Refusal to Practice – 10 Positive Steps Forwards

Refusal to Practice – 10 Positive Steps Forwards by Sue Hunt, Music in Practice
Practice rescue plan

Your child has made a really promising start with learning an instrument, lots of enthusiasm and hard practice and steady progress.  Then bang, the honeymoon is over, with sulks tantrums and outright refusal to practice.


Practice is hard work, and the rewards are often very hard to see.  Most small children don’t possess the communication skills to explain when they are overwhelmed.  Refusal is sometimes the only way to tell you that they are finding it tough.

What do you do to get back on track?


If you run into serious resistance, take about 8 steps backwards.

Continue to practice and listen every day.

Cut the practice down to ONE easily doable task.

Get your child to choose a task and stick to only that one for a week.

At the end of the week, attitudes should have improved.

Gradually add more tasks till back on track.

REJOICE! REWARD! Notice the things which your child can do now because of all that hard work that has been put into practice.


Show by your attitude, language and by example, that you think that achieving a goal is important.  Like eating, breathing and sleeping, make music part of your family life.  When everybody is involved, it will get easier.

Show that you believe that anything you begin must be followed through.

Show your belief in your child.  After all, Every Child Can, if the steps are tiny enough.

Make sure that Listening and Practising happens every day at a set time.


Here are some ideas for a chart which could help you to focus on and to fulfill your roll as practice helper.  Every day, tick each point that you did.

Here are some ideas I found:

I prepared for the practice session.

We agreed in advance when to practice.

I gave my child a five minute warning before practice.

I showed by my example that practice was my highest priority.

I created a positive environment.

I praised my child honestly for work, focus and effort.

I empowered my child to choose through lucky dips etc, what to practice.

We ended practice on a happy note.

Helper’s view:  How did it go today?

Child’s view:  How did your helper do today?

Child’s view:  How did you do today?

We have similar charts in Our Grand Practice Adventure.


Put a sticker on the task every day, when it has been completed a set number of times correctly.  Your teacher will want to recognize your child’s hard work at the lesson, so bring it with you for the him to marvel at and follow up.


If your teacher agrees to this, get your child to phone every day after practice.  The teacher’s immediate encouragement will be very motivating.


Phone another parent when practice is done.

When your child has become more positive, the children can talk to each other too.


In the beginning there is little musical reward in practising.

Pretty much all of us, adults and children, like tiny treats.  For young beginners regular treats are an excellent way of bridging the huge gap between hard work and results.  Give immediate tiny rewards for hard work and paying attentionNOT for just being “clever.”  Make sure that the treat is something that your child wants, not something that you think he or she should want.


What does the child want to earn?  What about a special day out, or a trip to the movies?

Make a picture and label it with the practice goals.  Each time the child completes a practice goal, colour in that bit of the picture. Never, NEVER take away a reward that has been given.  This will sabotage all of your efforts.


Make practice play dates with other families with children of the same age as yours.  Swapping children and working with other parents will be enlightening and playing practice games with another child is always fun.  After the practice, you can swap notes with your friend, while the children have a social time together.


Things should be improving now, but don’t take your child’s hard work for granted. Remembering to celebrate each small step forward will motivate all concerned.

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