Motivating your child to want to practice guitar is different for every child. What works with one child may not work with another child. In addition any strategy you apply will generally not last indefinitely. The secret to motivating your child to practice is creative experimentation. This means you need to be testing new ideas on a regular basis to keep their motivation up. In some cases it won’t matter what you do. Some children may not respond to any of your ideas. This doesn’t mean you throw in the towel. You should seek out advice from experienced teachers or even try different instruments.
Rules and rewards
Regardless of where you stand on raising children I think most people would agree that children need a certain amount of discipline. It’s just a part of growing. I am not suggesting physical discipline here. I am talking about setting rules and giving rewards. As a parent you almost certainly have rules in place that your children are expected to follow and you issue rewards for certain kinds of behaviour. For example my daughter has to clean her room by 8pm each night (rule) and then she gets 30mins of TV (reward).
Think music education
Before I give you suggestions on motivating your child to practice guitar it’s important to point out that your real goal here is to provide your child with a music education. Guitar may or may not end up being their instrument of choice and it doesn’t really matter. Music education has been shown to help a child’s development in a number of ways which is why a music education should be your ultimate goal. If after giving guitar a fair chance using various motivational strategies they just don’t want to do it, ask them which instrument they would like to learn. Everyone likes to have a choice. Giving children choices gives them a sense of ownership. If they choose to play drums so be it. Chances are they’ll come back to guitar later.
My top tips for motivating your child to practice
- Let them choose. Give your child choices where possible. Let them choose when to practice, where to practice and in some cases even what to practice. All within limits of course. By choices it could be as simple A verses B. “Would you like to practice at 4pm or 5pm? When you give children choices they gain a sense of autonomy.
- Get involved. Don’t leave it totally up to your child. Assist them but do it on their terms as much as possible. Be their supporter but be careful not to be too critical. In the early months sit with them every time they practice but once the habit develops you can let them practice alone more and more perhaps sitting in once or twice a week.
- Cheer them on. Tell them regularly how proud you are. Children respond to praise especially from parents. Be specific about your praise. What exactly impressed you about their practice? Was it the way they were holding the guitar, their timing, their attitude etc.
- Game playing. Look for every opportunity to turn practice into a game. For example, see if they can play an exercise with no mistakes.
- Behaviour verses results. The results will come as a result of the good practice behaviours. When you focus on praising their good behaviours more so than results you will be reinforcing them. It’s okay to praise results but in moderation but always point out that the results come from the practice.
- Communicate with their teacher. If you are finding your attempts to motivate your child are not working speak to their teacher. Experienced teachers will almost always have a number of strategies you have likely not considered.
- Reward their practice. It’s the habit of practice we want to cultivate. Habits are more easily established when there is a reward. You can decide but one example I use with my daughter is Harry Potter. She loves HP so when establishing a habit I use HP credits as a reward. HP credits might be time watching a HP movie or searching up HP trivia on YouTube or even getting money towards buying something from the HP collection.
- Let your child teach you. Children love to teach. It makes them feel special. Ask them to give you a lesson every week to reinforce their knowledge while also having fun.