What does it mean to be present at practice?
Being physically present–making a meal, reading a book, or sweeping the floor, within view but not distracting to your practicing musician (by talking on the phone)–will have an extremely positive and motivating effect on your child. Being present is one of the hardest parts for many parents, though. Being close by during practice is no different than being there to read aloud at bedtime or watch a favorite TV show together, so why is it so tough?!
We are all overbooked and frantically busy, working hard and sometimes getting home late. Running from one obligation to the next, we are juggling a myriad of parenting duties with a career and personal interests and obligations. How can we be expected to cover all the bases? Cook, clean, help with homework, take care of ourselves, finish work from the day, exercise, and now also help with music lessons?!
This is where routine becomes a key element to making it sustainable. You actually need to sit down and look at not just your child’s schedule, but also your own. Find those times where you and your child can really connect through music. First, think of all those times in a week when you already successfully connect. My favorite time with my kids when they were younger was always bedtime, because I knew that no matter what happened over the course of the day, I would always be available to sit and read to them for thirty minutes. These days, I just read with them…but hands down, it’s the highlight of most days! I cherish the time.
With music practice routines, you just need to find another 10-minute block when you can commit.
Step #1…Know you can commit. Then get your child on board. In my house it was different from one child to the next. My now 13-year old always played while I made breakfast between 7:30-8 in the morning, before school. My 11-year old, on the other hand, works better in the eve while I am making dinner. When is your time going to be? Does it need to be different for each child?
Again, remember that you do not need to hover over the entire process. Committing does not mean sitting and staring at your kids while they struggle to navigate some chord changes. Not at all. You need to be there, but NOT distract from the process. Treat your child’s 10 or 20 minutes of music play as important as the time you set aside for her to read or do her math homework. Cherish the music time. Decide on the time and make it sacred. As parents, we cannot treat music practice like a chore; we need to treat it like what it is… magical and fun. Honor and enjoy it!
And this is exactly why I encourage our students to set realistic and achievable goals for the first year. Find just two times a week to start. And eventually maybe build in a third. But stop there! Two or three practice sessions a week is plenty to begin the process of building routine. Learning to make music takes a focused effort by the entire family. Musicians need to know that they are not on this journey alone. Make sure they know you are a part of the adventure every week and you will come to actually look forward to it rather than dread having to nag, nag, nag!
– by Nate