How to Practice

As a teacher and a parent I am guilty of many of the things I am about to mention. I don’t even think about it until I am in class and a parent breaks one of my rules, and then I realize that I broke my own rule earlier in the week with my kids. There are things that you need to do and not do to motivate and not discourage your child during a music lesson. A lot of these points also carry over into everyday parenting.
1. Don’t rush your child’s progress. Parent’s can get pretty competitive and are always asking if their child is progressing fast enough. For get about time and what’s “normal”. Unlike school you don’t progress with the rest of the class. Your student will progress when she has mastered each step and is ready to move on to the next. Putting pressure on your child for faster results will take away any pleasure of playing and may hinder development.
2. Don’t role your eyes. As a parent I know how hard it is to keep all of your thoughts to yourself. There are lots of times I want to pull my hair out when I watch my son practice. “Why is this taking so long to sink in” often goes through my head. Knee jerk reactions such as laughing, moaning, shaking your head, etc. are all completely unhelpful and absolutely discouraging.
3. Not taking notes. If you are in class with your student, you should be taking notes. Otherwise you will forget what the teacher is asking you and your child to work on during the week. Why should you take notes you ask? Because your child is busy learning and isn’t going to train herself. It’s your job at home to be the teacher. 4. Using your cell phone during a lesson that isn’t for taking notes. I encourage parents to use their phone to keep notes and record videos of what is going on in class. But other than that you should be off your phone. That includes books, laptops, working and anything else that keeps you from being engaged in your child’s class. If you aren’t showing interest why should they be interested.
5. Don’t buy a cheap instrument. I have to talk about this a lot with parents. You can not go on ebay and buy a $50 toy and expect that your experience will go well. Learning an instrument is hard enough without the extra fight of trying to produce a decent sound from a cheap instrument.
6. Letting your child fall asleep in the car before the lesson. This is just asking for disaster! Kids who have to be woken up before class or super grumpy the entire lesson, no one get’s anything out of it. If you are consistently finding that your child is falling asleep before class, a new time has to be implemented.
7. Come to the lesson hungry. Feeding your kids may sound like common sense, but we all get caught up in our day to day errands. Keeping snacks on hand will do your kids wonders when it comes time to focusing. And I don’t mean in the class room, because then it’s just a distraction. Make sure they have had a little bit to eat before they come to class.
8. Use practice as punishment. This just simply isn’t a good way to cultivate a love for music and their instrument – obviously.
9. Threaten to stop lessons. If you find yourself getting frustrated at your child in practice, it’s time to have a powwow with the teacher to get some perspective and new tactics. Threatening to make them practice more is yet another way your child will lose the love for playing music.
10. Bribing your kids. Again, this goes back to the fact that we want kids to play an instrument because it will make them happy and a well rounded person. If you are bribing your children with rewards just to get them to do their daily practice then you will be defeating the purpose. Of course, it’s perfectly fine to reward a great practice or give them something special when they hit a milestone.
11. Interrupt. There is nothing more frustrating or distracting to your child then when he or she is interrupted while playing. “Your playing the wrong way” or  “that’s not the right note” are not helpful. Chances are they already know. If they haven’t self corrected, tell them after, not during.
12. Skip practice because your tired. Practice everyday no matter what. It’s like working out. If you stop for a couple of days, you just find yourself stopping. And we all know that doesn’t work when you’re trying to get in shape.
13. Forget to compliment your child’s playing. Compliments are like food, they need it everyday multiple times a day. Usually out in the world, we’re a little too quick with the compliments according to some but in the case of learning an instrument, they are actually deserving of it and they need to know their incredible progress.
14. Showing up to your lesson late. If you show up to your lesson late, you’re cheating everyone. Plan to come to your lesson early so you can observe the previous lesson, learn to stay late so you can observe the next lesson. If you can’t make it to your lesson early and your turning up late consistently, talk to your teacher about rescheduling.
15. Missing lessons. This is similar to showing up late. If you don’t come to class then you are missing out on precious learning opportunities.  

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