Anyone fortunate enough to have received music lessons as a child likely recalls incessant nagging, begging and pleading from parents to practice more often. And now, years later….you have become that parent. (How this happens we really don’t know. None of us set out to become our parents. Sigh.)
As music teachers we hear the “how do I get my child to practice more?” question on a regular basis. We wish there was a magic formula we could bestow upon you, but sadly there is not. So, instead we’d like to provide some tips that set you and your child up for success.
Most importantly, have a little grace – with yourself and your child. This means creating a supportive environment where you reframe what it means to succeed and to fail. No one hands their child a football and expects them to go outside and perform like Peyton Manning. Let’s all just accept that we’re playing the long game here. To become a skilled musician, your child has to struggle a little. A missed note is not a catastrophic failure. It’s also not necessary to point out to your child when they miss a note while practicing. Trust us-they know. Doing so will introduce shame into the scenario and add anxiety for everyone involved. As a result, your child begins to associate practicing his/her instrument with feelings of shame and anxiety.
There are a lot of things that can be “hacked” in this world – learning a musical instrument is simply not one of them. Students who practice every day, in essence burning it into their brain, will far surpass those who do not. Period.
Music teachers and parents should aim to give children ownership over their learning. This means that we teach students why, how, where and when to practice. They will begin to feel a sense of responsibility, which will then lead to self motivation and routine. As the parent, you obtain minimal knowledge about how students learn music in order to properly support them at home. To learn a bit more about creating an optimal practice schedule and environment for your child, we recommend you read this article – it’s chocked full of great tips!
Finally, it is crucial that you as the parent assign priority to the subject of music. Sadly, in the eyes of many, music pales in comparison to math or reading in terms of importance. We feel confident in saying that if given the choice to quit math, most children would take you up on the offer. Obviously, that is not a feasible option. Be sure that you are treating music as a core subject no different than any other. Your child will begin to realize that practicing their instrument is no more optional than completing assigned homework from school.