Getting your child to practice

One of the many challenges with learning music is getting your child to practice. Whether your child is learning music for fun or is planning to pursue music as a career, regular practicing is important. One of the many challenges with learning music is getting your child to practice. Whether your child is learning music for fun or is planning to pursue music as a career, regular practicing is important.

Parents often wonder is it worth the frustration to get their children to practice an instrument. First of all, it doesn’t have to be a frustrating experience. Let’s discuss a few good strategies especially for younger children.

Make practicing a regular part of your day. Just like your child gets up every morning, brushes her teeth, gets dressed and eats breakfast…slip in a 5-10 minute practice session as part of her regular routine. Many parents have had success with morning practice sessions. Children are often more tired after school, and by the time dinner is eaten and homework is done, there never seems to be any time or energy left for practicing. Children are also more alert and attentive in the morning. However, if mornings are not good, try to set a regular time each day. Children strive on routine and will be more likely to practice if it becomes a regular part of their day.

Keep practice sessions short and focused. Set a goal for each practice session. The goal could be to work through one piece or even smaller passages. Perhaps, he is having difficulty with playing staccato or with phrasing. Before the session, decide what you will work on and what you will achieve by the end.

Practice more efficiently. Good practicing doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours playing a piece. In fact, playing without actually practicing may prove to be more counterproductive where poor habits become ingrained. Practicing should be purposeful.  

Use motivators. I like using an abacus to help with practice sessions. When your child plays through a passage well, you can slide over one bead on the abacus. You can set a goal and let her know that she needs to play it through 10 times or until all the beads have been moved to the opposite side of the abacus. This provides a fun motivator. The child could also be sliding the beads. Also, allow the child to decide whether she played the passage well and then allow her to slide the bead. Good alternatives could be sliding pennies, or using stickers on a chart. You can use both short-term motivators (for each part of the practice session) or long-term motivators. For weekly practice motivators, I use a large chart on the wall. For each day that my child practices, she gets a sticker on the chart. At the end of the week, when all the boxes are full, she is able to choose a special treat. 

Inevitably, there will be days where things will be difficult. Tears? Perhaps. Frustration, definitely. But why should we continue to work through these challenges? Regular practicing teaches self-discipline. It helps develop self-motivation and teaches children to be goal-oriented and successful. These skills transcend beyond learning music. We want our children to be able to work through challenging situations and understand that they will have to work hard to achieve their goals.