An hour of practice is worth five hours of foot-dragging.” – Pancho Segura, tennis player, 1921

Most of my friends had music lessons when they were children.  Most of us gave up as soon as we could, because we didn’t like music practice.  What wasn’t known in those days was that music lessons are good for your brain.  This view is widely accepted today, but I firmly believe that it’s not so much music lessons, but music practice that does the trick.

BUT, as the saying goes,  “If your children ask to do their music practice, you should send for the doctor.”  Why is this?  What children don’t know, is that boring old music practice is responsible for strengthening brain, nerves and muscles.

Ask any child why kids don’t like music practice and you will hear these three reasons over and over again:

  1. Music practice is too boring and difficult.
  2. I don’t like all the shouting and fighting.
  3. It’s easy to get out of it anyway.

Music practice is boring and difficult

It’s boring:  Listen to your child and discuss her feelings about what she is frustrated with.  Discuss what has to be done and how you are going to do it, before each music practice session.  Nothing is more boring than repetition for no apparent reason.  Having a clear goal for each practice task, makes it much more interesting.

Make a game of it and your child WILL ask to practice.  I feel so sorry for those who feel they are too old to play games.  Observe children and learn, before it is too late.

It’s too difficult:  If a piece of music is too hard to learn, break it into smaller easier sections. This will help to prevent your child from feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.  If you can’t do this, ask your teacher.

Scolding, criticism and empty praise

Scolding:  No one likes daily fights over music teaching.  What child will come to music practice willingly, when yelled at.

Do not force or threaten your child. This will make him resent music practice.  For practical help, try the 100 Day Practice Journal.

Criticism: The problem with “constructive” criticism, is that not all of us are receptive to it.  Parental use of “constructive” criticism is probably why children often feel, that they are having mistakes constantly pointed out, during music practice.  As an adult, how do you feel, when someone you love and admire, tells you that you are not trying hard enough.  How would you feel, if this person persistently criticizes your efforts?  I certainly feel that makes my self-esteem diminish, even though it may be well meant.  To make music practice a more pleasant experience for both you and your child, make sure that it contains more positive than negative comments.

Empty praise: Larding music practice with empty undeserved praise such as, “Way to go, you’re so clever, what a star, etc, etc,” is dishonest.  Any child can see right through this and in the process, loose respect for the praise giver.

When I was a young teacher, a mum brought her twins for lessons.

I inadvertently praised one because she was quick and clever and the other for working hard, as she was struggling.  By the second lesson the clever twin had become diffident about trying, whereas the struggling twin had almost caught up.  After a month, the struggling twin had shot ahead and the clever twin was refusing to cooperate at all.

Studies have shown that children who are rewarded for for being clever, become nervous of failing whereas those who are rewarded for hard work will word even harder.  Stands to reason, doesn’t it?  It is very hard to live up to being perfect. Perceived perfection comes with an inflated ego and vulnerable self-esteem.

It’s easy to get out of music practice:

It’s easy to get out of music practice:

An intelligent child can manipulate an emotional parent,  “If I hold out long enough, I can avoid it.”  “If mum gets really cross, she will end this horrible music practice.”  “Change the subject, be cute, make them laugh.”  Inconsistent parenting makes it dead easy for a child to resist doing any music practice.

There are times when most of us feel inadequate and unconfident about our own musical, or music teaching ability.  Some parents are really worried about upsetting the child.  Some have misconceptions about quality time being permissive and not necessarily productive.

It is important to remember that you are the boss, not your child.  Children feel much safer and do better music practice, with behavior rules in place.

To sum up:   For peaceful, productive music practice in your home,

  1. Try some sympathetic listening.
  2. Chunk down difficult practice tasks and make them into games.
  3. Instead of nagging, find something positive to say about your child’s efforts.  Praise for hard work and focus.
  4. Stick to your house rules.

“When love is deep, much can be accomplished” – Shinichi Suzuki, 1898 – 1998

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