This one is for you, Mom and Dad! For a lot of us parents, getting your child to practice his or her instrument is about as easy as getting them to go with you to the dentist! With kids being more and more involved with school, sports, and other activities outside the home, it’s harder to get them to focus on their instrument at home. However, consistent practicing outside of lesson time is key to becoming a better musician. The best way to get your child to practice at home is make practicing something that he or she is willing to do, not forced to do. But most children do not self-motivate themselves to practicing. Therefore, how can I, as a parent, help them practice, without having to make practice time seem like a punishment?
First of all, consistent practicing times throughout the week will help your child become more self-motivated. If a specific time is set for the child to practice three or more times a week and those times are kept consistent throughout the week, it will develop a practicing habit for the child. Say you determine that practice time is at 4:30 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Your child will then start to develop practice time as part of their weekly habits. Practicing will come just as instinctively as bedtime. Although the child may not necessarily look forward to going to bed or practicing their instrument, they will know that there is a designated time for practicing and if they don’t practice at that time, there may be punishment later for disobedience.
Second, set goals for the child that are challenging but achievable every week. Write down their goals for them and keep a log of practice times so that way they can watch as they accomplish their goals. Accomplishing their goals each week will help the child stay motivated and keep them from being discouraged. Every now and then, offer them some incentives for achieving their goals. For example, reward them with their favorite treat when the finish learning a new piece or everytime they get through 10 pages of their practice book. (Here at PPA Studio, we give our students practice log sheets that have their goals for the week written on them to use at home. We also give them incentives for their diligent work, such as tokens and prizes!)
Third, help the child develop a plan for their practice time. Intentional practicing for 10 minutes oftentimes is more effective than aimless practicing for 2 hours. Imagine what you could do with one hour of intentional practice time! Look at their goals for the week, help them identify problem areas and break it down to where they focus on their problem areas first, then put the whole piece together, constantly starting over at the beginning will not help the child overcome the issues they have in the middle of the piece.
Finally, keep practice realistic. Don’t force your five year-old to sit at the piano for two hours. Make practice times more about accomplishing goals, rather than fulfilling a time requirement. If you are setting goals and setting a consistent practice time, yet the student still is not focusing, try setting the practice time to another time in the day. Remember, music lessons should be something that is fun and exciting, not a chore.