Kids, just like parents, need a reason. Most kids don’t really think too far in the future. But, let’s be honest, most ANYBODY doesn’t think too far in the future. So it is very important to have a reason. Kids need a reason to practice their instrument.
And “practice makes perfect” is NOT a reason.
I remember when I was a kid and I was taking piano lessons. Their were always certain times during the year that I would practice the most. Usually they were right before recital time. I practiced more because I had a reason.
I have found the same is true for pretty much everybody else. If they don’t have a really good reason to practice they just simply won’t do it. Very few people just simply do it out of discipline. Or if they do, it doesn’t last very long before they just get tired of it and quit.
So this issue of having a reason is very important.
I have found that recitals motivate kids to practice more than anything else. But there are other ways to motivate kids to practice during all the other times of the year.
One way that I have found to be very effective is to give goals with a beginning and an COMPLETION date. The benefit of this is that it gives them something tangible and achievable. Once the goal has been completed there should be a reward for the accomplishment. This shows your child that there are extra benefits to learning the instrument.
Another way that is even more effective is recognition. I have yet to meet someone on this planet that does not like to be recognized for their efforts. Kids are even more so needing of this affirmation. Frequent recognition with trophies and certificates (the more the better) go a long way to sustaining self motivation and overall enjoyment of the process.
As always, the younger the child, the more parental involvement the better. If your child is between 3 and 7 they will probably need some sort of help during the week to practice. There are always exceptions to this of course, but for the most part this is pretty consistently true.
Just like most things in life, the more you put into this process, the more you will get out of it. Learning a new instrument is definitely a discipline that requires self motivation. But sometimes we have to foster the self motivation in our kids a little before they will have it on their own.