I’ve finished most of the parent teacher conferences in my studio for the year (If you want to read more about my process you can read more HERE & HERE). The most common issue I heard (besides learning to practice well as students start to become more independent in practice – a theme that kept coming up for the middle school students) was that in a number of families the parents felt like it was a daily battle to get practice started.
Let’s be honest – it is not very motivating to keep taking your child to music lessons if you know it means daily squabbles with your kids over the practice. Many working parents have just a few quality time hours a day with their kids and spending part of that time fighting about something is not a fun idea.
This is why parent teacher conferences are so important – I don’t know what practice is like for families at home without these honest conversations and sometimes these situations can be turned around quite easily, as long as parents are willing to put in a little effort to change the tone for practice.
In each of the cases where this issue was brought up we decided that the number one priority for this student and family was not moving forward on the instrument – it was developing a positive attitude about practice.
In two families when I saw them less than a week later there had already been a huge turn around in practice and attitude with just a few small changes.
Sometimes the bad attitude at the start of lessons is just a habit – we say “time to practice!” and the groaning and complaining starts because it’s just the automatic response without even thinking first. Here are a few ideas that have been working for the families in my studio:
- Reward good attitudes at the start (or during) practice. You can add stickers to a chart for the week and reward a week of good attitude or even start with a tiny reward each day at first if strong motivation is needed. Letting your child know that a good attitude is the main goal, and working on it together, can go a long way to improving things. Don’t get stuck in a rut of fighting with your child during practice – that is no fun for anyone!
- Keep practice fresh with new ideas. Research some practice games (or new checklists for your child to follow if that is more motivating to them). Saying “Oh I have something new we’re going to try today when we practice!” is more exciting and can make starting feel less like a chore. Sometimes as parents we have to look at what attitude we are bringing to practice – if we have some interesting ideas to try our more engaged attitude can rub off on our children as we practice with them.
- Try to figure out what motivates your child to practice. Some student in my studio began playing duets with siblings or a parent to add a little variety into practice. The time spent playing together was an added element of fun that is helping keep practice motivating and interesting.
If you are struggling with bad attitudes during practice in your house I would try to address it right away. Students don’t have to feel excited to get started practicing each day but they can create a habit of starting their practices with a good attitude and this, over time, can develop into feeling just fine about practice and even enjoying part of the process.
Let’s encourage our students and children to develop a good attitude by rewarding and praising those times when we can see improvement in this area.
Have you tried anything that significantly improved the attitude of your child during practice sessions? Please share it in the comments below!