Teacher Resource Center/How to Motivate Your Child to Practice

How to Motivate Your Child to Practice

By Jenny Silva

We're sure that everyone with children knows how challenging it is to motivate a child to practice. Every day there are activities that are vying for your child's attention. Consistent and smart practice is essential to growing as a musician. The sooner your child can start to develop a regular practice regimen, the more apt they will be to succeed in their musical endeavors. Here are 10 tips to help motivate your child to practice:

1) Make practicing part of the routine – same time every day. Ideally, it should be before the fun stuff – TV time or computer games. Play with what time of day works best for you. My kids are morning kids, and so morning practice works well for us.

2) Set realistic expectations for practice time according to your child's age. If your child is 5, don't expect 30 minutes of practice a day. You can gradually increase the amount of time spent practicing as they get older.

3) Practice with your child. This is especially useful for younger children. Kids love extra mommy and daddy time. If you sit with your child, he or she may be much more enthusiastic.

4) Provide an audience for your child. Again, kids love the extra attention. Cheer and holler and they'll be more excited to play!

5) Get music for your kids that they want to play. We had a really difficult time getting my son to practice until we got Star Wars. He practiced it non-stop until he had it memorized. Buy anthologies of music that your kids can browse, so they can get excited by the music. This Famous and Fun collection is great for young beginners and my kids have both found songs to play in VH1's collection of Rock and Roll:

VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Rock & Roll

VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Rock & Roll

6) Ask your teacher to provide specific practice assignments. Sometimes it's easier if the practice instructions come from an outside authority. And more specific tends to be better than general (i.e., "play Star Wars slow 5 times, than faster 5 times" – as opposed to "Practice for 30 minutes")

7) Throughout the week (i.e., not when you are trying to encourage your child to practice), talk to your child about practicing and how beneficial it is. Many kids feel like if something is hard, they aren't good at it. Remind your kids that no one is born "good", and that you get good by practicing. It takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert.

8) Give lots of rewards. If your child practices without your prompting, make sure you are enthusiastically praising their efforts. We also give stars in our house that are good for Minecraft time or toy purchases (and if you don't know Minecraft – lucky for you!)

9) Make sure to praise the effort, not the end result. There is a lot of research that supports that praising the effort is much more effective at encouraging practice than praising the result. Praising the effort rewards the attempt and encourages your child to keep trying. Praising the result builds pressure to repeat the performance, and can actually make your child anxious about practicing. They may become resistant to trying in case they can't repeat their good performance. (This is from one of my favorite books, Mindset, by Carol Dweck).

10) Make it easy to practice. Some teachers may not approve of this, but you may not want to require your child to put away their instrument after every practice.

What are some of the things that you do to motivate your child to keep practicing?

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