‘Practice, Practice, practice’ – we’ve all heard it and we’ve said it a million times to our students so in answer to our exasperated parents – how do you actually get your children to put it in to practice?
We’ve all been there – practice to ride a bike without stabilisers, practice to write your name, practice to read words, all the way through to practice to drive, to follow a recipe, to change a nappy…! Our lives are really a continuous series of practices but children just don’t get that yet.
That’s why as soon as you tell your children to practice they often give up. They suddenly find a million and one other jobs to do, are too tired and will also suddenly offer to help with chores! Their mind automatically goes into rebel mode at being told what to do and for a specific time. A bit like starting that diet and all you can think about is chocolate…
The trick is to break it down and look at the bigger picture. Without doubt, I’m sure most of us put a lot of practice into learning to drive. The promise of freedom and the ability to go anywhere whenever you wanted was the (excuse the pun) driving force. This is exactly the same approach needed to practice a musical instrument or singing – find that driving force.
This is the message we need to introduce to our children and the one we present in our classes. If we get them to look at the bigger picture and not look at it as another learning chore, or one that is restricted to a set practice time, their mindset will begin to be more inspired and they will also begin to see it on their terms and as them making the choice – the all-important mind reversal parenting trick!
To start with, does your child actually want to play the chosen instrument and do they enjoy it? Have they chosen the piano, the guitar or singing on their own or with a little persuasion? Are they enjoying it or would they prefer to either be learning another instrument or doing something else entirely? Children are easily influenced by parents and peers and this can be a double edged sword. Great for inspiring them but sometimes it can feel as if they have no choice and are doing it to please someone else or fit in. If your child enjoys learning a particular instrument then practice will be a natural extension, particularly if you help them set achievable goals and put them in charge.
The first thing to do is to take away the time. We often make the mistake of setting time boundaries to practice, for both ourselves and our children. Think about how you approach things. Would you feel more incentivised if you were told you had to practice for 15 minutes or practice until you can, for example, play a chord on the guitar without looking, or practice to perfect a sequence or song? Limiting practice to a time boundary is arduous, restricting and unmotivating.
The next step is to create an achievable goal. Does your child want to learn to play a favourite song? How can that be achieved? Is that to learn each verse and then the chorus or start with the chorus and work on the verses? The key here is to also be flexible and if one way doesn’t work then change it! Again, giving children choice and flexibility empowers them and inspires them. It’s all about having a positive can-do mindset and teaching them not to give up.
One of the best ways to demonstrate this is to join in! How can you be part of the practice? Could you learn an instrument yourself or get your child to teach you what they’ve learnt? There’s nothing better for a confidence boost than to be able to teach and children respond really well to this. Just imagine an eight year old teaching his mum to play chords on a guitar! At last they can do something their parent cannot! For once they are the ones telling you what to do and are being treated as an equal.
Music is so inspiring and can change your mood, remind you of wonderful memories, make you dance around the kitchen and forget your worries! Getting children to listen to all kinds of music and explore all genres will too help them to get inspired and motivated. Share your own experiences of music with them. Take them to concerts! The atmosphere at live concerts is electric and infectious and will no doubt be a huge inspiration for your children. Local tribute bands are often amazing and will teach your children that not just famous artists can play instruments and perform to an outstanding level.
Encourage your children to play around with their instruments or voice and get creative! Inspire them to create their own music or songs. Get them to get together with friends or family – build a band! Organise a performance! Very soon practice will become a normal part of their lives and will no longer be seen as something to be done but rather something that is part of them.
Harmeet July 25th, 2017
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