I hold parents of children under 9 responsible for completion of their children’s music practice. Would you expect your child to start and complete their maths homework / the cleaning of their room all on their own? No? Well, the same goes for music practice!
I expect parents to work directly with their children for the duration of their practice until their students are at least age 10. I find students start wanting to practice independently around age 10. When this happens, we gradually phase out the parent’s supervision; but be warned, this is a slow process, and intermittent parental supervision will be required until around age 14.
Some infrastructural tips:
Leave the instrument in easy reach, ideally out of its case and within sight.
Refer to practice like it’s a treat. “Yay! We get to practice now!”
If it’s possible, making practice a part of the daily routine will ensure it gets done: i.e. it happens at the exact same time every day, or as close as possible to this.
Get the practice done before they even notice – i.e. in the morning before school. Their resistance may be lower at this time, and they’re fresh so it will be high quality concentration. Plus then there’s no opportunity cost to practicing e.g. there’s competition from pleasure activities like TV / playing with friends in the evening.
Make practice fun. Repeat the games, stories and metaphors your teacher uses in class, plus come up with your own! Print out the worksheet ‘Ideas to make repit-it-it-it-it-ition fun’, and post in your practice space. Add to it yourself!
Find something to praise. Ideally you will never make a negative or derogatory remark to your child during practice. Refer to ‘What can I Praise’? worksheet here. You can also print out ‘The Alphabet of “AWESOME!!”’ poster and hang it in your practice space.
Make a list of mini-rewards to be given during practice for completing a difficult repetition, e.g. when the student does a difficult phrase ten times, you both get to stand up and take a drink of water. I’ve prepared the worksheet ‘”We did it!!” Reward system’ – download it, print it off, add your own unique mini-rewards, and post in your practice space.
Some practice avoidance tactics are ‘I need to go to the toilet!’ and ‘I’m thirsty!’ in the middle of a session. If these are being used, make sure the student goes to the toilet before practice time and has a drink of water before practicing. (I don’t advise allowing them to keep food or drink beside them while practicing – they’ll just keep drinking and eating to minimise practice time.)
Sign a contract with them, particularly before a deadline like a concert. There’s a sample contract included here. Fill in as necessary, pull it out and put it somewhere prominent like the fridge. Or you may wish to come up with your own! You may wish to agree a reward if the student fulfills their side of the contract.