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Any suggestions for encouraging practice?

(77 Posts)
Molehillmountain Thu 22-Nov-12 09:45:45

Dd is seven and in her first term of piano lessons. She loves being able to play but the delayed gratification bit is hard and I really don't want practice to become a battle ground. At the same time, I wish my parents had been a bit more pro active in encouraging me to practise when I was younger. Where's the balance? Dd procrastinates but once you get her going she practises well and makes progress.

ByTheWay1 Fri 23-Nov-12 09:34:09

lol- we have found the transition up to secondary school has REALLY helped with practise - eldest DD (Y7) is the only one who has done any instrument training at all in her tutor group - so she gets 2 hours a week practise on her grade 3 stuff in lesson, whilst the class learns to read music or play easy piano carols on the keyboard...

she helps the teacher with the others, she does sight reading tests the teacher will be giving the Y10 pupils and she only needs to stop when they are doing the composition element of the classes.

She is now loving it and practises MORE at home so she can show progress at school too..

Her piano teacher is LOVING it....

MoreBeta Fri 23-Nov-12 09:41:32

Following my earler post. DS1 told me this morning that his piano teacher had told him 'you have been the hardest working of my pupils this term and made the most progress'.

I quietly smiled a little inside and wondered if DS1 had mentioned my role in creating his practice schedule.

hardboiled Fri 23-Nov-12 11:40:35

ROUTINE is the only word that comes to mind.

Sorry but I have to disagree with the bribery thing. Where does it stop? Do you offer bribery to do homework too? Or to do their daily reading? Or to brush their teeth? If they - or you - want them to learn music, it should be part of their overall education, just as reading or doing sport. It is not something they do FOR YOU and should be rewarded. Either there has been a decision to include music in their education or not, and once that decision is made, then practice becomes something they have to do to become a better educated, more rounded person in the future. Like school work.

We never used it and would never do. We just reminded DS he had to do music practice and he went and did it, sometimes happy, sometimes with a long face. But he knew it was part of his day's very few "must-do". Now he is Grade 5 and insists on spending an hour at the piano everyday and I can't make him to stop. He learnt there is a pleasure in making himself work hard at something, a pride sweeter than any material rewards.

haggisaggis Fri 23-Nov-12 11:53:04

I tend to initiate the practice - but have to say I am quite lucky with dd as she seems to enjoy it. I sit with her and go over everything (it is cello by the way). She now practices between 20 and 40 mins per day depending on how many pieces the teacher has given her. She sees the progress herself and for her (severely dyslexic / dyscalculic and a bit dyspraxic) cello is the first thing she has ever done where when she puts in the effort she achieves at least as much as everyone else. (she's 10)

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 23-Nov-12 12:24:38

We don't bribe for anything else - the bribery will stop when either the child decides to drop the instrument, or when the child decides to practise without "bribery". The bribery is to get over the initial period of a difficult instrument and to progress quickly enough that they can get some pleasure out of it. And for us earning computer time is an incentive that works. And I don't bribe for piano, for some reason, only for cello for DS1 (and maybe violin later for DS2). Though I do put a sticker on pieces they play nicely - does that count as bribery?

Not that I am justifying myself. We do what works, and different things work for different people.

pianomama Fri 23-Nov-12 12:25:51

hardboiled - you are right in theory but children are children.We refer to bribery light-heartedly. learning how to practice efficiently is the most difficult skill . Its not just the time spent at/with the instrument. I don't think you can make an unwilling child practice properly unless you tie them to the chair,starve them and even then it won't do any good. At 7 DC children like thinking - "i've done a good job and got sweetie for it". At 11 my DS worked hard (he's been doing practice at school now, unsupervised for the past 2 years) and won an amazing award - this is his "sweetie" now. It always helps to know that hard work pays.

hardboiled Fri 23-Nov-12 13:22:56

Yes pianomama, I understand your reasoning, maybe I just got lucky as I never had to nag DS...I am just in shock really, when I think of all the musical children out there who will never be given the opportunity to learn an instrument or will be able to afford music lessons, to hear that some children lucky enough to have private lessons are on top of that getting PAID cash for doing their practise...
It just ain't right.

pianomama Fri 23-Nov-12 13:43:07

Agree - to become a good musician you need talent and lots of support.
Would it not be great if every school gve DC opportunities to discover and develop their musical ability.. and supported talented kids...

Nothingtosay Fri 23-Nov-12 13:56:16

Hardly 'shocking' in my book.

Personally, what's the harm in incentivising your children a little? An odd 50p here and there is not exactly the minimum wage. Nor is an extra half hour on the computer.

My child practises instrument happily without any prompting.

However when it comes to reading a book or doing French I dangle everything I can think of to encourage said child...

Molehillmountain Fri 23-Nov-12 14:02:57

Hard boiled-dh and I were discussing the fact that one of the luxuries of relative "wealth" (in our case, even though there are things we don't have, we can afford essentials plus children's activities without really tough choices) is to allow children the chance to do lots of things and find whatever their passion is. And also to have periods where they aren't deeply passionate about it. If, like a good friend of mine, my parents had had to make really tough choices about my activities, I'd never have pursued music. I have never been amazing, talented or anything, but reasonable and reached grade eight and had loads of orchestral experience. I also had a social life through music. It's the ones on the edges that really miss out. And actually, I wish my parents had bribed me to practise, or at least nagged because then I might have missed out more of the "god I haven't practised and it's the lesson tomorrow" feeling. But in principle, I agree that it's better if playing is its own reward. Given that we've committed to it and dd is finding practice hard to get used to, I'd rather reward than nag.

Molehillmountain Fri 23-Nov-12 14:04:56

Oh, and I don't just believe the super talented should be supported, which is why I'm glad there are these whole class instrument lesson initiatives. In an ideal world I think instrument lessons should be seen as as essential as reading lessons, just something children do.

claraschu Fri 23-Nov-12 14:16:34

If you have the energy, you can try little tricks such as writing each thing she has to do on a card (scale, each piece separately, arpeggio, sight reading, etc), then add in one wild card (eat a smartie, jump up and down 5 times, etc).
Let her pick a card out of the pile and do whatever it says.
This kind of thing breaks up the routine in a good way. You have to keep having new ideas, so it only works if you are feeling fun.

I think using bribes can make a good point if you do it very occasionally. Try telling her: "If you have a focused, good-humoured practice session, you can have x, y, or z." She will practise really well, and then you have a chance to chat to her about how the real reward is that she learned a lot and had fun because she had a positive attitude. With a bit of luck, she will be amused that you "tricked" her into winning this real reward and start to try for it more often.

3bunnies Fri 23-Nov-12 14:17:58

I find the best incentive is having little siblings wanting to get on the piano to play too. Dd1 enjoys doing her practise, and generally does it every day without prompting, now dd2 has decided to teach herself, and ds enjoys making a noise on it. Dd1 knows that if the practising stops so do the lessons.

Xenia Fri 23-Nov-12 14:30:03

Having had 5 children who all learned or learned usually 2 instruments (that is a lot of practising).... and three won music scholarships... I think the answers are all above. Do a bit of practice every day ideally at the same time so they know when it is. I like to accompany them on the piano at the same time when they practise instruments (obviously that won't work with the piano).

Try to do a bit every day or most days rather than a longer session only once a week. Try to be nice about it all. Don't worry about it all. It should be fun and it's not very important. In fact if they wanted to make a career of it given how badly paid it all is it would be disastrous unless that were their sole passion.

Xenia Fri 23-Nov-12 14:31:40

Oh and I know a lot of people disagree with this but I always found doing an exam got them going and doing more practice so get her in for the preparatory associated board piano test (and then grade 1 when she is up to it) and think about grade 1 music theory too as if she wants to get beyond grade 5 piano she will need to have passed grade 5 theory. Some children do like collecting certificates, passing exams etc like Brownie badges. Others don't of course.

(Grades 6 - 8 get you university entrance points too - UCAS points).

pianomama Fri 23-Nov-12 14:53:49

Xenia - it does matter and it is very important!!! And thinking about child's carreer when they are 7 is a bit much - isn't it? Music practice is extremely good for young children ,realy good for their mental and emotional development. Only a handful will become professional but it is not about getting a well paid job. I am amased at the standards some DC play at in the JD and yet lots of them chose other carreers.Music teaches them skills to be very good at lots of other things. Doctors,scientists, lawers...

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 23-Nov-12 15:16:31

You know, telling your children how lucky they are to have music lesson is just not going to make some of them love practising, just like telling them how lucky they are to have food is not going to make them eat their brussels sprouts/cabbage or whatever "very-good-for-you" and "how-lucky-you-are-to-have-these" type food. I don't know why, but it just doesn't work. grin (Actually I've never told them they are lucky to have music lesson. Does anyone?)

HanSolo Fri 23-Nov-12 15:25:17

Interesting threa, thank you all.
Our problem is fitting in practise time, as their day is so long already, and we both work... DD would practise every day, if time permitted, and I feel bad about that.
I am surprised at practise in the morning though- don't any of you have neighbours? I don't think mine would be impressed if DD started at 7:30am each day!

ByTheWay1 Fri 23-Nov-12 16:09:20

We have an electric piano - Yamaha Clavonia type - you can put headphones in and have no volume... or have it play out loud but quietly...

Xenia Fri 23-Nov-12 16:17:36

pm, actually you're right. Also children who learn instruments apparently do better in school work. It's also huge fun. I sing every day. I sing in choirs. It's a massive pleasure in my life even at my age. It can be a bonding thing with other people too like sport as it's something you have in common with them

HanS - we practised as children before school (but detached house). My children never have - just after school and not every day and they still got music scholarships (some of them) although they would be much much better if they practised more. Each parents has to pick their own standards with these things and views. I would have thought for most children 10 minutes a day or every other day is not that hard.

I find it is more a questino of my own energy. If I cannot be bothered and am reading the paper they are less likely to do it of their own volition. If I am bouncily suggesting they practise they will. If they have something coming up - they are both doing a solo next week (or when a music exam is in the offing) then they practise more too.

hardboiled Fri 23-Nov-12 16:41:32

Uptoapoint, yes I did. I told DS how lucky he is. I was never given lessons even though every time I visited my best friend - a girl wealthier than I was - I sat at her piano and tried to teach myself. Such was my desperation. But nobody noticed/cared and I assumed only the rich had music lessons.

So I have told DS he is lucky. We pay for his music lessons and all his activities by never eating out in restaurants, living without gadgets, ipads, smart phones...the list is very long. He said he felt lucky and would never waste it away. And indeed he is not.

3b1g Fri 23-Nov-12 17:26:50

We only had to use the computer time bribe with DS2's piano practice and DS1's piano practice for the first year. DS1 now practises voluntarily and willingly, partly because he is now reaping the benefits in secondary school music lessons and partly because he can now play well enough to enjoy it. By the time DS3 started the drums and DD stared the flute, daily music practice was accepted as part of our family life, so I haven't had to bribe either of them.

rotavirusrita Fri 23-Nov-12 17:34:34

I thought I was the! only one who recorded DS1 on my phone to let him hear back how hes doing.
He is 8 and does baritone horn and he does at least 10 mins usually after school every day. The instrument is hired from school so the deal is that he has to practice every dya or it goes back. smile So far I need to prompt him but no problems... sometimes he is a bit half arsed and stroppy about it but other days he spends longer on it.
We started on the piano about 12 months ago and he wasnt so keen however he likes the brass noise and so seems more motivated now!

Beanbagz Fri 23-Nov-12 17:39:29

I leave the house and leave 'guitar & piano practice' on the babysitter's list!
Seems to work every time grin

Seriously though, my DD has got into the routine of one instrument in the morning and one in the evening. We'll build practice up towards exams (thankfully a term apart), then have a lull afterwards.

These are instruments she chose to play so she's happy to practice. Did your DD ask for piano lessons? Is it just that she wants to be able to play well straight away?

Molehillmountain Fri 23-Nov-12 17:52:31

Yes-dd asked and is proud of herself when she plays well. She is a bit like rolling a boulder up a hill when starting new stuff (like her mother blush) and needs encouraging a lot in the early stages. She also will give up quickly if something's tricky but be fed up that she's given up. It makes it a tricky balance to judge between not pushing too hard but helping her to overcome the initial hard bit.

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