Dear Parents:

The following are insights and comments I gleaned off of the discussion list of the American String Teacher’s Association (ASTA) listerv from our editor.  This e-mail was in response to a question a teacher asked regarding practicing (the eternal question).  I hope this clarifies your role and helps for the future.

Four points spring to mind to convey to your parents:

  1. Parents are responsible for creating a practice schedule with their children that works. Each family is different, but there needs to be consistency within each family. Usually it works best to attach the practice time to some other regularly occurring event, such as a meal or snack.  Weekends are a special problem, but it seems to work best to do it first thing after breakfast, before the family starts doing outings and projects.
  1. Parents are responsible for creating an atmosphere conducive to practicing. That means that the expectation that it will occur on a daily basis is there, and that there are no distractions during the practice session. It’s a sacrifice for the parents, perhaps, to skip the interesting TV show or not go out to dinner (or movie!) on a weeknight, but worth it, in order to fit the practicing in.
  1. Parents can help keep practicing from being lonely. Playing an instrument is like going out for a sport (parents and kids in this country can relate to the sports analogy) in that daily exercise of the muscles is required, but there is no team and no coach for the practice sessions!  Some children prefer to be on their own, but most would like a parent present or nearby.  A parent quietly reading or knitting (or fixing dinner) in the room can make it less lonely. Children like to play little concerts for their parents, also, and can do it as part of the daily practice.
  1. Parents need to defer to the teacher, preferably with the student participating, about issues such as content of practice, length of practice, and type of practice. If the parent becomes the practice boss, the child will feel ganged up on and will become resistant.  It takes a very delicate touch for a parent to help with practicing and usually it works best if the student is the “expert” with the parent being a consultant.” (End quote)

I hope that this can invite you to participate (if you aren’t already) in your child’s musical endeavors.  Should you need any other advice on how to make practice fun, don’t hesitate to ask me.

Thank you,
Jennifer Dunne