What To Do When Your Child Won’t Practice (Part 1)

Some students don't like to practice (I know!  GASP!!).  Helping them to practice can be a frustrating job but if you find out WHY they don't want to practice it might help.  Here are a few solutions to some common reasons students resist practising.  Watch for Friday's post as it will have more solutions.

  • Does the piece seem too hard? Maybe they need to work on only a few sections of the piece rather than the whole thing at one time. Find a few bars and see if they can accomplish those bars and then add a few more until the practice time is up. Build on what they already know. Sometimes having them read the note and match the note to the key on the piano is a good starting point and then having them slowly read and play only a few bars a number of times can be that day’s practice.

  • Do they perceive they have more work than they do? Students sometimes feel that they need to do the whole thing every day. Breaking up a larger task into smaller segments (a certain number of bars for each piece if they have multiple pieces, learning only one piece a day and then reviewing what they have already learned etc) can be useful. For older students, accomplishing one element of a piece can sometimes be enough - have them make sure their notes or rhythm are correct for a certain number of bars or lines and then reviewing what they have done previous practice sessions. The key here is to build on what has already been accomplished.

  • Are they doing something they want to finish? I hear this reason a lot. Students often feel that they won’t be able to go back to whatever they are currently doing (a video game, playing with toys etc). Parents have told me that giving a time for when the current activity is up and they move onto practice sometimes helps, as does saying we can come back to this activity when practice is over. Whatever strategy you use for your child when they are engrossed in something but need to break for a meal or tidy up should work here.

  • How is practising perceived by them? (a chore, something to look forward to, a frustrating time etc). The previous point is related to this one. Often students feel that practising is a chore, something they must endure. If we can shift this thinking to something they GET to do we have won this particular practice battle. Set up a regular routine for practice and implement it - do this in stages and celebrate every positive part of practice from students going to the piano on their own to playing a piece properly, even to putting their hands on the right spot, to the effort they put forth to do a good job. This attitude and routine can change how students view practising for the better.