Originally posted on juliaviolinstudio.com on December 17, 2015
We all heard about the joke “How do you get to Carnegie? Practice! Practice! Practice!” However, when children are taking lessons, they just don’t practice enough. Of course, the teacher could help motivating the student by playing games, assigning challenging homework and appropriately praise the student when assignments are completed well. But that is not the full picture. A lot of parents neglected their part in the formula while others very carefully prepare the best environment for their children to learn and practice the musical instruments. Do you know if you belongs to the former or the latter? Here are the top reasons why your child is not practicing enough and how you can use this information to make sure your child is practicing more and progressing rapidly.
- Peer Motivation
Children like to imitate their parents and others around them. When parents are practicing the art of TV watching, the child would also want to join to watch TV. On the other hand, when parents, siblings, friends or classmates are all practicing on a fixed schedule, the child would more likely want to join and practice more.Some music students get to play in orchestra with the other children. If the student is one of the best in the group, then the student is in the wrong room. Constantly being surrounded by players that are better is the best learning environment for the student, same for adults and children. If you realize that your child has progressed the level of the current group, you should start looking for other music groups for the child to participate. For example, you can look for a local youth orchestra or a different level Suzuki Group class.Bringing the child to local musical events and see concerts performed by master musicians of the same instruments or the same age group could open the eyes of the child and keep the motivation up. If you don’t have time to find these, the easiest ways is to keep the classical music or jazz station in your car when you’re commuting. The child will pick up the interest in music from time to time through listening to the car radio as well.
- Avoiding Distractions
When people get distractions, they don’t focus as well. That’s why a lot of people cannot commit to work out 6 days a week a few weeks after the new year resolution. For children, distractions work in the same way and when there is too much going on in the schedule, they get confused and lose track of the practice routine.Are you sure you are not over booking your child’s schedule? Some children has big schedules like Monday Piano, Tuesday Ballet, Wednesday Ping Pong, Thursdays Drawing Class and Friday big family gathering. Does it sound familiar to you? If so, you might want to help your child focus by cutting some of the activities. Of course, if you think that drawing and ballet is going to be the most important, cutting music lessons and practice might be the best way for the child to focus on ballet and drawing alone.The second layer meaning for distraction is basically about the environment. When a child is set out to practice, is the TV on in the other room and sound is distracting? Do you keep loud music on while wanting your child to focus on the lesson materials? If you answer yes to any of these, you need to rethink about the environment you provide for your child to learn a musical instrument.
- Creating Fixed Schedule
I have talked about boosting motivation and avoiding distraction to nurture the best environment for the child to practice and learn. Now I will bring your attention to actually making sure the student practice the violin.Have you ever wondered why your 8 year old would not initiate practice on her own everyday? Well, I have news for you. It’s extremely rare for children that age to pick up the violin and practice everyday without parents directions. The situation for children that age get motivated enough at that age is when the parents practice their instrument everyday (doesn’t even matter if it’s the same instruments) or when the sibling enters a contest among themselves. For most children, a fixed schedule is the solution to practicing consistently.You as a parent could help your child pick a schedule that best work for you. Some would practice every morning before going to school while others would practice right after getting home from school. If the child is procrastinating practicing, you can always remind him or her that it has to be done by the end of the day. You can pick a reward for the child after practicing. For example, no TV until 30 minutes of practicing everyday. My mom was great in this area when I was little. She used to tell both my sister and me that practicing our instruments is the same as eating – both are necessary daily. She said, “You eat everyday right? You eat before you sleep right? Then, you need to practice before you sleep too!” While some people might not like this approach, I think it was great and I am grateful for my mom’s help even today.
- Prevent “Not Sure How and What to Practice”
If you have followed the first three points and your child is still not practicing enough. You might wonder whether your child knows what’s important to practice and how to practice. While this is the teacher’s responsibility to assign homework and teach the student how to practice, sometimes the parents could also help. If the child seems confused or not sure what to practice, the parents could always call the teacher in the middle of the week to ask for additional instruction just to make sure the student understand the assignments. Another way is to keep a notebook for all lessons and when the student forgets about the assignments, he/she could look up the note book and make sure everything is practiced the right way.
Hope these simple tips could help your child increase practice and become a better musician! Please leave your comments and questions. I am also open to different topics.