Regular daily practice is essential, if your child wants to enjoy the benefits of learning a musical instrument. Perhaps it is wise to think for a moment, about your reasons for investing in instrumental lessons for your child. There could be hundreds: improved self confidence, better muscular co-ordination, quicker neural connections, exposure to a motivated peer group, scholarships, entry to better schools and orchestras, learning a skill which will give pleasure for life and developing a fine young person are just a few. When you find many reasons for doing something, you will find many ways to see that it gets done.
Here are some proven tips for stacking the deck in favor of success:
1) Bring your children to observe your teacher’s group and individual lessons, before they start lessons themselves. They will soon be eager to join in the fun.
2) Play recordings of the tunes that you will study together. Remember the way you taught your baby to speak. Listening is just the beginning, so keep playing those tunes every day.
3) If your teacher asks you to attend parent classes, you will be better prepared to help with practice. Remember that you learn anything that you do over and over again, good or bad, so your job will be to help your child to score lots of good repetitions.
4) A parent’s job at the lesson is to smile and take notes. Having more than one instructor giving directions at any one time can be very confusing! Body language counts too, so relax, no wincing or gesticulating. A calm supportive loving smile works wonders.
5) Show your commitment by practising with your child every day. Even micro practices count. Little and often is the watchword with small children. Pre schoolers can often manage several short bursts in a day.
Establish a regular time and stick to it. When something becomes a nonnegotiable part of the regular household routine, it just gets done, like feeding the dog, doing the shopping, taking the children to school etc.
Try practicing in the morning. This sometimes needs military planning but it is worth it. Children are usually more receptive first thing in the day. Remember to feed them first though!
Always aim to stop well before your child asks to. You want to end on a high.
6) Question, “How do you eat a bicycle?” Answer, “One bit at a time.” Playing a musical instrument is an extremely complicated and sophisticated activity. Set realistic goals with your teacher. Break each one down into small pieces and digest each thoroughly, before taking the next mouthful. Your teacher will show you exactly how to get your teeth into each bite.
7) Your child is probably programmed to, “Be a big boy/girl and do it yourself.” Special emphasis on teamwork, will help you to give physical help from you, during a practice session. You can always blame it on the teacher, “Mrs Bloggs said to do it this way.”
8) Record or video the lesson on your phone or tablet. It helps to sort out practice time disputes, if you can both hear the teacher’s exact instructions. This can also help you and your child, to learn to work as a team.
9) It can take ages for for a small child to learn to make beautiful music. In the mean time, encouragement is vital.
Always use firm positive language. If you ask “Shall we?” or “Would you like to?” most intelligent children will answer, “NO!” Be specific and truthful and catch them doing it right. The words “almost” and “nearly” are very useful, when in doubt.
Learn to depersonalize your comments. Speak to the bit of the child which is learning the skill. Some of us might feel foolish saying things like, “Ooh look at that right hand holding the bow so beautifully! You are teaching it to pay really good attention!” but it is worth every word, to see your child starting to become engaged with the task. See how many honest positive comments can you make, during a session.
Good luck with your practice sessions and take time to remember your special reasons for choosing music for your child.