Unless your child is naturally gifted, mastering a musical instrument, sport, or other skill is going to be difficult unless she makes a commitment to practice. But getting her to do that may be one of the biggest power struggles you face as a parent. Fortunately, there are ways to motivate your children to practice, and even learn to view it as a fun activity. Try these strategies:
- Pick something your child truly enjoys. Sometimes parents push kids into learning a musical instrument because they believe a musical education is important. Or they encourage their children to pursue a sport because they themselves once excelled at it — or wanted to.
- Set up a routine. Schedule a time that doesn't follow a less enjoyable task like homework, but comes before a fun activity like playing with friends. That way your child has something to look forward to when he's finished.
- Remove the ticking clock. It's not how long your child practices but the quality of her effort that counts. Use a log to record what she is practicing and the specific goals she wants to achieve.
- Make practicing fun. Encourage him to stand on one foot or do scales with one eye closed. Play "beat-the-clock" activities when appropriate. Have him tape record himself, or arrange for a group practice session with his friends. Brainstorm with your child to come up with ways to make practicing more fun.
- Choose the right teacher. Chemistry matters. Make sure the teacher working with your child is a good fit. If the instructor isn't inspiring, you'll be in for even more foot-dragging.
- Choose rewards carefully. The last thing you want to do is send the message that your child is practicing simply because she'll get something in return. To prevent that, choose rewards that complement the activity, whether it's a snazzy new pair of soccer cleats or a special necklace for her recital. Ultimately, your child will realize that mastering this skill is the best reward of all.
- Foster appreciation for the skill. Take your music student to concerts or your golfer to tournaments so he can observe the results of hard work. Check out books from the library so he can read about heroes in the field he's pursuing. Weaving these elements into your daily lives will show your child that he's practicing with an end result in sight.
- Know when to quit. There will be times when the struggle to make your child practice may not be worth it, and it will be okay to let him quit.