5 Tips For Motivating Your Child to Practice

My mom used to sit with me sometimes while I practiced for my piano lessons as a kid. It helped keep me on track and focused when things got frustrating or hard. I know she must have had other things to do, my siblings to take care of, a house to keep clean, a demanding job. But I really appreciated (and still do) that she encouraged me in this gentle way to keep going even when it was hard to see the future rewards. I know it was frustrating for her at times too, but her commitment to my learning is now something I will never know how to fully thank her for.

Because practice makes perfect. But it also makes parents who are frustrated with their children who won’t. As a teacher, I know that every parent struggles with getting their little ones to make time for practice. And as a former student, I know that every student struggles to find the patience and motivation for it.

But practice you must, so this is the first in a series of five articles I’ll write on practicing techniques. I’ll cover motivating your child to practice, how to practice when first beginning a piece, techniques for polishing up a piece, getting a piece ready for performance, and memorization techniques.

So: 5 Tips for Motivating Your Child to Practice.

See? Even stormtroopers do it.

See? Even stormtroopers do it.

First, know that not wanting to practice is completely normal. It can be hard. It can be frustrating. But it can also be rewarding and relaxing and it takes a while to get to that point. Here are some things that can help you get your child there.

1) Set a regular daily practice time and decide, with your child, what an appropriate length of time for their practice should be (This could be a set number of minutes or a set number of repetitions per piece). Making it a part of their daily routine will make it easier to remember and easier for you to enforce.

2) Set a timer. Let the buzzer be the enforcer so you don’t have to.

3) Create a rewards system. I don’t like to do this too often because I worry about students finding enjoyment only through the physical prizes and not through playing or singing for its own sake. But I’m ok with rewarding a week of solid, daily practice with something small- like a piece of candy- if it’s for a student who really struggles with it.

4) If your child is frustrated, encourage them to take a little break. Sometimes the learning goes slow and it’s hard to see that progress. Taking 5 and gaining perspective is sometimes necessary in those situations.

5) For some students, 20-30 minutes of nonstop practice is incredibly difficult. For those kids, try breaking up the practice into blocks. Flash cards are a great diversion. And there are some great iPhone and Android music games for ear training and note reading that can help break up the monotony.