With many students taking only one thirty-minute piano lesson per week, a significant portion of the learning process must take place at home. Regardless of your musical background and experience, there is plenty you can do to help your child manage his or her practice time and maintain a healthy mindset while doing so. Read on to find out how you can maximize your child’s lessons!
Be involved. Regardless of your understanding of music, you can and should take an active role in your child’s piano lessons. Having parental support during lessons and home practice time greatly increases your child’s likeliness of success. Remember, if you aren’t present during your child’s lessons it will be harder for you to listen, experience, and respond properly when your child is practicing at home.
Summarize what you’ve learned. It seems we always play our best right after a lesson! Take advantage of this by recording a two-minute summary video on your phone. Use the video to point out trouble spots in your music, model proper hand shapes and techniques, or count rhythms aloud. Refer back to the video throughout the week when you need to refresh and reorganize your goals.
Get organized. Have a designated tote bag or backpack to carry books and materials to and from lessons. It lessens the chance that important items will get left behind. If your teacher writes weekly assignments in a notepad, encourage your child to stay on task by awarding completed items with a sticker. For older children who crave more autonomy during practice, put a sticker or checkmark in their assignment pad after you have carefully read through the assignments together.
Understand that the word “talent” can be damaging. Multiple studies have confirmed that children praised for their talent or other innate abilities will become more easily frustrated when faced with difficult tasks. Many of these children suffered a significant drop in self-esteem after experiencing their first failure, and were thus more likely to quit lessons. On the contrary, children praised for their hard work and effort showed significantly higher success rates in their piano studies and reported higher levels of enjoyment–even when the level of difficulty increased.
Don’t underestimate the importance of modeling. Modeling patience, care, and positivity for your child will help him or her learn to persevere through difficulties, become more musically aware, and develop greater emotional depth. Piano practice tends to be a solo endeavor as students get older, so the mindset you model to your child now may set the tone for the rest of his or her piano career.
Show off your child’s hard work. Stickers, trinkets, and treats are excellent motivators, but we often undervalue the greatest reward of all–the joy of music making itself! Celebrate your child’s success by arranging a mini-recital for friends and family or share a video of your child on Facebook or in an e-mail. Seeing others react positively to your child’s musical performance will leave you both feeling accomplished. It may even inspire you to start mastering the next piece of repertoire!
Be a practice enforcer. Anyone who has tried to stick to an exercise routine knows the importance of having a “workout buddy” to motivate you on your bad days. Similarly, your child will inevitably need a little push now and then during practice time. Try to make practice a daily routine with your child and reward them for their efforts. Acknowledge that keeping any daily routine is a challenge that even adults struggle with!
Enjoy having time together. Having parental supervision during practice will help your child maintain a higher level of concentration and can help combat the feelings of isolation that are often associated with piano practice. For students with siblings, one-on-one practicing may be one of the only times they get mom or dad all to themselves. Again, regardless of your musical aptitude you can have a positive influence on your child’s practice routine just by being there.
Don’t use practice as a punishment. Making a child stay inside to practice while their siblings get to play outside or watch TV can feel like a form of torture! Keeping up a daily practice routine is difficult enough as it is, and any attempts to coerce your child with negative reinforcement will only add to your struggle. Learning piano can be a challenging pursuit, but ultimately it is one to be enjoyed.
Create a healthy practice environment. Tune acoustic pianos twice annually, keep the area free from distractions like TV’s and computers, and make sure the area is sufficiently lit. Have proper seating available in the form of a piano bench or a flat-bottomed chair. Swivel chairs and chairs with arms should never be used. Smaller children may be more comfortable sitting with a footstool to support their feet or may practice standing up.
Parents, what would you add to this list? Which aspects of practice or lessons has your child found most enjoyable? What has been the biggest contributor to your child’s success during practice time?