Research shows that regularly playing an instrument can increase IQ by seven points in both children and adults and that those who study music score an average of 20 percent higher on standardized tests, but parents face plenty of challenges when it comes to handling their child’s introduction to music. From enrolling them in the best music lessons to finding the perfect instrument, no task is quite as daunting as convincing their child to practice. We all know consistent and smart practice is essential to growing as a musician, and studies show a strong relationship between practice and musical achievement, but what happens if your child hates the idea? You’re not alone- it’s a very common issue, and it can be overcome. Here are a few different ways to motivate your child to practice his or her instrument on a more consistent basis.
Make Practice Time More Productive
A great way to improve your child’s practice time is to ensure that the time they do spend practicing is as productive as possible. Making practice time productive is difficult, so you shouldn’t expect your child to master it overnight. Rather, work with them (and their instructor) to create and use a practice cycle. The National Association for Music Education has an entire article about practice cycles on their website, but in short, it includes making a baseline recording, writing S.M.A.R.T goals, selecting a goal, practicing using pre-selected practice strategies, creating a final recording, and writing a reflection.
Did you know that even passively listening to music can stimulate firing patterns within the brain that are similar to those related to higher-order cognitive functions? It’s true! If you have the opportunity to see your child’s instrument of choice being played in a professional setting, jump at the opportunity. Nothing will be quite as motivational for your child as seeing his or her instrument being played by a professional in front of a supportive and interested audience. Whether it’s an acoustic guitar performance at a local coffee shop or an elaborate performance by an orchestra or ensemble, seeing other people clap and applaud for someone playing their instrument may influence them to practice theirs a little more often. And since it’s been said that 10,000 hours of practice makes perfect, the more often you can convince your child to practice the better!
Give Them an Audience
As long as your child isn’t extremely shy, they’ll likely enjoy playing their instruments in front of friends and family. If you’re a single parent or don’t live near a lot of family, you can be their audience. Just ask them to perform a new song for you once a week, and keep it consistent. Whether it’s a Monday evening mini-recital or a Saturday afternoon jam session, they’ll look forward to impressing you with what they’ve learned each week. And, as an added bonus, you’ll enjoy the special time the two of you spend bonding over music week after week.
Make It Routine
As with the point above, consistency is key when it comes to setting a practice schedule. Set aside time each day, or every other day, for practicing. Ideally, their practice routine would occur before the “fun” stuff- if you let your child use the computer or watch TV before practicing, it’ll be harder for them to sit down and concentrate than it would be if they started practicing right after school. Set the practice routine at a time that works for the both of you- if your child is a morning person, have them serenade you over breakfast. If their creativity flows at night, encourage them to practice while you enjoy dessert.
Focus on the Music
If you’re having a difficult time convincing your child to practice, the problem might lie in the music. Buy anthologies of sheet music that your child can browse through until they find something that stands out to them. If your child enjoys listening to classic rock with you, purchase them a book of Beatles songs. If your child has a book of Mozart pieces for the piano, sit down with your child and read his biography. Sometimes children just need to feel a connection to the music before they can become fully invested in learning how to play.
Find a Good Teacher
The very best teachers leave their ego at the door, and won’t be offended if you decide to try out a different teacher. In fact, some of the best teachers would encourage it. Sometimes your child just needs to connect with a different personality or teaching style in order to fully enjoy playing their instrument. Fortunately, Music & Arts is a premier private music lesson facility- with lessons customized by hand-selected by a wide selection of highly qualified instructors. Learn more about enrolling your child in private music lessons through Music & Arts.
Praise the Effort
There’s a lot of research that supports the idea that praising the effort your child makes is more effective than simply focusing on the end result. Praising the effort and rewarding the attempts is more stimulating to your child than only paying attention to them at recitals or performances. If you focus too much on the end result, your child may become resistant to practicing out of fear that they won’t be able to repeat a good recital performance. To further encourage practicing, casually speak with your child throughout the week about how beneficial practicing is and how even the best musicians in the world got to where they are through practice and dedication.
Practice is Good for the Brain
Not only does practice make perfect (well, 10,00 hours of it at least!), but music training can actually structurally alter the human brain, for the better! These changes can correlate to improvements in motor and auditory skills, and you’ve probably heard that learning music can improve your child’s test scores, too. Don’t believe us? Check out this neuroscience study that shows a direct link between music practice and the development of working memory during adolescence and childhood. Forget trying to get your child to eat kale, maybe all you need to focus on is getting them to practice!
If you’re trying to convince an older child to practice, just tell them their memory will improve! In one study, those with the greatest amount of musical experience did the best on tests of mental acuity, followed by those with less musical study followed by those who never took music lessons. Proof that music really DOES make you smarter!
Want more ideas? Here are seven practice tips to check out from our friends at the National Association for Music Education.