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How to motivate your child to practice?

Imagine that Patience and Motivation got married. Their general fights would be about Motivation being too moody and changing its mind on an hour basis while Patience likes to plan everything far in advance and then stick to the plan. Patiently. Patience would also be very annoyed with Motivation's disability of being independant and lack of concentration in order to put theory into practice, but Motivation would get completely crazy when Patience would need 4 hours of preparation to leave the house. But like every couple the good outweights the bad. Because Motivation gives Patience an idea bigger then the world and Patience plans it out and helps put it in the practice. When trying to succeed in life it helps if your Patience and Motivation are a happy couple living in harmony. Especially in the begining of our development, in early childhood, our emotions are stronger and we do not rationalise them. A general age when a child starts to rational its feelings is aproximately at the age of 6. There is also a very specific thing when it comes to children and emotions, they usually feel one strong emotion at a time for a short amount of time. This is why the most common advice when it comes to toddler's tantrums is to divert their attention. Of course it does not work everytime but it is a generally a good idea to do.

But what has that to do with motivation?

Well if we look at the statistic, children in the developed part of the world usually starts taking instrumental lessons at the age of 6 or 7. There are some differences regarding in which culture (Eastern or Western) the child has been brought up but 6 is an avarage time when they will take individual or group lessons. This is also an avarage age for starting primary school.

For young children this is a very big life change because suddenly there is much more responsibility and much more peer and family pressure to cope with. Here is where the first steps towards effective self-motivation are being build. I don't want to go too much into the details of how different way of family dynamic and cultural background affects the motivational development but the bottom line is we are all picking up the patterns we learn at home, school and general environment and at the end of the day all those patterns mix with our 'raw' character.

In the years of teaching I noticed that there is a huge amount of parents who think that playing a musical instrument should come from a pure wish of a child and not their own dreams. Which I completely agree with but you need to know that playing and especially starting to learn a musical instrument is build from two very different parts.

Part 1

Enjoying the sound of the instrument, loving to sing and to cooperate on music lessons, liking your friends at music school, loving the pieces you learn and having a wish to be better at something.

This is what should come from your child.

Part 2

Practising technical exercoses, keeping hands in the right positions, making the practice of your instrument a habbit, being precise at practising.

This is what comes firstly from child's music teacher and NEEDS to be supported by a parent at home in order to see a faster improvment.

This all comes from a very common but not as good human habbit that we like final products but struggle with the making of them. And if you are not one of the lucky parents who has a child who loves to clean its room and can't wait to do its homework and after vaccum the whole house well first of all if you do well done, if you ever write a book I'll buy it. But if you don't I wouldn't be too worried because it is quite normal. It doesn't mean your child doesn't want to live in a clean house. It just means that the process of cleaning is not really appealing. And playing open strings on your violin or practising finger exercises without any kind of melody is not either. But as the clean house is crucial for a well being and health safety, the technical exercises and good hand shape is crucial for playing the instrument successfully.

Here is where a lot of people will not agree with my point of view, but good technique is important even if this is a hobby and you do not want your child to be a professional musician (which in theory should be their choice anyway). Why, you ask? Because playing an instrument out of tune and badly does not bring that Part 1 that we talked about. I have numerous students who wanted to stop the lessons because of a very common sentence 'there is no point I am rubbish anyway'. This brings me back to the hard work blog post, because as soon as we designed a schedule where they actually spent time working and practising in organised and for everyone under 10 supervised (!!) way the improvement was there. No questions about it.

So if I make a quick conclusion in order to keep your child motivation that they showed when starting the music lessons, you as a parent need to help them with their patience.


Let's have a look :

1. Cooperate with the teacher. If the teacher is genuine and a professional (which in a perfect world everyone should be) they will be very happy with you being involved. Involved does not mean googling and then arguing with the teacher but it means that you are an active listener on your child music lessons (this goes especially for children under the age of 10). If you can not attend the lessons ask the teacher to write in a notebook, a practice plan that you should incorporate in your family schedule and write down 2 main technical points (good hand shape, active fingers, intonation of first finger etc.) that you will pay special attention to.

2. Make practice a habbit with a clear goal in mind. You know your child. Find a time in the day when they are not too tired for a concentrated practice. It's good to start with warm up exercises and technical exercises because this is how we wake up our muscle memory and build better coordination and control over our fingers, hands, breathing etc.

They will not always want to do it! That is a fact. Like they are not very happy with making their bed or cleaning their toys. This is where your patience will help keep their motivational level to rise again.

3. Reward them. Of course apply your own family values and habits but in general playing a musical instrument or singing is a difficult job. When they improve, tell them. Be very encouraging even if their violin playing currently sounds like a dying cat. It's normal. Especially the first 2 years of playing an instrument, especially string one, will seem like a lot of work for not as much music. But it is a necessary process and they need your help.

4. When they clean their room, they can play. When you finish the supervised and planned part of practice, let them play with their instrument. It may sound dreadful and have no sense but they are having fun. They are enjoying it and they definitely deserved it.

A good news is that if your survive the first 2 years of music lessons, your child will get more and more independent when practising. Luckily a lot of technical difficulties is just an upgrade so if the base is well build, you stand a good chance that your child will start to develop self-motivation and paying attention to being precised. They still need your encouragment and sometimes reminders to 'clean' but their independence will give them more confidence and award you with being a passive listener of their practising not an active one.

At the end of the day, you want your child to feel good about themselves and being good at things you do is definitely a good start. But unfortunately playing a musical instrument requires much more work at the beginning and the results sometimes does not show right away.

So have enough Patience for you and your child and help the keep their Motivation alive until they don't meet their own Patience.

Have you got any specific ways that worked in the past and would be happy to share your secrets with us? Don't forget to leave a comment on our Facebook page or send us an email

Are you an aspiring young musician who needs a efficient practice advice? Don't miss our blog on the next Motivational Monday!

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