I myself am also a parent. My youngest daughter is now 9 and has piano lessons. I realize that I have a small lead against parents who don't play an instrument, but it does not change the parenting.
Learning to play an instrument goes through frequent repetition. This means that a pupil (your son or daughter) has to practice every day to learn it. This has to do with muscle memory and automation.
Often I hear parents say: "I must always encourage my child to practice." This is often accompanied by a struggle and finally the parents choose to keep the peace while in the meantime they are wondering if they should let their child quit the lessons.
I recognise that struggle very well. My daughter likes to make play dates with friends as well, and when she gets home she also likes to play on the pc/phone, watch TV or just play with toys.
I am convinced that children can specify what they want, but they can not see the implications in the longer term. Also, they are not yet capable to organize their day to be able to do everything they like to do.
This is one of the tasks of us as parents. I find that it is our duty to guide the children so that they can develop in the best way possible. As far as I am concerned, that includes helping to organize the day, along with your child. Then we should monitor the follow up of the schedule. Consistently! If you give your child space to do anything else than the agreed tasks, then your child will take that, and won't practice (or do homework, or cleanup, etc) at all.
Personal I'd rather not work with rewards in material form, such as a gift when you haven't used any bad words for at least an x number of days. Then you create the expectation that for the next effort such a reward will be given as well.
The single most important reward is the result: After practice you can do something that you first could not. After homework you have learned something. After laying the table you can eat together at the table. Without swearing, there is a more pleasant atmosphere.
Though I love compliments. Not only when your child shows you something, but also 'unsolicited' by pointing out what is going well and show your appreciation for that. That way you positively and subtly show the direction you aim for as a parent.
Practical and effective practice
Beautiful, when you've gotten your child practicing! But that's not all there is to it.
In general, a child will put his book in front of his nose, plays the songs a number of times and then calls it a day. I have to say that I am happy with it if that happens, because they anyway see the material and in any case not go backwards (which happens anyway when they are not practicing). There is a big difference between playing and practicing. Usually, a child does not have the discipline to practice. I spend a large part of the lessons learning how to practice. Unfortunately I'll only be around during the lesson, so the student will have to do this myself at home and that is not easy. A little help from the parents is very welcome.
Somtimes I sit next to my daughter when she practices her piano lesson (I can not do that very often, because I usually give lessons when she practices at home). I then help her as I believe all parents should help their children with every instrument.
- Please take some time and be patient.
- Take the notebook with instructions and show them to you child
- Generally it works very well to work in small parts, as far as possible by 'musical' phrases, or else per line. Sometimes there are such difficult pieces, you can better practice per bar.
- Practice slowly! With piano it means that you practice left hand and right hand apart before you take them together. With violin first play the notes slowly without rhythm or articulation. You can even put down the bow and play pizzicato (pluck) so you don't have to do too much at once. Encourage your child to do this, and
- When a piece goes well, play it one more time to make sure that it was no fluke.
- make sure to set achievable goals.
My daughter doesn't like it to play a piece time and time again, but as soon as she notices that it works and that she can play something which she couldn't before, she gets enthusiastic and plays full of bravoure the part she just practiced before. All angry faces are gone and I'm the beloved again.
Next time, give your child the chance to practice by himself and congratulate him when he succeeds, or remind him so he is put back on the right track.
Good luck and will you let me know if it succeeds, or if you have questions or tips?