Is it a struggle to get practice done in your home?
One of the most challenging parts about music lessons is getting motivated to practice. And the truth is, the more effective practicing students put in, the more progress they will make. As parents, the last thing you want is for this to be something you have to argue with your kids about every night. So what can you do to make practicing less of a struggle?
Here are a couple of tips that might help:
Tip #1 - Practice With Them
There's nothing kids love more than some quality time with mum or dad, so one of the best ways to get your child to practice is to make this something you do with your child. You might sing along while they play, get out that old guitar you haven't played for years to play along with them, ask them to give you a lesson, or simply sit next to them and encourage them as they go along. Make it fun! Keep it light and interesting and make it about connection and family time. You'll find that kids will be much more motivated to practice like this than if you just send them off to get it done by themselves.
Tip #2 - Make It Routine
Many families have routines around homework or other chores in the house. For example, your child might be in the habit of doing their homework straight after school or just before dinner. Whatever that routine is, make music practice a part of it. You might get some resistance from your child in the beginning, but after a while, it will become habitual and you won't have that daily struggle to get it done.
Tip #3 - Short but Sweet!
I know I've said this already, but the more fun kids are having, the more they will want to practice. Something that can kill the fun even for kids who love playing their instrument is to set the clock and force them to sit at their instrument for a certain amount of time. So in the beginning, don't set the expectations too high. Even 5-10 minutes every day is a great achievement at first. Get them to play their favourite songs first, and then when you can see that interest is waning let them stop. As students get into the habit of practicing regularly, you can gradually push them to practice a bit longer and to practice some of the more challenging pieces. What if your child doesn't like any of the songs they are playing? Have a talk to their teacher. Although we like to follow a program that ensures that students progress, they need to enjoy what they are doing too.
Tip #4 - Have the Instrument Ready
If you have an instrument you have to pack away, that can add a whole new level of effort to doing your practice. If there is a safe place you can leave it, keep your instrument close to hand and somewhere highly visible and your books open at the right page. Walking past the open piano several times every day makes it more likely that your child (or you!) will sit down and have a play at some stage without even being asked than if the instrument is packed away in a cupboard.
Tip #5 - Use Some Extrinsic Motivation
Educators often talk about motivation being extrinsic (coming from outside the person) or intrinsic (coming from inside the person). Extrinsic motivation might be things like stickers or screen time - things that you reward your child with to motivate them to practice. These can be good strategies to help develop a practice routine. But keep in mind, that these are only useful temporarily. What we hope for is that after some time children will start to get that sense of satisfaction that we all experience when we master something challenging. That is what we mean by intrinsic motivation, the motivation that comes from internal satisfaction rather than external rewards.
Tip #6 - Be Persistent
All kids go through ups and downs with their practicing. There are going to be times when they are just too tired, or don't feel like practicing. If that's the case, it doesn't hurt to let them have a break from practicing for a few days. Don't be discouraged. Most of us teachers remember times when we felt the same as students, but our parents persevered until that self-motivation kicked in again. When they are older your children will be super grateful that you did.