This post isn't written by me, but another piano teacher with a blog (see above). However, I could have written it because I get asked all the time how to help a student practice (see my post here on motivation tips for teen students). It's so hard to give advice for a very private matter for your home and family. But here are suggestions, I use all the time. Remember, music is a long-term skill. Some parents want to pull their children from lessons because they don't see them not practicing, which means, to the parent, that their dollars are wasted. Never fear, their kids are still learning at lessons and those skills they learn on the piano are so important in the long run. Have faith, don't give up, and trust that your student/child is soaking it all up. One day it will return to you many fold from the study habits learned, motor skills enhanced, math figured out, and music in their heart.
p.s. enjoy the following ideas
Recently, I had a teacher email me looking for solutions to end the practice wars that were occurring in the home of one of her piano students. Her studio parent was stressed to the max; feeling as though piano practice was creating a rift between her and her child, testing her parenting patience to the limits, and making her say all sorts of things she regretted later. It was not her idea of “music in the home”.
When parents sign their child up for piano lessons they are not looking for a way to encourage epic battles at home. As piano teachers it is in our best interest to help piano studio parents end these battles…
When choosing a location for your piano, select a space that is lived-in, welcoming, and well-lit. Keep it close to “the action” but not in the action. Your children will gravitate to the piano more often if it is in a central place in your home. Avoid bedrooms, basements and other “put away” places. Feeling shut-off from the family while practicing will inevitably lead to a reluctance to spend time on the piano.
While choosing an appropriate space, also consider the noise factor; not only from the piano, but also from your family’s day-to-day activities. Your children want to be close by, but not competing with noise from TV’s, dishwashers and washing machines.
2. Make the space warm and welcoming. Your children will be encouraged to spend upwards of 30 minutes every day in this space. Is it a happy place to be for this amount of time? Small adjustments to lighting and heating can make a world of difference. Seek out places with natural light and ensure it is a cheerful and welcoming space that will encourage your child to visit the piano often for their own enjoyment.
3. Ensure your children have all required materials at hand. Help your children put together a small basket or bin of everything they may need for home practice. Pens, pencils, highlighters, and post-it notes will give your children a sense of organization that will then spill over into their practice habits. Your children will also need adequate lighting to see their music, and a comfortable bench at the correct height to practice comfortably and correctly.
4. Make the “Practice Nest” a communal space. Children of any age appreciate company while they practice. Having a chair, couch, beanbag chair or pillows nearby where family members will be inclined to sit, listen and enjoy the music immediately sets the tone for happy time on the piano. Encourage siblings to stop by and listen quietly, and allow yourself even just 10 minutes to sit and listen with undivided attention each time your children practice. A set-up that is conducive to including the family in home practice will encourage everyone involved to make piano practice an activity the entire family can be a part of.
5.CRAMMING IS NOT THE ANSWER
Nothing stresses a parent out more than helping their child practice when they have 10 minutes before leaving for the piano lesson. Keep the peace at home by beginning home practice immediately after you return home from their piano lesson. They will still remember what they covered in their lesson, and the piano books will actually make it to the piano… setting you up for a good start to the piano practice week.
Cramming creates feelings of inadequacy in your child as they struggle to perfect what should take 7 days to percolate. Cramming makes you sweat and wonder why in the world you are paying for these lessons. Cramming is not the answer.
6. MISTAKES ARE OKAY
We promise! It’s our job as piano teachers to sort out the mistakes in lesson time.Your job at home is to be the support – to remind them to spend time on the piano, congratulate them on their efforts, revel in the joy that is your child creating music, and show that you value music in your home.
Avoid the following statements and watch peace fall over your home immediately: “Is that right? I don’t think that’s right.”… “That’s not how it’s supposed to sound.”… “Are you watching your music?”… “Your sister played that piece and it didn’t sound like that.” … “Wrong note!”… “Try it again.” etc. Your child will get their back up immediately and the practice wars are sure to ensue.
7. “BUT MRS. JONES SAID!”
How many times has your child shouted a statement similar to this? “Mrs. Jones said I only have to play the first page!”… “Mrs. Jones said to play it up here.”… “Mrs. Jones said to play it this fast!”… What your child is actually trying to say is “I want to be in charge of my learning.” So let them! Whether or not Mrs. Jones actually said these things is beside the point.
Resist the urge to argue (and resist the urge to call up Mrs. Jones to ask what the heck she is teaching) and trust that your child will sort it out themselves. This is often a knee-jerk reaction on your child’s part – they so desperately want to be right and in charge and it’s their way of saying “Stay out of this, I’ve got it.” If you allow them this right to direct their own learning you will help to create a confident piano student.
More websites to visit ideas with charts, non-candy rewards, and encouragement for parents, please read to help you in your quest to not have piano practice wars at your house.