Tuesday, March 19, 2019

15 Super Effective Ways to Motivate Your Child to Practice Music

So your son or daughter has started taking music lessons. You found a kind and knowledgeable teacher, set up a lesson schedule, and bought an instrument. Your kid is motivated to learn and everything is off to a great start!

But don’t rest on your laurels just yet: No matter how excited your child is initially, there will come a point in time when they simply doesn’t feel like practicing. And this may leave you feeling frustrated not only by their lack of motivation, but also by the time, effort, and financial investment you’ve made in their music lessons.

To help you avoid the endless battle of wills and keep you from pulling your hair out, we’ve assembled a toolkit of strategies to help you motivate your child to practice.

1. Shift your Mindset, Part I: Stop treating music practice like homework

Think back to when you were in school. You had your academic classes and your after-school activities. You knew your daily routine: Math, English, Science, etc. Then after school: homework!

With so many different school subjects and assignments, it’s no wonder adding time to practice music can seem like a burden to a kid.

That’s where you can help shift your child’s mindset. It’s up to you to help your child see music in a different light!

Rather than treating music like yet another homework assignment, create a distinction so your child sees music as something he or she wants to do. The best way to shift your child’s mindset is to let him or her play an instrument they’re actually interested in and excited about. If your child views music as a forced discipline, like math or history, it won’t be fun. Practicing music should feel like play, not school work. If that’s not happening, that might be a signal that it’s time to switch instruments.

This also means you may need to be flexible. While it can be expensive to allow a child to start and stop several different activities, try to work with him or her to find one he or she enjoys and is intrinsically motivated to practice.

2. Put Your Child in Control

It’s no secret that when we’re told to do something, we sometimes will not want to do it. From the moment they first wake up, kids have parents, teachers, siblings, coaches and others telling them what to do all day. Add music to the list of directives and it’s no wonder motivation seems to dwindle!

Combat this problem by putting your child in control. Let them determine the practice schedule, that way they’re more likely to stick to it.

Start with the end in mind: your goal is to get your child to decide that they need practice in order to play the way they want to play. Once they decide this, you can help them research and figure out how often a good musician practices. Your child can then set a schedule based on the reality that, to be a good musician, you need to practice.

Not only will this approach allow your child to feel a sense of control, it will also help them to learn the value of practice.

3. Shift Your Mindset, Part II: Think of practice as a set of repetitions, not a length of time
North Main Music founder and director, Mike McAdam, recommends that parents and students start thinking about music practice as doing a series of repetitions. So instead of saying “Go practice for a half an hour,” you could say go play your piece three or four times.

Mike also recommends that people who are looking for new ways to motivate themselves or their kids to practice their music read The Practice Revolution. According to Mike, “It’s a good book and sort of break some of the molds that are traditionally taught with music instruction."

4. Motivate Your Child to Practice With a Reward System
You may be thinking, “Yah, sure, but will they really stick with this day to day?” Let your child make the schedule, but it’s up to you to reinforce it--you may have more weight in your reminder. One way to reinforce the schedule would be to set rewards for accomplishing little goals along the way. For example, “If you practice every night this week, we can download that song you’ve been asking for.” Reward the work.

5. Help Your Child Understand the Gift of Music

Teach your child to appreciate music and all the possibilities it has to offer. Playing a musical instrument is a privilege and an opportunity that isn’t available to everyone. Taking music lessons not only expands your mind, at North Main Music, it plugs you into a music community where you can perform at student concerts, participate in bands, and connect with new friends you may not have met otherwise.

You can also help your child develop a love for music by taking them to shows, playing music at home, and being supportive of their musical interests and tastes--even if they’re different from yours!

Many adults wish they had stuck with a hobby or endeavor they started as a child, such as playing a musical instrument. While this can be a difficult concept for young kids to grasp, teaching them to appreciate music can help them understand why practice is important.

These are just a few ways that parents can help their kids understand the value that musical ability brings to their lives and to society.

6. Don’t Make Practice an Obligation

This one may seem a bit counter-intuitive, right? After all, you’ve invested the money in an instrument and lessons, and you want your child to make the most of it. Plus, if kids wants to achieve their musical goals, they needs to practice!

The trick is to not make practice feel like an obligation when compared to other fun activities. For example, if your kid loves to play video games and you don’t allow them to do this until after completing practice. Using a fun activity as a reward creates the mindset that practice is the obligation that stands in the way of fun, and this could create resentment or dread for practice. It reinforces the notion that playing piano is not fun and video games are fun.

7. Plan Performances

When it comes to a sport, hobby, or endeavor, it’s important to keep your eye on the prize. The same principle applies when it comes to your child learning an instrument; they have to keep their goal in sight, otherwise, they may question the need to practice.

At North Main Music, we offer students multiple opportunities to perform in front of an audience throughout the year, such as our biannual student concerts, rock shows, band performances at community events, and more. These planned performances foster a growing curiosity and excitement about music in children’s lives and keep students engaged and motivated.

It gets better:

Performances not only help to increase excitement, they also work to hold children accountable. Ask any music teacher — even the most unmotivated student will be more likely to practice if it means avoiding being unprepared and embarrassed at a concert!

8. Let Your Child Choose

Just because you loved playing piano as a kid doesn’t mean your child will love playing it, too. Your child may have other interests, and it’s important to allow them to explore different endeavors and follow their own path in life.

It’s critical that a child choose the instrument they’re going to learn. If an instrument is thrust upon them, then practicing it will also be thrust upon them. Letting them choose the instrument turns this on its head, and in your favor, even if they did not choose an instrument you would have wanted them to play.

9. Be Their Cheerleader

Let your child know you’re their biggest fan, especially early on when your child may feel frustrated or discouraged. Listen to your child at home as often as you can and make encouraging remarks about their progress. Also, make sure to ask them how their lessons went.

Take a genuine interest in your child’s musical journey. Your child will be excited to play for you and show off new skills!

10. Help Them Engage With Music

Your child is more likely to practice music if he or she feels connected to the process. Help your kid develop an interest and curiosity for music. To help them stay engaged, become a part of the process. Whatever you can do to get involved is likely to increase their interest and motivation.

Let your child play around with different instruments. Listen to music together. Your child will naturally want to imitate you, so a big motivation for children to practice is seeing their parents engage with music themselves.

11. Create Challenges

Instead of telling your child to practice, help them set specific goals and challenges. This will help them progress faster because they’ll work on accomplishing specific tasks or mastering particular skills. This idea can be applied to any instrument.

12. Celebrate *All* AccomplishmentsLearning to play an instrument is a long journey full of peaks, valleys, and plateaus. While you’ll definitely be proud when you watch your child perform, it’s equally important to celebrate the small victories along the way.

While verbal praise is important, you may also want to create another way to celebrate achievements; for example, you could keep a journal or scrapbook of your child’s accomplishments. Another option could be to keep a whiteboard on the fridge, or make a chart that you can display and update when they reach a goal or overcome a challenge.

Celebrating the little victories will help your child keep a positive attitude when they’re struggling or having difficulty tackling a new concept or song.

13. Let Them Play Music They Like

While there are certain signature songs and classics for various instruments, your child will lose interest if he or she doesn’t like the music they’re playing. Around age 10, sometimes younger, kids start developing preferences for musical styles, largely influenced by radio, television, and their peers, so be sure to work with your child’s teacher to make sure your child is playing some music they truly enjoy. This can be used as a motivational strategy; encourage them to learn and play at least one of their favorite songs as part of their weekly routine.

14. Make Practice Fun

This should come as no surprise — no one wants to practice when it’s boring! Incorporate fun games, activities, and challenges, and your child will look forward to practice! Very few children are self-motivated in their music practice and most need incentives and reminders to keep them focused and moving forward.

At North Main Music, you are always welcome to ask your child’s teacher for some creative ways to make practice more fun!

15. Find the Right Teacher for Your Child
This brings us to our final strategy and one of the most important: find the right teacher for your kid! Yes, practice is done outside of lessons, but if your child connects with their teacher, they’re much more likely to take direction willingly and practice consistently.

Finding the right teacher will make or break the whole music lesson experience. Don’t be afraid to try a new teacher if your child isn’t connecting. The best teachers are usually the ones who not only teach, but know how to be a good friend and mentor to your child.

At North Main Music, we encourage new students to review the instructor bios and videos on our website and to sign up for an introductory lesson to get a better feel for whether or not a teacher is right for you.

What has worked for you in terms of helping to motivate your child to practice? Share your insights and tips in the comments below!

This article was adapted from and inspired by this one on takelessons.com. 

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