How to Get Your Child to Practice

Published on 9 December 2022 at 11:40

So, you have told your child you expect them to practice their instrument every day after school, or before school, or you’ve made a practice schedule and slotted in all the times they are to practice.  You have bought a beautiful instrument that meets all the teacher’s requirements and have set up a quiet area in the house just for little Johnny to lock himself away and work on becoming the next concert pianist…..yep, you’ve got this practice thing sorted. 


Only problem is, kids come with this pesky inbuilt component called free-will so they don’t usually just magically go and do whatever we tell them!   You quickly see this is going to become a daily battle of wills: yelling, cajoling, bribing, pleading, begging, crying (you more than them!)…..and you wonder if it’s all worth it.  You don’t have time for this and you certainly don’t have the energy.  But you know learning an instrument is good for them and you know they do actually enjoy playing music sometimes. 


So, what’s the solution?  I don’t profess to be a child-rearing expert. I can only share what I have found works in my household and tips I have learnt from others.  My goal is to create a situation where practice can and does happen regularly with the minimum of fuss and the minimum of parental intervention.   Younger children who are just starting out are most likely going to need some help in the beginning, perhaps even requiring a parent to sit with them sometimes, but practice at this age and stage only needs to be 5-10 minutes a day.


The way I see it, there are two main strategies:

  • Reward the child for practising 
  • Withhold privileges until practice is done


The reward system could look something like this:

   *If you practice 5 days this week, I will pay you X amount of money.

   * If you practice 5 days this week, every week for the whole term, you can come shopping and         we’ll pick out a present / have a special day out. Etc.


The withholding privileges method goes more like this:

  • You don’t get any screen time, pocket money, time with friends (whatever it is that holds value to your child) until your practice is done on each of the days we have agreed it to be done.
  • Perhaps if they’ve done really well for the whole term they may also get a treat in the holidays.


In my household, we use method 2.  I use this method because I don’t believe my kids should be paid or given something extra for doing what is expected of them. (This is part of my personal parenting beliefs which of course doesn’t have to be the same as yours).  You might argue it’s the same thing, but there is a subtle difference.  Too often I hear parents have set up a payment or reward system but the child still isn’t practicing.  Or it worked for a while and now it’s not working anymore.  Why?  Because the child doesn’t care enough about the reward and/or it’s not immediate enough My kids know that if they get their practice, homework and their chores done, then they get an immediate reward of being able to relax on their screens.  They are then much more likely to just go and get on with it.  If a time comes when screen-time doesn’t mean so much to them anymore, we would have to find another motivator!


Does this mean we are manipulating our kids to practice?  Absolutely!  But I like to remind everyone we are talking about playing a musical instrument, not torturing them.  By placing an expectation that they play their instrument regularly, and following through, we are demonstrating that we value music in our family.  Showing an interest in their playing is also extremely important.  No, you don’t have to listen and watch every key go down, but if you are able to keep an ear out and every now and then say “Hey, that song was sounding great!”, “Is that a new song you are learning? What’s it called?”, “Can you play for me today? I’d love to hear what you can play now?”; it can really give them a boost.


The next article will look at motivation and how we can increase the likelihood kids actually want to play their instrument by looking at aspects such as repertoire choice, difficultly of the music, teaching them HOW to practice, etc.  No, they won’t always want to do it.  No, it won’t always be easy, but if it’s always too hard, too boring, no fun, then we’ve got it all wrong.


‘Til next time….!


Add comment


There are no comments yet.