Motivating Children to Practice

By John Hart

So you signed up for music lessons, but at least one of your children is not intrinsically motivated to practice. What should you do?  Here are some suggestions that may help:


1.  Give your children the opportunity to hear other musicians perform. Arrange to have them meet the performers and get a taste of their passion for music.  (Be sure to make the link between their ability to perform with the amount of self-discipline it took to get there.)


2. Give your children small prizes for accomplishing small goals, such as mastering a short piece, and larger rewards for finishing a book or performing in a recital.


3. Give ample opportunities for your children to perform on their instrument every week or two. Children have an in-built desire for attention. When you smile and clap for their sincere attempts to please you, that feeds their motivation to continue their musical studies.


4. Discuss other reward ideas with your children's music teacher. (Sometimes a reward from the teacher is very appealing. ). You may even want to consider a small reward or added privilege for the completion of a given number of practice sessions.


5. Before you begin giving rewards, consider what the child currently considers a desirable prize. With young children, this can be as simple as adding a star to a chart or a sticker to a sticker book.  Some like something tasty to eat, others prefer things they can play with, while still others prefer privileges.


Whatever motivators you choose, be sure they are always positive.  Removing privileges for not practicing is a sure-fire way of extinguishing any intrinsic motivation your child may have acquired.  Use extrinsic rewards as a temporary "crutch".  Add privileges and give tangible rewards when necessary and, in time, your children will develop the character of diligence that is in itself a great reward.