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Nurturing Positive Practice Habits: Tips for Parents

Nurturing Positive Practice Habits: Tips for Parents

Published on February 1, 2016

Nurturing Positive Practice Habits: Tips for Parents

I’ve tried everything, including cajoling, pretending it’s a game, bribing him with Jelly Bellies, but [my son’s] resistance to the ritual of daily practice seems almost innate.

In a recent column for The Globe and Mail, journalist, novelist, and screenwriter Leah McLaren poses a question asked by many parents introducing a child to music for the first time: How do I get him to practice? 

According to Royal Conservatory faculty member and examiner Dimitra Marangozis, there are many ways to nurture a child’s practice habits. She recommends that parents – especially first-time parents – trust their intuition and apply their sense of empathy, especially if they also studied music as a child. “What did you want to learn? What did you like about practicing? Ask yourself those questions so you can meet your child at their level.”

Ms. Marangozis also reminds parents they’re never alone. As a music teacher, she believes in establishing collaborative partnerships with parents in order to ensure her goals and expectations are aligned with theirs. As we affirm in our white paper on structured music education: “A strong collaborative team of student, parents, and teacher is the foundation for a lifetime of music education.”

One of the best ways to foster good practice routines is to become actively involved with your child’s practice sessions, “not just overseeing, but participating,” says parent and Royal Conservatory Director of Research Dr. Sean Hutchins. “Sometimes it just involves duets, but it can also involve singing along, or even just being an open and appreciative audience member.” Ultimately, adds Dr. Hutchins, his goal is to ensure regular routines become lifelong habits.

Developing a love of practicing is also about captivating a child’s imagination. In his editorial for The New York Times, professor of management and psychology Adam Grant points out that the most reliable way to motivate someone to practice a skill for thousands of hours is by igniting a passion “discovered through natural curiosity or nurtured through early enjoyable experiences with an activity or many activities.”

Ms. Marangozis adds that many different kinds of activities can inspire students to practice. Some students love being able to show off what they’ve learned to friends and family members. Others thrive by participating in a Royal Conservatory examination. The key for parents is to work with their teacher to find activities that are the right fit for their child. “What your child may not (yet) know is that practicing builds mastery, and mastery builds self-esteem,” says music teacher and Royal Conservatory contributor Gabrielle Bauer. “It’s a rock-steady formula that won’t fail your child.”

Looking for a music teacher near you? Consult The Royal Conservatory’s National Teacher Directory.