You may have found the perfect instrument for your child to play, and a great music teacher, but the most difficult challenge lies ahead: how to get them to actually practise their instrument. Many parents have had to go through this difficult time, and every one may tell you how they did it, or how they failed, but here are a few tips we'd like to offer on encouraging your child to keep practising their instrument.
Allow Them Some Freedom
The obvious option that may come to your mind is setting down rules, telling your child when they should be playing and how long for. 30 minutes straight after school or dinner are common options, and strict parents may have some luck enforcing these rules.
The problem with this style of dictation is that it makes music practice feel like a chore, and it really shouldn't be. For your child to get good at music they need to want to practise, and this means having a little freedom. Instead of telling your child when they should play, ask them to set their own time to practice.
Note that the question is not whether or not they want to practise, only when they want to practise. This way, your child feels like they have control over when they're practising, and it will feel like it's their choice. Your child will feel good showing you how responsible they can be.
Much like giving your child freedom to choose when they practise, setting goals allows you to work around the problem of how long they should be practising for. Telling your child that they should be practising for 30 minutes will ensure that they are with their instrument, but won't ensure that they are enjoying it, or that they are even improving. Setting goals, on the other hand, will see to all three of these.
Setting a goal should be as simple as being able to practice a scale or a bar of music without mistakes. The easiest way of setting goals is to ask what the music teacher is expecting the child to be able to do by their next lesson. Then split this into 7 minor tasks, so that over the course of the week your child will be able to accomplish their overall goal.
Setting goals also gives your child a reason to practise, so they won't just be spending 30 minutes miserably plinking away at their piano or sawing their violin strings. Finally, it gives a sense of accomplishment that leads neatly onto our next point:
Praise Your Child For Their Accomplishments
Your child should want to play their instrument for the sake of playing it, rather than for any other reason. A child who is motivated by their own accomplishments is a child who will continue to motivate themselves and succeed in their goals.
A common tactic used by parents to convince their child to practise is the offer of rewards. Rather than laying down the law, you might have considered offering sweets, or television time or even extra pocket money to your child for each practise session. This often encourages your child to practise, but for the wrong reasons. Your child should be practising for themselves, not for rewards.
When you tell your child how well they've performed, how good their music sounds and how far they've come, it makes them feel good. Children, and everyone really, like to do what makes them feel good. Encouraging that sense of accomplishment will encourage your child to keep trying in future, especially when they are feeling demotivated or frustrated.
Listen to them Play
Although your child should be practising for themselves, as their parent they will also be looking up to you for encouragement. It's not easy to take time out of a busy day, but listening to your child practise, even if only on a few days each week, will help keep them motivated. It also gives you that opportunity to provide encouragement and praise for how well they're doing. Who knows, it might be beneficial for you to just put your feet up and relax for a bit anyway.
If you're struggling to find a good teacher for your child, then visit MusicTeachers.co.uk, an online database of music teachers in the UK.