It never ceases to amaze us at how much difficulty some parents find in encouraging their child to practice. It really is remarkable how many five year old children are running their households.
Very few younger aged students will practice of their own volition. How many five year old kids will say to their parents “Now please excuse me, I am about to head into my room to practice the piano for the next hour or two”? The more actively the parents are involved the more the child will feel there is a valid reason to practice.
We always suggest calling it playing their instrument as opposed to practicing. Children prefer to Play than to Practice. Play sounds like fun, Practice sounds like hard work. Playing games with flash cards for simple music theory is a great way to involve yourself in your child’s music education.
When you watch your child practice always praise them for their efforts, encourage them by applauding, tell them to take a bow at the end. Never scold a child for making mistakes, playing a wrong note here and there is a very important part of the learning process. Perfectionism is a dangerous and usually counterproductive trait in musicians.
We encourage a lot of active participation by parents in practice sessions although it is always good to let your child practice by themselves as well, your child should feel free to explore the music in their own time and without always having the pressure of an audience.
It is a good idea to get into a routine where practice takes place at a specific time of day. Soon it will become a habit that is easily maintained. Most people (including kids) function better to routines.
It can be a good idea not to have a clock in the room. It’s not a great idea to say: "Practice for an hour” - your child may be more conscious of the clock than the music. It can be better to allow practice sessions to be more organic whilst remaining sufficient to cover the work at hand.
Expose your child to inspiring music by the greatest exponents of their chosen instrument. Always remind your child that they are improving all the time, the more they play the better they are sounding. Every master musician was once a beginner who could not play a note. Positive reinforcement is everything, keep telling your child how great they are because they really are! If you don’t believe in them who will?
As always please feel free to call or email if you require help in this area or anything else on your musical journey.
Caroline Springs School of Music