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Let’s be real: When it comes to practicing, sometimes we love it and sometimes we hate it. Either way, practice is essential for music students– when you put in the work, you see the results.
The catch is, obstacles like busy schedules, difficult songs, or a lack of motivation can get in the way of regular practice. When obstacles make practice feel overwhelming, it becomes a burden.
Teachers bring all the knowledge and fun they can fit into a session with the hopes of inspiring their students. But that doesn’t mean students will want to spend the rest of the week practicing. (We wish it was that easy!)
This is when parents can step in and change the course of their child’s musical journey. We parents can be more than just cheerleaders on the sidelines when it comes to supporting our child’s musical endeavors; we can be the coaches.
How to be an Active Participant In Your Child’s Practice Routine
Parents have the power to assemble the building blocks of a successful practice routine. Two of those blocks include structure and expectations.
Kids are creatures of habit and tend to thrive within a routine. It’s essential to provide a structured practice environment for your child through:
It’s essential for a student to know what’s expected of them. A united front between parent and teacher eliminates any doubt in a student’s mind about what is expected of them. This assuredness, in return, allows the student to focus, make more progress, become more engaged, and ultimately have more fun.
How do you create a united front with your child’s teacher? Communication is key! Join in for the last few minutes of your child’s lesson to touch base with the teacher, and help set up a practice plan for the week. Don’t underestimate the power of your child seeing that united front in action.
Parental Engagement Based On Student’s Age
The younger the student, the more important it is to follow a structured daily routine. Establish a particular time every day as “music practice time” and stick to it. The determined music practice time should be clear in your child’s mind.
Keep in mind, it’s not about the duration of time spent practicing, it’s the regularity. The most important thing is that there is a time every day that your child knows to go to the instrument.
Older students tend to gravitate more towards project-based practice time. They want to set and achieve goals.
Open and frequent parent-child communication is extremely helpful for the older crowd. Ask questions like “What do you want to get out of lessons?” Listen to what your child’s goals are and periodically check in. See if they need any more help or resources.
Why the “Hands-Off” Approach Isn’t Helpful
As parents we may think we’re making learning more fun by not being strict, but in reality? The student is more likely to disengage and progress will stall.
Leaving it up to your kid to decide if, when, and how they are going to practice, tends to mean it won’t happen.
Music is supposed to be fun and engaging. But if a child repeatedly shows up unprepared because of lack of practice, the lessons will begin to feel a little like Groundhog Day: same lesson, different day, over and over (and over) again. Where’s the fun in that?
Playing music feels like magic. But in reality it takes commitment, and ultimately it’s up to us as parents to reinforce that commitment.
Why the “Effort Over Outcome” Attitude Is Helpful
While you’re enforcing practice with a clear, teacher-approved practice plan, be sure to applaud your student’s effort more than anything else. It doesn’t matter if they sound terrible or amazing; what matters is that they’re putting in the effort.
When a student see that the persistent effort– not the outcome– is the success, they’ll understand that success is already theirs.
When it comes to families with multiple students, it’s natural for parents to praise the child who’s making easy, quick progress. But don’t forget to continually praise the child who’s making slower progress but putting in the work.
This also applies to students as they advance to more challenging pieces. A student may end up working on an extremely difficult piece for longer than they’re used to. Celebrate the small victories with your child. (And if you’re not sure what makes a small victory, check with your teacher).
Communicate and set goals so that your child understands why practicing matters. Watch as your child becomes more engaged and makes more progress. Happy practicing!