutrition. And great parents ignore the whining and make decisions based on their children's overall and future well-being, not just encouraging the things they enjoy.

    I know--I thanked my parents for making me stick to all the tasks I really hated, because it turned out to enable me to do all kinds of things I wouldn't have otherwise been able to do. Of course, I was in my fifties before that happened. :)

  • ladyguitarpicker profile image

    stella vadakin 

    4 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

    I still think it has to come from the child, I have seen a few parents try and totally control what the child will play and practice. As a teacher it is hard to keep quiet, but I do. I believe if you are fighting your child it won't work. I think they are taught to do homework and we teach them, even when they don't want to,but enjoyment you chose has to be show an interest by the one who picked the instrument. Have a great day.

  • classicalgeek profile imageAUTHOR

    classicalgeek 

    4 years ago

    Sometimes they really do want to play and just don't have the maturity to stick to things yet. After all, how many times have we adults looked at a task we knew we were supposed to do, and wanted to do, and put it off? It takes a lot of maturity to tackle tasks you're just not in the mood for, so for children, we have to help them along somewhat until they can develop the skills to practice even when they don't want to.

  • ladyguitarpicker profile image

    stella vadakin 

    4 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

    Hi, Practice is so important, if they are too lazy and don't practice, they really do not want to play. Nice hub.

  • classicalgeek profile imageAUTHOR

    classicalgeek 

    6 years ago

    It's great to meet you, too! Hubpages is full of the most delightful people. I will definitely stop by!

  • Aficionada profile image

    Aficionada 

    6 years ago from Indiana, USA

    Love this Hub! These are great suggestions and I intend to pass them on.

  • phdast7 profile image

    Theresa Ast 

    6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

    Hello classicalgeek -- Great suggestions. Oh, where were you when my boys were learning viola and cello many years ago? :) Read your extremely interesting profile. You obviously have many talents, many interests, stay very busy. I noticed your comments about the Middle Ages.

    I am a professor of European History, and primarily write research papers and essays. But I am also an occasional poet and recently I wrote a "kind of Medieval" flavored poem. Very different poem for me. If you are interested it is called -- Beauty: Anointing the Body

    Nice to make your acquaintance. :)

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