Music Education

Tips for Getting Your Child 
(or Yourself) to Practice Regularly

  1. Keep the instrument centred in the home. We all know we’re more likely to pick up a cookie on the counter than one packed away in the cellar. The same is true for the instrument. Keep it in a central place in the home, where its mere presence will nudge the student to practice. Place it in an area that feels well-lit and warm.
  2. Prepare your child for practice time. Let your child know what’s coming. Practicing should be enjoyable, but compared to playing with friends or watching TV, it will often lose out. If your child is mentally preparing to do something else and is surprised by practice time, they will perceive it as a negative thing. Remind your child before practice time that it’s coming. If you practice at 7pm, gently remind them on the way home from school, then when they go out to play, then over dinner, so that it doesn’t come as a shock.
  3. Have practice time follow something well-defined in your schedule. Calling your child inside from playing or away from a video game to practice probably won’t seem fun by comparison. Place practicing after some other daily routine: after eating breakfast/dinner, brushing teeth, walking dog, etc. This accomplished 3 things: it makes practicing part of the routine, it doesn’t make it feel like practicing is interrupting other fun activities, and it creates a fixed point for starting practicing.
  4. Practice yourself. If you play something, especially the same instrument as your child, let your child see you practice it. Children learn by example.
  5. Encourage autonomy. Your presence during your child’s practice is useful and helpful, but so is the feeling that they are doing it themselves. Encourage them to decide the order they practice things, or to count how many times they’ve played something, or to check things off on their homework sheet.
  6. Have a regular schedule and practice daily. While it’s not essential to practice daily, knowing there’s a possibility of skipping a day (for you or your child!) leaves the door open to debates and rationalisation. If your child knows that you practice every day no matter what, it most likely limits a daily debate. The less exceptions there are to a rule, the less you’ll overthink it.
  7. Praise. Constantly. Students are not playing music socially on the school yard: at the beginning, you are their only barometer for how well they are doing. Be honest, but as long as they’re working, there is always something to praise.

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