The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents.
Authored by: Barbie Wong
How do you motivate your child to practice their instrument? If you’re like most parents, you have a child who is not always eager to practice and may even resist it. Having worked with hundreds of parents, music educator Barbie Wong addresses common issues that parents face by explaining how motivation really works, what drives a child to make music with joy, and how you can create the right environment for that to happen.
Barbie will first uncover the top five myths regarding practice and the truths behind them. She explains why most children dislike practice, why that is perfectly normal, and what to do about it. Next, Barbie dives into the “Big 3”: 3 fundamental ideas that will help you understand motivation more deeply and specific actions you can take to address them. These 3 ideas are 1) Kids love to copy and thus kids need to hear music, see music, and make music with others, 2) Progress leads to motivation and thus kids need to practice regularly so that they can progress and gain confidence in their abilities, and 3) Practice is an evolving process and thus you must keep learning to help children at each stage of their musical development.
Next, Barbie discusses the intersection between being gifted and being gifted in music and how to view giftedness in the context of practice. She cites studies that support the importance of the parent’s role for musical development. The last part of the talk involves looking at common barriers to practice and how to overcome each barrier. When you incorporate the suggestions highlighted in this talk, you child will become more eager to play their instrument and you can maintain a strong connection with your child.
- Bathe your child in music. Kids love to copy, so make sure that they hear a lot of music, see people make music, and make music with others. Examples include playing a lot of music around the house, taking your child to live concerts, and signing up your child for group lessons or music camp.
- Make practice a priority. Kids get excited about making music when they hear/see their progress. The only way to make progress is for kids to practice consistently. Studies show that parents who support practice have kids who stick with music much longer.
- Keep learning. Establishing a strong practice habit takes time and your child will grow and change. Thus, you must keep reading books and articles, taking classes, and continually seek out info that will best fit your child’s current needs.
- Other helpful tips:
- It’s okay if your child doesn’t want to practice. Most kids don’t like practice because practice is hard.
- Kids like structure and routine. Set up the same time/place each day and help your child remember and/or begin.
- Practice daily. Even if your child only spends 5 or 10 minutes at their instrument, doing it daily will build the habit for practice, and that is incredibly powerful.
- Fun comes from mastery. And mastery takes time to develop. Hang in there and realize that each day is just one more step in this journey of 1,000 miles. Learning to play an instrument is very complicated, and your consistent support will be appreciated one day.
- “Top 15 Ways to Inspire Kids to Make Music” Tip Sheet: https://barbiewong.com/inspire-tipsheet/
- Practice Do’s and Don’ts: https://barbiewong.com/practice-do/
- Videos on how to raise musical children: www.YouTube.com/BarbieWong
- Instagram, Tiktok, YouTube, FaceBook: @barbiewongmusic
- How to Raise a Musical Child Parent Class: www.barbiewong.com/parents
Barbie Wong is a music educator and speaker who teaches parents and teachers how to inspire kids to make music. With music degrees from Stanford University and Smith College, Barbie has worked with hundreds of parents and music teachers throughout the world to help them understand motivation, effective practice, and joyful music-making. Through her extensive research into the lives of musicians, Barbie has discovered simple, practical ways for parents to raise kids who love music. She loves to share her expertise through her online classes, in-person workshops, keynote speeches and YouTube channel (@barbiewongmusic). When she is not teaching or making music, Barbie loves to do parkour, eat chocolate and hang out with her teenage kids. For more information, please visit BarbieWong.com.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.