How to motivate the child for practicing

Shirley said: Sep 25, 2012
 4 posts

My 5 yr old daughter has been taking Suzuki Piano lesson for exactly a year. We have been practicing almost everyday for 45 min before the summer vacation. My daughter was supper motivated at the time,and thus, she progressed very fast. By the end of 8 month, she left with two song to finish book 1. Because of the vacation, we stopped practice for a month, and everything went downhill ever since. She forgot some portion of the songs. Knowing she is looking forward to finish book 1 and to motivate her,, we continued to take piano lesson throughout the summer but only once every two weeks. However, our practice is no longer as pleasant and effective as it used to be. My daughter only willing to practice the new songs. For any of the old songs, she always hesitates or becomes frustrated whenever she make a mistake. The practice duration has shortened from 45 min to 20 min. This lasted for a few month. To make the matter even worse, the music school we are attending decided to change teacher since our previous teacher no longer want to take 3 hour trip to each 3 kids. With the new teacher, my daughter started to tell me that she no longer like piano practice. She does not want to practice at all. I tried to make the practice interesting by creating games, giving stickers/stamps, letting her setting up the rules, but each trick only works for a short period of time. Could someone help me to find a way to motivate her to practice and to reestablish her confidence?

Thank you.

Paula Bird said: Sep 25, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Yes, I can help. Sounds like you’ve already got some good ideas. Be prepared for some rocky patches in the next month until you get everything back on track again.

First, put yourself back into the role of being charge and making the rules. You can lighten up a little bit later on, but no more letting your daughter set the tone, the time, or the tempo of your practices.

Find a time that you can consistently practice every day. Keep it the same time every day, and DO NOT SKIP any daily practices. You notice that your daughter was motivated before you took a month off? It probably was because you had a routine.

Preferably the practice time will be before something else that she wants to do, like go outside and play with her friends, her favorite TV show, story time, whatever. You know what would be best. Then if she takes too long to practice or complete her assignments, she will be eating into “her time.” If she refuses to practice (I couldn’t imagine ever telling my mother “no” without some sort of consequence), then she doesn’t get to do that activity. And you don’t need to remind her about that. If it happens, then you can tell her. She will try to negotiate a different deal, but sorry, that time has passed.

Then you need to be organized about your practices. Find out from her teacher what assignments she is supposed to practice and how the teacher wants them done. Make a list with your teacher’s advice. Then at practices, start with item number 1 and keep going until the assignment is complete. If your daughter takes too long for any reason, sorry, she now doesn’t have time to do what she was going to do.

I remember recently when one of my parents had gotten off the practice routine, and she was having all sorts of “drama” about practicing. I erased everything on the assignment list and then told mom her job was to find a consistent time every day and have her child play through all of the Twinkle Variations. EVERY DAY! The next lesson I had a completely different child before me, and mom and daughter were both happy. No drama during the week.

Try it. You may have a problem for 1 or 2 days, but if you persist EVERY DAY, the problem will go away.

Go ahead and put up a chart if you like. Mark the days that you and your child had good practices. Rate them with a smiley face. If your child reaches the end of 30 days with all smiley faces on the chart, plan to do something special together: playtime in the park, watch a special video, read a book together, go get ice cream. And when you consider rating the practices with a smiley face, consider that your own face is smiling. Be positive. Do not let your child anger you or frustrate you. Your child is a child. You are the adult who is able to be in control of the situation and your emotions. Just be calm and assertive and smile and hug a lot.

The solution to practice difficulties is often to just be consistent. Anything on top of that may be related to a new teacher or some parenting issue, but start first with the basics. If you must shorten your practice time for the first few days, like 10 or 15 minutes, then start there and let the time build up naturally.

Hope this helps. Just put yourself back in the driver’s seat. It doesn’t matter whether your child “likes” the new teacher. This is a lesson to learn as well. I didn’t always like my bosses, teachers, or coworkers. I just had to learn how to work with them well with a good attitude. Children need to learn this too. Your child may just be reacting to the change (some kids don’t like changes). But start with routine and consistency at home first for the next month before you look about to see if a change in teachers is warranted.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Paul said: Sep 25, 2012
Paul Rak11 posts

Hello Paula, your reply strikes a good chord! I like the “do the practice before something she likes” I will try that myself for the next few days. And now that I think about it, yes referring to our teacher’s assignments makes it easier for us to practice. Just the last 2 weeks our teacher assigned us to play all the Twinkles and songs up to May Song every day, as many of them each day before we practiced our latest new piece at the end. It worked. My daughter made the list herself and we checked each song off. Referring to the list of assignments in writing does help us tremendously. My daughter is 6.5 and can read so the list I have to be careful and write it well enough for her to read it….and I say “What did our teacher say we are to practice?” and we look at the list together.

Paula Bird said: Sep 25, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Yeah! it always makes me so happy to hear about successful parent child practice sessions!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Irene Mitchell said: Sep 26, 2012
Irene Mitchell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dallas, TX
111 posts

Awesome ideas, Paula!
Shirley, make sure she’s listening to the Bk 1 CD EVERY day… the more repetitions, the better. It will make recall of the review pieces incredibly easy. Make a video recording of the teacher playing the review pieces that are especially tricky for her… and carefully watch it every day, play along with her one hand at a time, or ‘air’ playing to get the rhythm/flow of the piece. Drill the hard sections slowly. I just found the coolest quote: “One must always practice slowly. If you learn something slowly, you forget it slowly.”
Best wishes!

Irene Mitchell

Barb said: Sep 27, 2012
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
Cello
678 posts

Irene, I think that quote originated with Itzhak Perlman. I first heard it on his YouTube video on practicing. Great advice!

And I would say, listen to the CD MORE than once a day. Play any pieces she has forgotten, and whatever she is currently working on as much as you can stand! Perhaps she would enjoy dancing to it, and then you can dance when she practices sometimes?

Remember to keep your attitude positive, too. “If the attitude of the mother changes, then the attitude of the child will also change.”—Suzuki, Ability Development from Age Zero p. 15 under “Practice that Creates Dislike” (I highly recommend the book!)

Here’s an idea for vacations: If you don’t have an instrument, you can still have just a few minutes of practice time where you sing some review pieces (perhaps while “air playing” a violin or using a table top for a piano) and usually you can take some recordings along for some continued listening, too.

Barb
Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Elizabeth said: Sep 28, 2012
Elizabeth K20 posts

Hi Shirley! There are already some good ideas here about getting your daughter motivated to practice more. Keeping practices consistent is so important, but it’s really hard for families to do. Trust me—you’re not alone—plenty of parents and kids have this same problem! I wouldn’t worry so much about how she went from 45 minutes to 20 minutes. Right now, it’s more important to find a way to make practice a habit she can’t stop—then she can make practice longer.

Keeping her involved in the practice week planning and goal setting is a good idea too. That should make it a little easier to practice together (and she’ll fight with you less) because she won’t feel like she’s just being told what to do by the adults.

I think her trying to jump ahead to learn new music instead of reviewing the old is her way of making music fun again. This isn’t a bad thing—it’s normal, healthy, and a part of becoming a great Suzuki student. Celia’s daughter was doing the same thing and I wrote a comment about that. Click here to read it. To get her motivation up again, I’d recommend going to a few concerts together soon, a Suzuki workshop, and a Suzuki Institute next summer. This will help keep music fun throughout the year because she’ll be around lots of other kids learning how to play Suzuki piano too.

Also, another reason for her decrease in motivation might be the fact that she’s had a change in teachers—and only been playing for 1 year. If she hasn’t connected with a teacher, or if she was beginning to connect with her past teacher (who is gone now), it’s going to change the way she feels about learning music. This is a hard one to talk about because you can’t make a relationship strong overnight and not every teacher can connect with every student. But the sooner that happens, the easier this will go for both of you.

Elizabeth

Practice for Parents Helping You Help Them

Laura said: Oct 15, 2012
Laura Mozena
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Palm City, FL
105 posts

Some suggestions I use for my families who are struggling with practice:

Pick the SAME TIME every day to practice so it becomes a habit (”we brush our teach before we go to bed”, “we practice right after dinner”)

Have a practice schedule that includes everything that needs to be practiced including review pieces, try saving the best for last (her favorite piece etc.)

Keep a selection of practice activities on hand and let her choose which ones she uses that day (blow out a tea light candle each time a piece is completed, pick review pieces out of a basket, roll the dice, etc.)

I read that you let her take charge sometimes which I don’t think is bad as long as there are parts of the practice where you are in charge (the first part of the lesson I help you remember what to practice and sit with you while you play, but for the last 10 min. you can practice what you want”)

Consistency and talking with your teacher may help too.

Laura Mozena
www.YourMusicSupply.com
[javascript protected email address]

Sue Hunt said: Dec 4, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

It is so difficult to do something hard or stressful, or just plain boring. It always helps to put any activities which qualify into a separate mini practice which is linked to a daily activity. The secret is to do it immediately. Dawdling for half an hour or so, only teaches procrastination. Most of us become masters of that art at a very early age. Have a look at Two Stress Busting Practice Ideas for tips on micro practices. You will be surprised at how much practice you can fit in if you use them.

The secret is to have the instrument ready and tuned and the practice task ready, so that when the moment comes, you are both ready. Switch the timer on and go. When it pings, stop immediately, no matter what. If you use the stress busting ideas, the next micro practice is only minutes away.

Shirley said: Dec 4, 2012
 4 posts

First of all, I want to thank everyone who posted here to help me especially Paula. I took the advice and decided to not start doing anything other than practice after we come home. It was tough at the beginning, my 5 year old was often frustrating and crying. Being a parent, I realized that I have to stay calm. We practice everyday together, sometime, I asked her to teach me to play the piece so that I can play at the same time with her. The reward for every 30 days good practice is also very effective. Since the end of September, she has been practice everyday for at least 40 min a day. Because of that, she gained so much confidence. I am glad to tell everyone that she just graduated Book 1. Thank you all again for your advice and inspiration.

Paula Bird said: Dec 4, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Bravo! Congratulations!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Sue Hunt said: Dec 5, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

Bravo! Just shows what can be done when you stick to it. All too often, our motherly hearts soften at the first whimper. Many children aren’t learning the value of building themselves up by persistence, they are being taught how to use it to wear others down.

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