I remember the battles. My parents telling me to practice. Reminding me how much they were paying for lessons. Sticking an egg timer in front of me set to 30 minutes that I stared at through teary eyes. Ah, the good 'ol days!
Of course, we want our kids to practice. Learning an instrument is just like anything else in life: it requires daily work. So how do you avoid the battles and tears that come with trying to get your child to sit and hone her skills?
Here are tips to calm the practice seas and provide smooth sailing!
1. Break It Up
Most parents utilize some sort of timer (like the fantastic "Time Timer") to illustrate exactly how long your child must practice for, but who says it all has to be done at once? Sometimes, 30-minutes is just too long for some kiddos. Short, efficient practice sessions are far more productive than tearful marathons chock full of procrastination. Try splitting that 30-minute session into two ultra-productive 15-minute bursts!
2. Make a List
Like most kids, I was pretty good at gaming the system. Sure, I had to "practice" for 30-minutes, but they never said what I had to practice! I was an "off-task" master! I still am to this day (wasn't I supposed to be catching up on paperwork instead of blogging right now? Whoops).
So what do I do to avoid this? Make a list of course! Many of our clients already utilize schedules throughout their day to break-up tasks and stay focused, yet all too frequently we throw this out the window when it comes to practicing instruments. Talk to your child's music therapist/teacher and find out what he should be practicing, and when it's time to practice during the week, make a bulleted list of items to address during that practice time.
3. Eye on the Prize
Hey, who isn't above a little bribery? In the therapy world, we call it "contingent rewards" but hey, toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe. Set up a specific reward for accomplishing a measurable task. 30-minutes of iPad time for crossing off everything on the practice list!
Pro-tip: Make sure the targeted behavior is measurable! It either got done, or it didn't. You either get the reward, or you don't. Don't be wishy-washy!
4. Keep It Fun!
The problem with practice is that it all too often becomes a chore, and we all know that chores aren't fun. But one of the main reasons we do what we do is to allow everyone to experience the joy that expressing one's self through music brings!
Make sure practice time is a mixture of "have-to's" and "want-to's." Make sure your child reviews those scales, but don't forget to let him play a few tunes from his favorite music book (for me it was a book of Star Wars songs).
That's all there is to it! Like the old musician's joke goes: you know how to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice...
Want to learn more about adaptive lessons? Check out our "Adaptive Lessons" page!