Children rarely enjoy doing the things that are best for them. How often have you needed to coax green vegetables on their forks or stress the importance of brushing teeth? And although there are those little angels out there who immediately obey the slightest request without a single murmur, those children seem to be a minority. And, as children grow, that natural rebellion only gets stronger.
Violin lessons are one of those things that are good for kids, and typically kids are excited to start them. The fun of finding a violin their size and getting to choose cool stuff to go with it are great motivators, and the first few months of lessons and practice usually go pretty smoothly. However, once the newness wears off, many parents discover that what was initially an activity defined by anticipatory questions like, “Is it time to practice violin? Or, when do we leave for violin lessons?” starts to become a loathesome task characterized by resistance, threats and ultimatums.
As a parent, you can make sure that your child stays enthusiastic about practicing violin. Although as your child grows and becomes more advanced, naturally the level and type of your involvement will change. And while it does take a bit of work, it’s actually much easier than a weekly or daily battle of wills. Plus, helping your child develop self-discipline early on will make his or her future path that much more successful later.
These strategies have worked for others, so you may find one or two that are right for you. At the very least, they’ll be able to trigger your own ideas about making practicing violin something that your kids will want to continue, even after the early enthusiasm has waned.
Make Goals for Each Practice Session
You need to try to eliminate mindless “playing through.” This sort of repetitive practice is boring for kids, and the music just gets staler and more monotonous every session. By making goals for each practice session you can establish personal accountability and help your child actually improve his or her playing.
For example, instead of setting a goal of playing a whole piece of music, have your child identify the bars that are the most challenging. Then use three markers of some sort, they could be pennies or another medallion, to place on the music stand for counters. Your daughter plays the difficult measure once. If she does it perfectly, she moves one of the markers to the other side of the music stand. She’ll have to repeat the process two more times, but if on the third try she falters, all of the markers move back and she starts over. The idea is that once the difficult portion(s) has been played through correctly three times, your child is ready to try the entire piece.
If you are a parent who is leading the practice, you may want to only work on those difficult parts for five minutes, and then move on to 10 minutes of another activity. Either way, getting your child to actually practice smarter and not simply play through his or her music is the only way to make notable progress. Moreover, this type of practice makes your child feel great about the achievement, which makes it easier to keep the interest in violin alive.
Make Practice Fun with Games and Prizes
Creating incentives to practice is another great method. As a family, you can craft (or purchase) practice tokens; and be creative! Get the kids involved painting or decorating the tokens so that they become coveted pieces. You can make an exchange board that defines how much practice earns how many tokens, etc. (but make sure the practice is focused—no playing through). Then make another list for rewards: so many tokens earn one “get out of chore free” card, or so many tokens earn another prize. Whatever will spur your child’s desire and create an incentive to practice is a good idea.
You may want to try arranging practice at a different time of the day or creating a safe place for the violin in your home, out of its case. Sometimes, practicing just doesn’t come easy in the afternoons, too many distractions. Or, perhaps the bother of removing/replacing the violin from its case makes it easy to ignore practice. Having the violin available to pick up and play like a toy is a great way to keep younger children interested. Just be sure to keep it in a safe location.
Getting your child to practice the violin without tantrums requires a little work, but your efforts now will pay off big time in the long run. Stick with it. In doing so, you’ll be helping your kids develop self-discipline that will benefit the rest of their lives.