I hear this from parents all the time. At best, a parent will say to me, “Well, I tell her to practice, but she hardly ever does.” Here’s a tip: HELP HER! We live in a world in which instant gratification is king and any activity with delayed benefits (such as exercising or eating right) is worth pursuing only as long as our motivation lasts. So why do so many parents expect their children to be models of self-discipline?
Every music student will eventually encounter a song that taxes their abilities and their patience. Some students meet this type of challenge within the first few weeks of lessons; others go months or years before encountering music that’s genuinely frustrating to learn. Regardless, it happens to us all. Suddenly, practice time doesn’t yield quick results. There’s no immediate gratification. Practicing is not “fun” anymore, and therefore not worth doing.
This is when parents start saying, “My child won’t practice,” etc.
WHAT TO DO
If any of us expect to reach our full potential, it’s critical that we continually push against the boundaries of our current abilities. Kids won’t deliberately subject themselves to the frustration of breaking out of their cocoon; that’s why they stop practicing. Thankfully, kids have a secret weapon: their mom and dad. Parents who are committed to their kids’ development can counteract the practice doldrums in a number of ways (I’ve even seen parents pay their child to practice), but by far the most effective treatment is to schedule practice time and stick to that schedule—even when the child whines and complains. As for how long each practice session should last, that’s at the discretion of the music teacher.
In a nutshell, if you have a child who won’t practice, it’s up to you to supplement their self-discipline with your authority. Schedule practice time each day and stick to the plan. When it comes to education, you and your child are like a team in a three-legged race. Your child’s success is your success.