One of a parent’s responsibilities is to encourage children to do things they don’t want to do. Sometimes piano practice is one of those things. If your child tends to avoid piano practice, coming up with ever-imaginative excuses, and you’re looking for ways to encourage and motivate them, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ve put together a few tips to help you encourage your child to practice the piano!
-Set up a reward system
-Avoid rigid times for practice
-Finding the right piano tutor for your child
-Turn your living room into a concert hall
-Share your love of music
-Ask your child to teach you something
There’s a lot of psychological study behind setting up rewards systems - psychologists call it operant conditioning. B.F. Skinner, the psychologist behind positive reinforcement, found in his experiments that when a reward is given for an action it is more likely to be repeated.
Putting that into practice means setting up a reward system to make sure when they have completed the action you wanted them to (i.e. practising the piano), that action is positively reinforced!
Sitting down and talking through a possible reward system with your child could be a way of beating the practising battle. Your child has had their opportunity to talk through what would make them more likely to stick to their practice and what can often stop them from doing it. It shows your child that you value their opinion and you were willing to hear their side of the story.
It’s important to remember that there are likely to be times where even the promise of a reward isn’t enough, and that’s okay. It’s important to stick with it, but a little empathy on your part will go a long way!
So the deal is piano practice is twice a week for an hour, on Mondays and Thursdays? Any deviation from that means they aren’t going to practise right?
Not necessarily, there’s nothing stopping practice being spread across the week on the days that make the most sense.
That way you’re taking into account busier or quieter weeks, time with family and friends (equally important for their wellbeing) and working flexibly around your child's mood. There seems to be little point in enforcing rigid practising times when your child isn’t going to get the most out of the practice session.
Even as an adult, it’s often difficult to find the willpower to stick to the activities we know will benefit us. Have you ever skipped out on a gym session because you’re too tired or not in the mood?
Many workplaces understand this, with some implementing ‘flexi-time’, where workers can spread their hours across the week in order to work when they are most productive!
This is where you refer back to the reward system and agree on the amount of practice time across the week that you as a team think is beneficial.
It’s worth talking through what needs to be worked on during those hours and how that time is best divided. This week sight reading might be more important, but next week it’s all about learning a new song.
Finding the right piano tutor for your child is arguably the most important way you can encourage your child to engage with and commit to their piano practice.
The relationship between student and tutor is incredibly important - it can mean the difference between your child looking forward to practice, or frustration at practice and disinterest during their lessons.
It’s important that the piano teacher adapts the lessons to reflect your child’s learning style and has a good rapport with your child. It’s important that the role piano tutors play is more than just teaching scales - they must be a musician that your child can look up to!
Equally, make sure you have a good relationship with the tutor - on the same page about how much practice is necessary, how quickly they should be progressing, and your child’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to playing the piano.
Forget the Sydney Opera house, the Royal Albert Hall and Wembley Arena. Grab the popcorn, your best glittery light-up headbands and prepare to turn your living room into your very own concert hall!
Convincing their children to practise the piano can be a parent’s greatest struggle - especially after a long day at school when they’re tired or hungry or snowed under with maths worksheets.
How can you tell them they should spend an hour practising the piano when it’s stacked against all of those other pressing tasks?
Making their debut on the living room stage as part of a fun-filled family evening will mean you’ve given them a purpose to practise beyond their next lesson, and with you as their audience, their first experience of performing in front of other people will be a positive one.
Twin that with lots of praise and some singing and dancing, and piano practice will become a relaxing occasion not a gruelling battle between parent and child - and you’ll really feel involved in the whole experience!
Passion is really contagious. When two people share excitement for a particular thing it can be a real bonding experience - and you’re more likely to repeat the action!
Sharing your favourite pieces of music with your children and really showing passion and enthusiasm for it is a sure fire way to keep up the momentum.
Talk about the way your favourite songs make you feel, why they make you feel that way, what you love about that particular piece of music or song how that composer or artist managed to create that feeling.
Then it’s their turn - ask them about their favourite song or piece of music. It could be a piece that they have been learning to play or it could be one they heard on the radio. It will really challenge your children to question music and think about music more deeply. It will engage their critical thinking!
Having these conversations with your child will help you get to grips with their music preferences.
You’re showing a genuine interest in their opinions, something that children aged 4 or 14 can really get onboard with.
It’s time to get hands on!
How better to get involved in your children’s experience than learning the piano with them?
Ask your child to teach you a piece of music, or the new notes or chords they learnt this week.
You can see first-hand how challenging but rewarding the experience of learning the piano can be - you might even want to take up some piano lessons yourself
If you are trying to encourage your child to practice for upcoming grade exams, you can find our guide to everything you need to know about the ABRSM exams here