Motivating Children - What Works When Talking to Parents About Practicing Music?
June 19, 2023
Motivating Children - What Works When Talking to Parents About Practicing Music?

Recently on our Duet Facebook Group, we asked music teachers to share how they talk to parents about the importance of practicing.

We know from talking to hundreds of music teachers over the years that students' practicing habits are always a point of discussion. We've seen parents fall into a whole range of attitudes. Here are a few that we've seen:

The Visionary Parent

This is the parent who really gets it. They understand that practicing an instrument is rarely about attaining professional proficiency, but rather about developing a habit of consistency and hard work. It's about setting goals and taking the daily steps to achieve those goals. It's about giving kids experiences that show them they can do hard things. It's about committing to something and sticking with it.

These parents can ideally feel like true partners with a teacher. They recognize the teacher's expertise with the instrument and are bought in to helping their child follow through. Whether this means actually sitting with the child while they practice (practicing can be so lonely for a little child!) or simply talks positively about the experience of studying an instrument, the parent is an asset to both the teacher and the student.

The Good Intentions Parent

Getting children to practice is hard. Practicing can be lonely for a child who might prefer playing video games with friends or riding their bike. But as one teacher commented on our Facebook discussion, "I talk about training muscles and compare it to athletes who don’t show up to practice."

Many parents know that practicing at home is good for their child and that the student can't progress without at-home practice, but there may be several other priorities in their lives besides carving out daily time for their child to practice. These parents too share the commitment to hard work and their child's development, but they may not be willing to put practice before some other things.

Teachers love parents who try hard to emphasize practice in the home, even if it doesn't always happen. Sometimes learning to restart a good habit like practicing after taking some time away is just as important as practicing every day. The parent's respect for the teacher and appreciation of their craft still shines through.

The Reluctant Parent

We've talked to teachers who are not sure why parents have signed their children up for music lessons. Sometimes it feels like the parent does it more out of obligation than opportunity. In this case, much of the responsibility for the student's progress rests with the teacher. The lesson time becomes crucial. The teacher has the job of motivating the student to practice on their own without much family support.

Some teachers may enjoy having parents be less involved. They might prefer to work directly with the child, setting expectations through a one-on-one relationship and developing the child's intrinsic motivation outside of parental support.

What is your approach to practicing? How do you involve parents, if at all? Do you feel like it's a constant struggle to get parents' support? Or do you feel parents can be valuable teammates in your students' progress? Visit our Duet Group on Facebook to share your experience.