How to Encourage Your Child to Practice Music
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.
- Break it Down. Rather than make practice into a long session, help by dividing it into manageable 10-minute chunks.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- Avoid Criticism. It's the job of your child's teacher to correct any but the most obvious mistakes. Allow the teacher proper authority.
- 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.
- 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!