How to Get Your Children To Practice Guitar More

A common challenge that music teachers and parents alike face is that younger children have a hard time becoming motivated to practice instrument for any extended period of time. 

Tragically, some parents threaten their children that they will cancel guitar lessons if the student does not practice.  While striking fear to the hearts of a child might get them to act, it is not the healthiest way to promote a new habit like consistent focused improvement on an instrument.  

It is also difficult to explain to a child all of the benefits they will receive from regular practice. 

Here is a nice list of MASSIVE benefits that children receive from consistent quality practice on their guitar:

-Improved social skills, math skills, higher test scores including the SATs

-A means of self expression and emotional management

-A sense of accomplishment through regular improvement

-Increased brain elasticity through creative application on the guitar

-Greater self-esteem and sense of accomplishment

-Improved coordination and motor skills

-Learn the ability to set and achieve goals (a massive life skill in it’s own right)

All of these benefits have been studied and verified time and time again by modern science, but how to explain that to your 9 year old?

Explaining it to your 9 year old

Here’s the thing, a child who signs up for guitar lessons can not possibly improve by sitting with a guitar teacher for a half hour a week alone.  It takes a team effort on the part of the teacher, the student, and the parents, in order to set the student up for success.  The child and parent can not go into guitar lessons with the attitude of “trying it out” because learning a musical instrument takes dedication over a consistent length of time.  Does that mean 12 years? No of course not, but it does mean more then 12 days or even 12 weeks.

Here are some steps that the teacher can make to ensure healthy practice habits for the student.

  1. Have the student practice in front of the teacher.  Yes, that’s right.  It is for the benefit of the student that they not always receive new content but they actually learn HOW to practice.  If a child does not know how to learn, and retain information, it makes no different what they learn.
  2. Create practice schedules for the student to follow and explain to both the student AND the parent.  The parents must know what they child should be working on and for how long.  For children 13 and under, 15 minutes a day, 5-6 times a week will suffice.  The teacher should spend some time each lesson breaking down WHAT to practice.
  3. Constant communication with the parents to see if the student has been in fact practicing at home and if the parents have been helping the student practice.

Here are some steps the parents can take to ensure healthy practice habits.

  1. Music lessons are LIFE lessons.  They require dedication and consistent progress.  The parent should sit down with their child and monitor their practicing.  Help them through their frustration by explaining how this is going to make their lives better because it will.  
  2. Help the student by giving them manageable goals as advised by the teacher.  An example would be “Can you play this 5 times in a row without any mistakes?”  That is a clear goal the child can understand.  “Play for 5 minutes” is ambiguous and not a clear goal in most children’s minds
  3. Music should come much higher on the priorities list in the eyes of the parent.  Many children today are busier than their parents and parents feel bad if their child is not involved in EVERYTHING.  This makes finding time for consistent practice very difficult.  Imagine you are a child, you get up very early, go to school and sit in a desk for 6-7 hours.  You come home, do your homework, then you go to your brother’s karate because you can’t be left home alone, then there’s 90 minutes hours of soccer, then rush home, eat dinner and get ready for bed.  After all of that running around, would you have the energy to sit and concentrate on a musical instrument?
  4. Music should be right behind homework on the priorities list and schedule if possible.  Another remedy is to have your child go to bed earlier and practice when they wake up before school.  Consistent focus for short periods of time regularly will greatly improve the students’ confidence and experience.
  5. The last tactic that can be effective but is not ideal is bribery.  Tell them, if you practice for 4 days in a row, you will get a star each day.  If you get 4 stars by the end of the week, you will get ice cream or candy, or whatever might motivate the student.

About author:

Josh Beetler, the owner of Taunton Guitar lessons School, has worked with hundreds of beginner guitar students in the past and has a lot of expertise in this area “For total beginners, the first 2 years are where the HABIT of playing must be taught to the student.  This is where the parents come in.  You can help your child to succeed with guitar lessons by taking an active interest in their practicing.”