Make music, not war. Is that too much to ask? Even talented kids who love music will put up a fight when it comes to practicing. I've been there myself (still playing piano after 36 years), and 9 years still driving my three children to lessons. That's a lot of accumulated blood, sweat, tears and wrong notes. The question is how to get kids to practice their instruments without losing your mind.
You can use these tips and adjust them to the rhythm (haha) of your child's personality and schedule. Some of these tips come from my own experiences, and some come from the pens of experts. Just remember that this a longer journey. Be patient, because music doesn't happen overnight.
1. Create a musical home. Listen to a variety of music in your house. Go to performances together. Listen to your kids play, and then talk about their music. Talk with your kids about their favourite musicians, and how practice contributed to their success.
2. Record Them. Kids will be surprised to hear how far they have come over time. Also a great tool for self-correction and reflection.
3. Set Practice Goals, Not Time Goals. Many parents and kids fixate on practicing for "x" amount of time. I learned that it's often better to have shorter practices with specific objectives. Every practice session should be meaningful, and have a few set goals. Quality over quantity. Talk to the teacher for guidance. Eventually, kids become quite adept at determining goals for themselves. I have also found that when kids feel a sense of achievement, they will push themselves to practice longer.
4. Embrace Performance Opportunities. Great advice from Piano Lessons World! I would add that performances don't have to be formal recitals. My favourite performances happen spontaneously in our backyard, at dinner parties, and for visiting family members. Sometimes the audience consists entirely of stuffed animals! All types of performances can motivate kids to practice, and to take pride in their playing.
5. Stay positive and end practice with play. Here is some excellent advice from a parent and music teacher: “My 8 year old son started violin a year ago and for him the things that work best are making sure we are fairly consistent with practice (4 or 5 times a week), sitting next to him and staying positive and enthusiastic while he plays, making sure we don’t leave it too late in the day when he’s too tired and can get easily frustrated, and adding some fun melodies he recognizes into the mix. After we’ve gone over music from his lesson, we often end with an “open jam” session where he can play whatever and however he wants (ie., Shredding on the violin with Led Zeppelin strings cranked up high in the background!). If someone in the family can join in on an instrument, all the better…"
I hope these tips are music to your ears, and bring some harmony back to your routine!