by Karen Houghton
As parents, encouraging your child to practice their instrument on a consistent basis can become a battlefield, with parents resorting to offensive strategies such as coercion, attrition warfare, counter-offensive tactics. The child often takes a defensive stance, including fortification, withdrawal, and general wailing and gnashing of teeth. 😉
All kidding aside, as a parent you can help your child develop self-discipline and provide them with tools for success in their musical endeavors. The good habits created in developing a productive practice routine will also help them in other aspects of life. Here are some guidelines to aid you in structuring a stable, efficient practicing environment for your young musician.
- Schedule the sessions. If possible, have your child practice at the SAME time every day, to establish a routine. For a beginner, usually 20-30 minutes daily is sufficient. Aim for at least 5 days per week.
- Set specific goals. Make sure you communicate with your child’s teacher as to what he/she is assigning each week.
- Encourage correct posture and the use of proper equipment. In other words, no practicing on the bed while balancing music on a pillow – use a comfortable chair and a music stand.
- Create a positive environment. Choose a quiet place away from distractions (i.e. television, computer, cell phone).
- Become involved. Have your child ‘perform’ for you a few times a week. They may argue, but most students love to show others what they have learned.
- Take a video or pictures. Send short videos to grandparents or other family members in order to demonstrate your support and pride in their accomplishments.
- Give incentives. I used stickers, small toy rewards, and treats for my own children when they were very young. This is an option for your consideration, but it depends on your opinion regarding the issue.
I hope that these few guidelines are helpful in establishing good practice habits for your young musician. The discipline, self-confidence, and personal growth that occur from learning an instrument are invaluable. The lessons your child learns will continue to shape them throughout their entire life!