So you’ve just registered your child for violin classes. That’s great, it’s an exciting time for both of you. There’s a flurry of activities, new books and items to buy and the weekly lessons. All is well, and both of you enjoy the lessons.
Soon, you notice the novelty has worn off. Where they used to have practice days, it starts reducing. Then your child starts complaining about having to practice, and how there are so many other things to do.
Force them or reward them?
Your first instinct will naturally be to enforce a particular practice requirement or to prompt the rewards. While your child might continue practising, it does not solve the problem.
Simply laying down the law that practice is a must every day might indeed result in everyday practices. However, as this progresses, your child will soon start to associate practising the violin as a chore. This might be the easiest way out for you as a parent, but it does not benefit them.
Rewarding them with toys or sweet deals to get them to practice sounds reasonable. It’s a win-win solution really; your kid will love you. The problem with this form of extrinsic motivation – meaning it arises from outside of oneself – is that children will stop practising when the rewards stop coming.
So, either way doesn’t sound right, what is a parent to do?
The right way to motivate your child to practice is to encourage the development of their interest in the instrument. Here are some ways you can do so at home:
- Explore different genres of violin work with your child
- Facilitate interest by adding musical elements to your home
- Play music from the different periods (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 21st Century) to widen your child’s horizons
- Encourage conversations on music – anything from a piece they heard to their practice experience
- Search for concerts and events to open their eyes to professional violinists
- Don’t limit their playing to the home or music school. Playing in front of friends and relatives can be a great way to boost confidence
With this suggestions, your child will become more aware of what playing the violin truly feels like. That is, there are no limits, and anything is possible. Joining orchestras can also be a great platform for them to meet like-minded individuals and develop intrinsic motivation.
What to do during your child’s practice sessions
With a young child learning a new instrument, it’s not surprising that you often accompany them during lesson times. Instead of being idle, use this time to learn the instrument with them. Ideally, you should pick up tips from the teacher on how to correct your child’s playing and offer constructive feedback. Teachers can only do so much once a week, but with you as a learning partner, your child can learn during their practice sessions as well.
Never assume that mistakes can be fixed later on. Regardless how much your child dislikes it, not correcting a wrong posture can harm them in the long run. It inhibits their future potential and as they grow, bad habits that accumulate will be much harder to correct.
Set little goals to create a sense of achievement in them after each practice session. Instead of saying: “Practice nonstop for 15 minutes”. Say something along the lines: “Practice this line until you can play it perfectly 7 times”. Stick to that line during each practice for children to iron out specific areas instead of mindlessly bowing for 15 minutes. It is much more efficient that way!
Don’t forget your child has a voice. If they seem to fall into a monotonous routine of playing every piece once through, try prompting questions such as:
“Which part do you think is the hardest?”
“How would that part sound if it was louder?”
“Which piece would you like to learn next?”
Such questions can kick start a thinking process that will come naturally to them in the future. Remember, establishing good practice habits are extremely beneficial. In the long run, your child will be less likely to encounter difficulties in learning new skills or losing interest.
Learning the violin is all about patience and perseverance, both on the part of the parent and child. For young children, a parent is critical in helping them discover their love for the instrument and to support them through the tough times. Don’t let challenging pieces weigh both of you down. Think instead of the beautiful music your child will be able to create – that is worth all the effort.