If you are a parent with a child who refuses to practice their musical instrument it can at times feel like a pointless waste of time. Most parents in this situation are left wondering what to do and whether there really is a solution. There are two common schools of thought in this debate. Lets start by being realistic. How many children would practice everyday given the choice? 5% to 10%? This means that if you leave it up your child to decide when they should practice you are probably going to be cancelling their guitar lessons some time soon. Parents often perceive no practice as no interest but this is not necessarily the case. Most children want to be able to play a musical instrument but they don’t always like the process of learning music.
Now if you threaten your child with severe punishment then they will learn to associate negative emotions with learning music. Not a good long term strategy. Many adults who were forced to practice music say they gave up music the minute they left home or worse became very unhappy professional musicians. So what’s the answer? The good news is there are positive solutions. Here are my top tips for parents.
Realistic expectations. Many children think learning guitar is all fun and no work. Dispelling this myth from the outset will set realistic expectations.
Try to be involved. Parents who leave it totally up to their child will usually be disappointed. Getting involved builds confidence and encourages practice because all children seek parental attention. At first sit with them everyday. Even better try learning with them. Overtime you can gradually back away.
Be consistent and persistent. Set a time each day for practice and stick to it. E.g. 5 pm each weekday. If their routine is broken try to get back on track asap.
Make it a game. When they are doing a particular exercise make a game out of it. Clap along. Sing along. Point to notes and ask them the names of notes.
Monitor their progress. If they know you are cheering them on they are more likely to want to practice. Children love to impress their parents but to impress you they need to see that their achievements matter to you. Applaud even the smallest of achievements.
Reward behaviour over results. The behaviour we seek is simply daily practice. Try not to focus on results too much. Rewarding them for practicing will encourage more practice. If its all about results children are more likely to give up before they get a result.
Communicate with their teacher. I (David Hart) have personally been teaching guitar for over 25 years and I have noticed that when parents ask questions they are better able to help their children in the learning process.
Focus on the positive. Its best to look at what they are doing well and highlight the fact. E.g. “I can’t believe you have done 3 hours of practice this week. Isn’t that a new record?”
Focus on practice. – Remember its the habit of practice we want to cultivate. Studies show that results come ultimately to those who practice the most.
Ask your child to teach you. Children love to show off what they know. If you get them to give you a lesson every week it will reinforce their knowledge while also boosting their confidence.
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