What do you do when your child doesn’t want to practice? Do you have to fight this battle every single day? Is it worth it? They were so excited about learning to play piano, or horn, or violin – what happened? What have I done wrong? Almost every music mom deals with this at some point. So, what’s to do?
When your child doesn’t want to practice – Find out why!
Talk. Communicate. Listen. Something has changed. Find out what it is. Kids have a long list of reasons for not wanting to practice. I’m sure you can identify with at least some of these.
- The music is too hard.
- I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do.
- I already learned that.
- My instrument doesn’t work right.
- It hurts – I am in pain when I practice.
- Something happened at my lesson.
- The other kids make fun of me.
- I don’t have any time to practice.
- I don’t have any place to practice.
- This stuff is boring, or too easy.
When your child doesn’t want to practice – Solve the problem! (If possible!)
It they say that the music is too hard, or too boring, or too easy, talk to the teacher. See if there is justification for what your child says. Does your teacher see this as a possible problem? Is the teacher willing to adjust, give suggestions, help you out?
If your child says that she doesn’t understand what she is supposed to do, help her figure it out. Maybe the teacher’s notes will make more sense to you. Maybe a quick call, email, or text to the teacher will help you sort through the confusion. Make an effort to help your child.
Your child says they have no time, or no space to practice. Or that everywhere is too loud to practice. Could that be true? If you want him to practice you must provide the opportunity. Is he over-scheduled? Maybe find something to cut out. Or teach him to manage his time better.
Does he have a quiet place with enough open space to practice? I know most of us don’t have space for a dedicated music room, but your child needs an open space and a quiet place to do his practicing.
What about pain? Sometimes practicing an instrument will cause pain. We contort our bodies into unnatural positions to play certain instruments – that can definitely cause pain. And that must be dealt with!
When your child doesn’t want to practice – Check out the instrument.
My instrument doesn’t work right – maybe there is truth to that. Maybe a pad is loose, or a key is stuck. Perhaps some valve oil or a cleaning could help. Is there a problem with the chin rest or shoulder pad? Who knows, maybe someone’s sock got stuck in the baritone. My daughter had a student get popcorn in their violin! Look at the instrument to see if there is an obvious problem.
See if your child can be more specific about the issue. Then, ask the teacher, or band director, or orchestra director. Do they have any insight? Can they recommend a repair shop? Any practicing will go better if the instrument works correctly.
Be sure the instrument is the correct size for your child. Is she holding the instrument correctly? Be certain there are no other physical conditions responsible for the pain. Talk to your teacher for ideas and recommendations. Check out posture.
For string players, it could be as “simple” as changing to a different shoulder rest. (I know – nothing is simple!) Don’t just dismiss comments about pain – get them checked out. I plan to do an entire post about this in the future.
When your child doesn’t want to practice – Don’t ignore the possibility of bullying or other inappropriate behavior.
Perhaps the issue is that other kids are making fun of your child because they play the violin instead of football. Or piano instead of soccer. Encourage your child. Point out the positives of playing their instrument. At least playing piano won’t earn them a concussion!
On a more serious note – a group called Time for Three has a great video about musicians and bullying. Check it out here: Time for Three
Did something happen at a lesson to discourage her from practicing? Was it an issue with the teacher? Or another student? This is too important to ignore. Talk, listen, find out what happened. Then, take appropriate action.
When your child doesn’t want to practice – Quitting should never be the first option!
Don’t take the easy way out and let them quit just because they complain. What are you teaching them? Would you let them quit after the first soccer practice if they complained about how hard it was? Music is no different! Learning to play an instrument takes hard work – years of hard work. But doing anything well takes lots of hard work. Teach them to overcome problems. Help them learn to persevere. Work with them to get beyond the boredom or the difficult times.
Almost every music student will have a time when he/she hates to practice. But that’s okay – encourage them to keep going. One of my sons used to complain all the time about practicing his cello. And he was getting good at his cello. He didn’t mind playing. I finally figured out the problem – instead of a hard case he had a bag for his cello, and it was too hard for him to take the cello out of the bag and put it back in the bag when he finished practicing. When we switched to a hard cello case – problem solved. Of course, there were days after that when he griped about practicing, but it wasn’t the big issue that it had been.
Talk. Communicate. Listen. Work on solving the real problem.