Encouraging Kids to Practice Music Between Lessons: Guide for Parents
“My child just goes to the piano each day to practice without me asking.” This is every parent’s dream, but oftentimes not the reality.
As a parent, you’re likely familiar with the common belief that regular practice is essential for musical growth. You invested in weekly lessons and your child loves their time with their teacher, however, you notice they aren’t practicing at home. You cannot help but worry that you’re wasting time and money with lessons each week. But, is this really the case?
Unlike breathing, children are not born with an inherent drive to practice consistently and effectively. It is a skill in self-discipline, one that is not easy to develop, but one that can have a profound impact that goes beyond just studying music.
While your child would benefit from regular practice, it is not imperative for progress. In fact, pressuring children to practice could lead to a negative association with music. Instead, the focus should be on teaching children how to practice effectively. Just like learning an instrument, learning to practice effectively takes guidance, encouragement, and time. In this guide, we will explore how parents can guide and encourage kids to practice while maintaining their natural curiosity and love of music.
Help Your Child Form a New Habit:
The first step to effective practice is forming a practice habit. Short 15-30 minute sessions 4-5 times per week are more effective than a weekly hour session. Short sessions with time in between allows students to process their material, and aids in the creation of new neural pathways.
Studies show that it takes approximately 66 days to form a new habit. Consider helping your child do a 66 day challenge with a meaningful reward at the end. Click here to download our 66 Day Practice Habit Challenge Tracker. If your child sticks to the plan of practicing, say, 15 minutes four times per week for 66 days, they get an at-home spa night with mom!
Take a look at your child’s schedule and figure out a routine that works best for everyone. Maybe this is after they finish their homework each day or 15 minutes before dinner every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s better to start small and increase the time once the initial habit is established. Keep in mind, your child’s instinctual brain functioning will naturally resist the idea of practicing, but by following many of the strategies in this guide, they will overcome this challenge and reap the life changing rewards of consistent practice.
Help Your Child Set Attainable Goals
When children are involved in the goal setting process with the assistance of their parents and or teacher, they are excited and motivated to practice outside the lesson. Goals should be clear, measurable, time-bound, and attainable. For example “I will be a better singer” could be “I will accurately sing all the notes and rhythms in ‘My Favorite Things’ in one month.” When a student sets and achieves their unique goal, they will experience a sense of accomplishment far more gratifying than any extrinsic reward.
Create a Plan
Once your child has defined their goal, it is up to the teacher to give clear instructions on how to reach their goal. Additionally, consider sharing your practice plan with your teacher and ask for a specific outline on how practice time should be spent. For example, if you are aiming for 15 minutes of practice 4 times per week, then perhaps the first 7 minutes is spent doing a physical stretch and vocal warm-up and then 5 minutes is spent drilling a tricky passage in the song and the last 3 minutes they will do a run through of the song with an accompaniment track. The important thing is we want to avoid aimless practicing and mindless play throughs.
Set up the Ideal Practice Environment
As mentioned earlier, your child’s primitive brain will resist practicing, therefore, it’s best to eliminate any obstacles. Setting up a quiet space with minimal distractions and all their materials (instrument, music, metronome) easily accessible can make practice easier and more enjoyable for your child. Keep in mind that some kids are self conscious and would prefer to have privacy when they practice. If this is your child, then giving them that space can go a long way in making them feel safe to practice, explore, and make mistakes.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Singing Lessons
In addition to choosing the right teacher, putting in the right amount of effort can accelerate your growth and improve your results.
- Be consistent: Sickness and other commitments will always get in the way, but when possible prioritizing your weekly lesson and consistently showing up will go a long way. Singing is a motor skill, which requires periods of unlearning followed by periods of new learning. Consistently showing up means you will go through the unlearning periods more quickly and get to the new learning, the really fun part, even faster.
- Be a sponge and try something different: Your teacher will suggest some whacky exercises that may seem counterintuitive, but trust me, they are our secret to helping you experience new coordinations and sounds. So be open to everything and view your lessons as a time to explore. That is when the best learning happens.
- Practice patience and self love: Singing is a complex process that requires patience. The students that get the fastest results are the ones that keep that negative voice at bay and treat themselves with love and respect.
- Start a practice habit: Creating and sticking to a practice routine is all about forming a new habit. Studies show that it takes 66 days to create a new habit. First come up with a sustainable practice plan and then embark on a 66 day challenge. Keep in mind, your primitive brain will resist, but with the weekly accountability of a voice teacher, you form an effective practice habit.
- Set realistic goals: One of the greatest motivators for both lessons and practice is setting a meaningful goal. Talk to your teacher about the goal you have in mind and they will help you determine if it is realistic along with the steps you should take to achieve your goal.
Advanced Tips for Making the Most of Your Singing Lessons
For those of you that want to really give it your all, follow these advanced tips.
- Periodically study with other teachers: Every teacher has a slightly different approach and can offer a fresh perspective, which can sky rocket your growth as a singer. While it is important to have one teacher for an extended period of time, mixing in lessons with another teacher can have a positive impact.
- Stay positive: A positive attitude and mindset can go a long way in helping you improve your voice. Stay motivated by celebrating your wins no matter how small.
I hope I convinced you that you can become a better singer and benefit from singing lessons even if you think you’re tone deaf. With the right teacher, dedication, and a positive attitude you can become a better singer. So let me know in the comments below, what is that one song you have always wanted to sing?
Want to enroll your child in music lessons?
Our friendly team would love to connect with you and answer all of your questions.