You’ve signed your kids up for piano lessons. Everything was going smoothly in the beginning. Your kids were excited about starting, and getting your kids to practice piano was effortless.
But something shifted.
Suddenly you find yourself begging, bargaining, and pleading to get them to practice. Or yelling. And maybe the yelling is as mutual as the frustration surrounding the topic of practice.
What gives? Your kids were thrilled at the prospect of learning to play the piano. And you, being the well-informed and conscientious mom you are, were eagerly awaiting their transformation into brilliant, well-rounded tiny humans.
Was enrolling your kids in piano lessons a mistake? Maybe you’re questioning your parenting abilities and secretly fear their practice aversion is somehow your fault.
As a pianist and a mom, believe me when I say that getting kids to practice can be as much art as creating music. But you can do it! You can guide your kids into the opportunity of a lifetime WITHOUT tears and screaming.
And it all starts with understanding why your kids avoid piano practice.
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Why is getting your kids to practice piano so difficult?
I will go out on a limb and say that most kids hate piano practice for two reasons. The first is that it can be tedious. For the most part, kids are constantly overstimulated. Flashing screens, bouncing cursors, and billions of on-demand videos seem way more exciting than a piano, a book, and a pencil.
I’m not here to deny the many benefits that come with being constantly keyed into the online world.
But I will point out that our attention span is now around 6 seconds. According to several sources, this is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish.
Maybe this article should instead be about teaching your pet fish to play the piano?
But in all seriousness, piano practice requires focus, which no longer comes naturally to most people. It’s instead something that must be trained.
The second reason kids hate practice is that they have no idea how to spend their practice time. Your kids know they need to practice because you and their teacher tell them to, but they don’t actually know how.
And because your kids don’t know how to practice, their piano practice time often becomes monotonous.
Practice: Stuck on Repeat
Between the boredom and uncertainty of what practice should entail, it’s no wonder piano practice gets such a bad rap. And it’s no wonder kids instead gravitate toward other activities and learn to dread practice time.
But at its core, music is about creativity. It’s about the expression of human emotion. And it’s about individuality.
Music is the exact opposite of boredom.
So how can you convince your kids that piano practice is a really fun and exciting way to spend their time?
We’ll get there, but first, let’s explore what practice is and what it is not.
Somewhere along the line, piano practice became synonymous with repetition. In other words, practice means you play something repeatedly until you can suddenly play it correctly. And then you come back the next day and simply repeat what you did yesterday all over again. You do this day after day until you go back to your lesson, at which point your teacher assigns new songs, and the cycle continues.
And so on and so forth until the end of time.
Seriously. How boring does that sound?
Repetition vs. Practice
On the surface, repeating something until it’s perfect seems to make sense. Isn’t that why they say, “practice makes perfect?”
But let me ask you something. Does simply repeating something mean you will automatically get better?
Let’s say I want to dunk like Michael Jordan. I decide to “practice” by making 500 shots. But by the end of my session, I’m still nowhere near his skill level. What gives?
Repetition does not guarantee improvement. Actual progress comes first from identifying exactly what you want to improve. You then must find a specific tactic to get better at that thing.
I realize that this may seem far into the weeds on a post about getting your kids to practice piano. But I think it’s important to understand both the barriers to and significance of practice.
At that point, you can help your kids find excitement and meaning in their practice sessions. And you can kiss the tantrums goodbye!
If you’ve fallen into the repetition as practice trap, please don’t feel bad about it! There are far fewer resources out there on effective practice than there are about playing an instrument.
Teachers everywhere expect students to practice and somehow assume students know what that means. I’ve been playing piano for nearly 30 years and will be the first to say that I associated repetition with practice for far too long.
I still fall into the repetition trap from time to time. But thanks to this post, you have the resources to help turn all that around for your kids!
A Controversial Practice Philosophy
This next section may seem contrary to everything I’ve said thus far, but it still deserves telling. Piano lessons are about introducing your kids to new skills and an outlet for their creativity.
The right kind of practice is essential for growth, but every kid is an individual. And chances are, your kids will not grow up to be concert pianists.
But could every kid who takes piano lessons foster a hobby they will enjoy for the rest of their lives? Absolutely.
The art of practice is valuable in and of itself. It’s an opportunity to teach your kids how to improve at something. It teaches them about persistence and creative problem-solving.
And these are lessons that are applicable beyond the keyboard.
Many piano teachers out there have mandatory practice requirements. And I agree that practice is vital for improving. But not every kid needs the same amount of practice to make improvements.
And depending upon the goals your kids have for themselves; their practice sessions may look different.
Let your kids explore piano in a way that excites them. Make practice something they look forward to instead of something they dread. Now let’s dive into getting your kids to practice piano!
Get Your Kids to Practice Piano by Setting Reasonable Goals
My very first recommendation for getting your kids to practice piano is to sit down with them and talk about practice goals. Their teacher may have a weekly practice expectation, but how do your kids feel about this requirement?
And how does this requirement fit into their current obligations?
Many piano teachers would love to think that kids devote themselves to the piano at the exclusion of all else. But this kind of thinking isn’t realistic in today’s world.
Kids are involved in many activities, and why shouldn’t they be? Life is about exploration and learning new things. The truth is that you can fit regular practice into any schedule, regardless of how busy that schedule is.
But everyone has to be on the same page about the goals your piano kid has for themself.
Start with the following questions to get the conversation started with your kids:
- What other activities are you involved with, and how much time do you realistically have available for practice?
- Does your teacher have a minimum practice requirement?
- When is the best time to get your practice done?
- What are the barriers you see to getting practice done daily?
- And are there strategies you can use to overcome those barriers?
The keyword here is REASONABLE. There’s no room for guilt, and if you have 5 minutes a day for practice, it’s better than nothing!
Stick to a Consistent Daily Practice Time
Once you’ve had the practice discussion with your kids, it’s time to set a consistent daily practice time. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve decided on 5 or 50 minutes of daily practice time; the key is consistency.
Consider whether your kids may benefit from multiple short practice sessions rather than one long one. Research shows that keeping sessions short promotes more effective learning. As an example, if your goal is 30 minutes a day, try to break it up into three 10-minute sessions.
Try to attach practice time to another established habit. An example of this might be sitting down at the piano immediately following their afterschool snack every day.
Some families find that practicing before school works better than after. Our family is not quite that evolved yet, but it’s something I’m considering for the future.
Again, the key is consistency. Your kids will take more away from multiple, short daily sessions than one long session once a week.
Help Your Kids Structure Their Practice Time
Now it’s time to get creative! If you take one thing from this post, I hope it’s that practice should be anything but dull repetition.
Have a conversation with your kids’ piano teacher about what should happen during practice. Get ideas for how you can help your kids spice up their practice time.
Send a notebook to lessons so their teacher can write down weekly practice goals.
Find out what drives your kids to learn the instrument. Are they really into pop music? Do they love classical? Or do they adore video game music?
Whatever your kids are into, I guarantee there’s piano music for it out there. Ask the teacher for recommendations on music that’s level appropriate and accessible.
Incorporate the music they love into their practice routine. Use it as a reward for getting through the stuff that’s important but not as fun.
Find out whether they can use apps or websites during practice time to beef up their musical knowledge.
I know this sounds like a fair amount of work but staying active in the process will help your kids have a better experience. It shows that you’re invested in their learning.
Get Your Kids to Practice Piano by Learning with Your Kids
And speaking of learning, have you considered taking piano lessons along with your kids? Sharing the experience of learning is a great way to bond with your kids.
It gives you more patience and empathy for your kids when you come home tired from a long day at work and aren’t necessarily enthused about practice either.
And it allows you to show your kids that you’re never too old to learn something new.
Whether you’re a total beginner or dabbled as a child, now is the best time to get back into it!
If you’re intrigued by taking lessons, make sure you check out my post about how to learn piano as an adult.
Reward Their Efforts
Help your kids feel good about their efforts by rewarding them for a job well done. Maybe it’s a small weekly reward for hitting their goal time. Or perhaps it’s a larger reward for mastering a particular piece.
Many parents find success with practice charts. I use an app to document practice and find it both motivating and rewarding.
Whatever the reward, it’s important to teach them the art of celebrating their wins.
Perhaps fidgets or stickers from Amazon will be enough to entice them?, ,
For information on the practice app that I love, check out this post.
Connect with Other Learners
Some of my most memorable musical experiences have come from performances with others. Music is not meant to be a solitary pursuit, so look for ways to help your kids get involved with other musical kids.
One of the major benefits of learning piano is countless opportunities to collaborate. From chamber music to choir to solo accompaniment, the possibilities are endless!
I even recently discovered how fun worship band playing could be.
Introducing your kids to the world of musical collaboration may be just the secret sauce you need to spark their learning!
Many teachers have performance requirements built into their studio policies and encourage collaboration with other kids.
And if your kids are shy about performing, a friend may be vital to helping them have positive performance experiences. It’s truly a win-win situation that will hopefully foster a lifetime of teamwork and collaboration skills applicable outside the realm of music.
I’ve mentioned piano teachers here and there throughout this post, but if your kids are quite opposed to practice, it’s worth a conversation with their teacher.
There may be a mismatch between the teacher’s expectations for your kids and the expectations your kids have for themselves. Piano teachers have a reputation for being rigidly type A, and although not all teachers are that way, many are.
Personality clashes can result in and make lessons a drag for your kids. And I’m not saying lessons should be all rainbows and sunshine, but the mark of a good teacher is how your kid feels when they leave lessons for the day.
Do your kids feel inspired to reach new musical levels? Or are they guilt-ridden about not achieving some hypothetical practice requirement?
To minimize practice resistance and maximize learning goals, you must have a good fit between the teacher and the student. If your goal is to expose your kids to music and foster a love of music, it’s crucial that the teacher understands and supports these goals.
But if your kids have a more serious goal of achieving mastery of the instrument, you must find a teacher capable of guiding their journey.
Neither goal is right or wrong. And there are all kinds of teachers out there. Make sure you find one who fosters the type of learning most beneficial to your kids.
Don’t Sweat It
Although this has been a post all about the ins and outs of getting your kids to practice piano, don’t sweat it if none of the above advice works. All kids are individuals and take different things away from their learning experiences.
Will the teacher become frustrated if they have to guide your kids through something they should have practiced at home? Possibly.
But there’s no way of knowing the future impact continuing lessons will have on your kids. This is true whether or not they practice.
I’m a firm believer that even if your kids are not fond of practice, there’s value in the experience of taking lessons and learning something new. I don’t believe that kids should quit lessons because they don’t practice.
I believe that there is an opportunity to explore goals and have a conversation about the value of the experience.
And maybe your kids decide that they really hate the piano.
That’s ok too. Maybe you can use this opportunity to get them involved with a different instrument.
And maybe they will discover an instrument they are deeply passionate about, and you will never need to have the practice discussion ever again.
All this to say, never guilt yourself about your kids not putting in the practice time. There is a massive range of reasons why daily practice may be unrealistic. And it’s pointless to take a turn to negative town for things beyond your control.
Know that by enrolling your kids in lessons, you are opening them up to a world of new experiences and possibilities. And isn’t that, in and of itself, enough?
It’s Your Turn
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. What are the barriers you face to consistent practice? Are there ways you have found to spice up your kids’ practice time? And have you pursued piano lessons for yourself?
Whatever your feedback, I’d love to hear all about it!
More great piano inspiration is to come but, in the meantime, make sure you check out one of the following posts:
- Why You’ll Never Regret Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons
- 5 Simple Reasons You Should be Calling Yourself a Pianist
- Easy Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing
- SkillShare for Pianists: 2 Classes Guaranteed to Advance Your Skills
- 5 Mindset Secrets to Boosting Your Piano Playing Confidence
- An Authentic Review of the Modacity App
- 7 Simple Tips for Adults Who Want to Learn the Piano
- How to Find the Right Piano Teacher for You