When spring taps us on the shoulder after a long winter, most of us want to spend as much time outside as possible. I can still remember sitting at the piano one lovely spring day as a young piano student, plinking out a practice exercise while behind me the screen door was open and my friends ran around the front yard whooping in delight. Talk about spring fever!

If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have times when we just don’t feel like practicing. So how can parents motivate their kids to keep at it even when it’s tough?

Cultivate Intrinsic Motivation

It’s easy to bribe kids with a reward for practicing a certain number of minutes each day. And that’s not always a bad thing. Incentives can work wonders for encouraging reluctant children to put in their time. But ultimately, we want to cultivate the idea that great music is its own reward as opposed to practice time being drudgery. In order to help children develop this intrinsic motivation, we need to teach them to be good self-managers. Let’s take a look at four ways we can help them develop an intrinsic sense of motivation for accomplishing goals:

Create a sense of purpose
Large, big picture goals (have this piece ready for the spring recital) have their place, but it’s hard for a child to translate that goal into today’s practice session. Instead, provide purpose to each day’s practice by creating a specific daily goal the child can aim for. Make it small enough to be achievable, but challenging enough to require effort.

Give the student some choice
People who feel a sense of ownership in their work tend to make better workers than those who are simply doing what they’re told. Children are no different. You as the parent know what needs to be accomplished each week (5 days of practice, 30 minutes each day), but you can let your child have some say in when those practice sessions occur and what goals might be reasonable for each session.

Help the student feel competent to achieve his goal
Cultivate a spirit of “I can do this,” vs. “I’ll never get this right.” Small manageable goals as opposed to huge looming deadlines can help accomplish this. So can lots of praise and encouragement.

Offer a meaningful measure of progress
Help the student see how he or she has progressed over time. If your goal is for the student to master eight measures of a given piece each day, then use stickers, stars, or a chart to measure that progress.

Build a Life-Long Love of Music

Children who have developed an intrinsic motivation for practicing tend to develop a life-long love of music because they see the bigger picture of what they’re trying to accomplish. That’s not to say there won’t still be some days when spring is calling, but children are more likely to enjoy practicing if they can see past the drudgery to the goal.

Oh, and on the spring day when the weather was calling and my friends were playing outside? My mom relented and let me go out too. Sometimes kids just need a break. And that sensitivity on the part of the parent can make all the difference in whether kids love music or hate it.

This is a TBMA original article written for our Tampa Bay Music Academy readership by Susan McClure.  If you find it to be helpful, we would love for you to re-post it on your blog.  Please contact us first for permission.  Visit our website home for information on finding a music teacher in Tampa, Odessa, Land O’ Lakes, Citrus Park, Westchase, New Port Richey, Lutz, Trinity, Keystone, or Tarpon Springs Florida who offers private piano lessons, guitar lessons, saxophone lessons, voice lessons, or music lessons in any other instrument proficiency category.  TBMA teachers (piano, guitar, voice, woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion) pride themselves in a reputation for an uncompromising commitment to excellence and special care taken for every student. We remain absolutely committed to providing an outstanding enrollment experience beyond any other in the region.  Call us today.  We look forward to hearing from you!