October 17, 2012 at 3:26 PMAs the parent of one teenager and one almost-teenager, I no longer have too many illusions about how much control or influence I have over my kids: in this season of life, pretty close to none, at least directly!
And for this reason I'm instituting a new plan, when it comes to music practice: bribery. Judge me, if you will, but the parent of a student came up with a plan that is working so well for her 13-year-old, that I must try it. Said student is now practicing every day and moving forward, after a period of treading water for a while. As her teacher, I'm loving it, and I get the feeling that she will soon start connecting her new success on the violin with her practicing.
Here's the plan: Get a jar, or piggy bank. Each time junior practices, put in a dollar (or whatever amount of $ you deem appropriate). At the end of one month, junior gets all the money in the jar. It's direct, it has no pretensions. It's one answer to the question, "Can I have money for the movies?" And the more junior practices, the bigger his/her end-of-the-month "allowance."
Put the jar in an obvious place, as a reminder of the "reward" for practice.
Do I want my kid to practice for the love of music? Yes indeed. But let's be honest, the practice has to become before the love. The love happens when you get good at it. I've said before that it takes 21 days to get into the practice routine, and I still find that to be true. But sometimes everything breaks down, and you have to establish those 21 days again. Getting those 21 days can be a real struggle.
Wish me luck. Also, you can make your suggestions for making practice happen below, in case this one doesn't work!
There's a useful book, How to Get Your Child to Practice Without Resorting to Violence. Understanding what motivates kids and their current state of maturity is vital.
If I remember correctly, Perlman said,"The hardest part about practicing is getting the violin out of the case."
I stole an idea from a friend who stole it from someone else, etc. (so I'm not sure of the origin) that I implimented this school year with my students, The Yellow Dot Club.
If you practice 7 days, you get a yellow dot on the chart that lists all the students. Simple. I am defining practice as 10 minutes of listening, preferably to the piece (s) they are studying but could be any violin music, and 1 minute of practice. That's right, 1 minute. I'm trying to teach them about focused practice. If you "don't have time", just get it out, play one piece, scale, etc. and focus on one aspect of your playing...perhaps something that needs improvement. I want them to learn how to practice effectively and consistently. And I do hope they practice more than 1 minute on most days but that is the minimum for our game.
Some kids don't care about the dots or the competition and their practice habits haven't changed one bit. But, in these cases, at least I have documentation when they say, "I'm not making any progress, when can we go to a new piece, etc."
The concept of progress, that's another topic, for another day...
BTW, if they didn't practice 7 days, they get a score indicating how much they did practice. Ex. 5/4 means they practiced 5 days and listened 4 days.
I had one parent ask, "So, what does she get"? In my mind I thought, "Are you trying to ruin my life? What do you mean what does she GET? She's learning violin and work ethic, AND etc.!!!"
I included listening because music is a language and if you are going to learn the language you have to listen. Imagine trying to learn a foreign language from the written page alone.
I do agree that a love of music is different from a love of practicing; how to bridge that difference, well...I'm one of those 'perfect parents' a previous poster mentioned, so I can't really make a valid point.
My parents left me alone; sadly, I made progress without practice for several years--not sure how that worked. Then something clicked, and practice became an adventure. That's still the case, some ?? years later.
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