Mistake #1 You’re practicing at the wrong time

My first semester in college I set a goal to exercise every morning at 6:00 am.

I planned to wake up at 5:30 am, be at the gym by 5:55 am, and work out between 6 am – 7 am. It was all very ambitious.

For about 2 weeks, I did this every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

But by mid September, I stopped. I overdid it. And I burned out.

Has something like this ever happened to you?

Discipline Had Nothing To Do With It

It wasn’t that I was lazy. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the motivation to exercise. I really wanted to lose weight. The dreaded freshman 15 was quickly becoming the freshman 30.

My problem? I picked the time to make a great habit completely out of thin air.

I thought exercising at 6 am just sounded…better somehow. I thought people who exercised earlier, were better exercisers. I envied those thin beautiful women jogging down the sidewalk with their perfect ponytails, flat stomachs, and cute work out gear who ran at sunrise every morning.

I’d look at them and think, “They have it all together. If I can do what they do, I can have what they have.”

But after failing only 2 weeks into my new ambitious schedule, I realized I was focusing too much on a small part of a much larger picture.

Practice Should Work For You…Not Against You

Jumping into all that exercise seemed like a great idea at the beginning. It was all done with good intentions. I was excited about “losing weight and feeling great.” But I picked a time to start my daily healthy habit out of thin air.

I didn’t think about how I was going to keep it up, or how my workout time fit in my schedule. In fact, I approached making an exercise habit a lot like the way I approached practicing when I was a kid.

I tried practicing at the same time the “great kids” practiced. I remember thinking that if I could do what they were doing, I could have what they had…

Ever said, “This is the week we’ll practice everyday,” then you pick a time to start playing everyday, completely out of thin air?

After a while, practicing everyday is too hard to keep up. The scheduled time you picked to practice never really fit into your real life schedule in the first place. You fall off the wagon a few days here and there, and after a week or two give up on ever having a regular practice routine all together.

Exhausted and cranky, you practice together a little before their lesson – just to say you “did” – and their music doesn’t sound much better than it did last week when they return to play for their teacher. It’s enough to make you and your child throw your hands up in total frustration.

But here’s where everyone goes wrong…

This is where parents and kids start personalizing their failure. They think it’s because they don’t have the discipline or motivation to keep up a practice routine. But this isn’t the reason for any of that.

One of the top reasons making a practice routine fails for families is because it hasn’t become a simple habit yet.

So how do you start one?

Imagine what they could play if practice became a habit?

What if you could let go of when and how long a practice “should” happen and thought instead about making practices much shorter? During a time it could realistically get done everyday (or almost everyday)?

It can happen. But, before that dream comes true, let’s start with something small.

Think about your schedule. When could you fit 15 minutes of practice time each day, getting your child to play without pulling out your hair?

Is it right after dinner? After you’ve had your coffee? Right before they start homework? Pick a time you already see working in the day and devote 15 minutes. That’s it – 15 minutes at the same time every day.

Short, focused practices around the same time each day trump one long, stressful session right before their lessons.

Don’t try a time you know will be a stretch

Don’t try to make morning practices happen, when both of you hate mornings. Don’t try to have night practices when both of you work much better in the day. Work with the schedule you have now.

The practice time for you and your child may not be the one another family has. Yours may look totally different from theirs.

That doesn’t matter.

What matters is that the time you pick to practice is a time that fits well into your lives now. A time slot when your child can relax a little and focus on what they need to play.

Making their practice routine a priority in your family schedule helps them see that this time is just as important as a scheduled soccer game, ballet rehearsal, or a family dinner. When they see you making an effort to help keep the time consistent, they’ll be less likely to try to wiggle out of practicing.

What You Can Do This Week

If you can barely find the time to practice before their lessons, sit down and pick 3 days you know practice could realistically get done this week for 15 uninterrupted minutes. That’s it.

You can always increase your practice load later, once you have this habit in place. But practice has to be a habit before any of that happens.

For those of you already practicing three times a week, go up to four. If they’re practicing four times a week, try going up to five. The goal here is to make practicing a habit that will eventually happen everyday without you having to remind them. They’ll have more consistent results, which will make them want to practice more.

Keep the time they practice at the same time, and same amount each day. Decide together when it starts and when it ends. Above all, keep your word. If they want to practice more than you agreed on, that’s great! But kids smell trickery. So, no tricking them to practice longer or more than you’ve agreed to. You’re still in the process of building trust here – which, for some reason, is a little bit more difficult when they’re holding an instrument in their hands.

Talk to you soon!

Elizabeth

P.S.

Don’t go crazy and make them practice 7 times this week, and only 2 times next week! That’s not making practice a habit they’ll learn to keep up with – it’s too sporadic. One week they’ll play well, and the next week they’ll play sloppy. Kids don’t always make the connection why this is and it’ll just make them frustrated with practice altogether.

Not only that, but practicing inconsistently sends the message that practice is something they can “wiggle out of” again – that’s not a place you want to go back to!

P.P.S.

Get here from a link from a friend? This article is part 1 of a 7-part free email series on the mistakes you make getting your child to practice. Click here to get them all.