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Practice. It’s a minefield.

So. A parent calls you about one of your students. They are struggling to get said-student to practice. Should they continue? Should they stop lessons all together? What is the magic solution?

Here are a few of my tips for answering this often asked question:

  • Is brushing your teeth negotiable? neither is piano practice. Children don’t enjoy brushing their teeth, doing their homework etc. Yet these are all things that need to be done. Just do it. Make it a part of your routine.
  • Practice in the morning. It gets it out of the way for the day. I know morning routines for kids going to school are often a hectic time for parents. Both my children do their music piano practice in the morning. It is the only way it gets done.
  • Create a chart for your fridge. Write “Anna’s Awesome Piano Practice Chart” at the top and draw five or six clouds on it. each time a practice gets done that week, the child gets to tick a cloud, or even better, put a sticker into the cloud.
  • Get the parent to sit with the child for a practice and read through the music diary to “show-and-tell” what they are learning. If the parent is engaged in their learning, the child is more likely to want to succeed.
  • Talk to your child about life-skills. Learning any new skill in life takes patience and persistence. Every student goes through patches when it doesn’t seem “fun”. Don’t give up when you hit a rough patch.
  • Have a jar of marbles. Each time the student plays a song or scale, they shift one marble to a second empty jar. Practice is over when all of the marbles are in the previously empty jar.
  • Encouragement. Let your child know how proud you are that they are practicing and learning new things.

There are many ways around this issue. Another great resource for parents is the Diary of a Piano Mama Blog. Gina gives a parental perspective on the topic of instrumental learning and ideas for smoothing the journey.

How do you deal with this issue with parents?

5 Responses to “Practice. It’s a minefield.”

  1. muzeek

    Great ideas! Brushing teeth, eating lunch, wearing clothes to school (not pajamas) are all nonnegotiable actions that children accept. Most important, especially for younger children, is parental involvement in helping their child to establish regular practice.

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  2. kristinsmusicstudio

    Reblogged this on Small Town Music Lessons and commented:
    Is music practice negotiable? The teacher can’t enforce any activities or practice times once the student’s lesson is over for the week… that’s your job, totally awesome parents. 🙂 Practice should be consistent, daily, and non-negotiable. See the link for great ideas from another teacher. 🙂

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