Mistake #4 You assume they know how to practice

There’s a nasty truth about practicing no one likes to talk about…

No one actually knows how to do it.

Seriously. Just about every musician you’ve ever seen up on stage is winging it at home – even the prodigies. Don’t let those fun size little Mozarts fool you. Most of them are just following more “play it again!” commands from the kitchen this week.

Most teachers don’t teach kids how to practice. The same way school teachers don’t teach students how to study. Teachers teach skills, give information, and explain technique. Some of them ask how practice is going at home, but that’s where it ends. They’re swamped with back-to-back lessons and full studios. So unless you have a fantastic relationship with them, you won’t get the help you really need to tackle those daily practice problems.

Once your child gets home from lessons, they probably feel lost when they’re practicing. Kids feel helpless, left to fend for themselves, looking for clues, strategies, anything that makes them feel like they’re on the right track.

So what do you need to know to put them on the path to success?

The Practice Breaking Point 

Practicing means failing over and over again. It also means succeeding over and over again. It’s a ton of work physically, mentally, and emotionally. Most of the time kids are just stumbling on good habits here and there that barely get them to the next step.

And if your child’s not so lucky? After too much failure, and too little success, one of you will reach a breaking point and decide enough is enough. You didn’t have the stamina, your child didn’t have the talent, none of you had the discipline it took to be any good.

We can’t let that happen.

Learning how to practice is the #1 priority because it’s what gets your child the results they need to keep playing. Becoming a good musician isn’t about practicing more than everyone else – it’s about practicing effectively, efficiently, and successfully every time you practice.

The parents who raise successful kids have learned the secret to helping them play beautiful music is teaching them how to get there themselves. And if your child has any chance of sticking with music lessons and becoming successful, they’re going to need to see some results for themselves… fast.

Plan It, Test It, Repeat

First you need a practice plan with a small, specific, measurable goal in mind. Pick one thing that needs to be practiced everyday before they go back to their teacher. This way the most important priority for the week’s practice never gets skipped or left until the last day. Most of the time this is written down somewhere in their notebook, or jotted down on a piece of paper the teacher sent home.

Be clear about what the specific measurable goal is with your child. Tell them to do that one thing in a short, focused practice, and be done with it. Don’t worry if it doesn’t sound perfect right now. It doesn’t have to sound perfect. What matters is they have a plan with a goal in mind, they feel in control when they’re practicing, and they’re prepared to learn more at their next lesson.

Next week take a look again at the practice plan. Was it too much? Not enough? Did practicing in the morning feel horrible? Did they practice too late? Were they grumpy practicing because they were hungry, tired, or exhausted after an extracurricular or long day at school? Talk about what happened last week, and try something different this week.

Parents who raise successful kids use strategies like this to have a reference point for their teacher. That way when there’s a moment to ask for help, a short update on what’s happening at home gives the teacher enough information to respond with a tweak here and there that’ll make next week’s practice smoother.

Smoother practices mean better practices which means progress kids can be proud of – the key to getting them to stick with lessons.

Kids Don’t Give Up Because They’re Lazy

I don’t think kids give up because they’re lazy. In fact, I really hate when anyone says that. That’s just insulting. I don’t think most anyone gives up because they’re lazy.

I think we give up because we feel stuck and we don’t know what to do next. I think we give up because we’re angry, disappointed, even sad. We feel defeated. What we’ve done in the past hasn’t worked, so why bother doing it again? We don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and we’ve been walking too long. We’re tired and nothing’s changed. Quitting means we don’t have to feel defeated anymore.

Kids don’t like wandering on a path that’s getting them nowhere. They’ll get angry, frustrated, and every week will get worse with every practice. But the sooner your child learns how to practice, and when to determine what is and isn’t working for them, the sooner they’ll achieve their goals. After all, most of success in life has to do with the figuring it out, dealing with the ups and downs, and making a new plan of attack to face the day.

So go on! Make a plan of action and keep the lines between your teacher open. A quick email, a phone call here and there, a quick chat after their lesson will let them know what’s going on so they can help. Soon, all of this won’t be such a struggle. You’ll start hitting the sweet spot of practicing and it won’t feel like a scavenger hunt every week.

I’ll talk to you soon!

Elizabeth

P.S.

You can always tweak your practice plans next week. Learning how to practice is going to take some time – but it’s a solid skill they’re going to use over and over again. Get your hands dirty, figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t worry that the practices aren’t going perfectly right now. It’s more about creating a small weekly achievable goal that makes them feel like they’re really getting somewhere when they play for their teacher again.

P.P.S.

Get here from a link from a friend?  This article is part 4 of a 7-part free email series on the mistakes you make getting your child to practice. Click here to get them all.