Motivate your child to practice

"If love is deep, much can be accomplished." - Shinichi Suzuki

This quote says a lot about Suzuki's views on learning, and the responsibility of the parent as the "home teacher". Dr. Suzuki encouraged teachers and parents to be gentle and loving when instructing children. To provide encouragement, and avoid criticism or shame. To build up, not tear down the child's self-image. Suzuki was always able to find something positive about a student's efforts and comment in such a manner. Is your child receiving genuine, specific praise?

There is always something positive to say even if it is that they stood still or had their feet in playing position! Instead of saying, "Your pinky was straight again, fix it", try saying, "You really watched your bow that time! Can I see your curved pinky?"

That being said, everyone gets tired of practicing! If you're struggling to help your child overcome a practice slump, often, a special reward between parent and child is more effective than a material reward such as a new toy. Reading a favorite book, big hugs, choosing dessert after dinner and playing a favorite game are all examples of non-material rewards. Sticker charts work well for some families. Here are some other ideas:
  • Develope a board game with your child to help them practice. Take a piece of cardboard and draw a track made up of boxes. The track can wind around the board and should have a "start" and "finish" box, much like Candyland (see image below). Parent and child can together come up with, and write in, tasks to complete in each box. They can be fun (play Mississippi Hotdog while standing in the bathtub) or serious (perform a review piece with great tone). Use a penny for a game token, and a dice or spinner to determine how many boxes to move forward, and play your way through practice time!
  • Incorporate your child's favorite stuffed animals or dolls into practice time. Use the animals as "puppets" to give instructions. (Sometimes a small child will receive directions better from Mr. Bear than from Mommy.) Have the animals help by observing the child perform a recital or encouraging the child. Have the animals demonstrate rhythms. They can be your child's students. Many children retain information better once they have imparted their knowledge to someone else! Lastly, let the animal (if it's small enough) take a "ride" on your child's violin. This will force your child to hold the violin parallel to the floor to keep the animal from sliding off. They're developing excellent posture and they don't even know it!
  • Also, here's a great list of practice motivators I found on the SAA forum...
"6" things a day - pick 6 things to practice. For example - 10 perfect bow holds (counts as 1 thing), some drill work on the working piece, 3 review pieces, preview for next piece.

Birthday Candle
- Light a birthday candle (make some type of holder) and have that be the length of the practice session.

Violin Tour
- take the student "on tour" --playing something different in each room of the house (the big tone produced in the bathroom is very exciting!), in a different place in the yard, or at different neighbor's or relative's homes.

Student as Parent
- Let the student be the parent for one day of practice. This can have mixed blessings because a parent will often see his own behavior reflected in that of the child's.

25 minutes = 25 cents - practice for 25 minutes, earn 25 cents.

- Roll a dice to determine the number of repetitions of a piece or for drill work (ex - play this section the number of times you roll on the dice.) Or, roll the dice to determine the piece to play. Ex - 1 = Twinkle variation A, 2 = variation B, etc.) Buy a package of math dice - these dice have more sides with higher numbers.

Deck of cards
- like the dice game, only use cards. Assign pieces to each card. Have child pick cards to determine the pieces to play and the order.

Draw a name
- write the piece names on pieces of paper. Put in a hat and draw to determine piece to play and order. Or put practice item on paper (bow holds, scales, etc.)

Silly Cards
- make silly cards and let child draw a silly card as a reward. Ex - stand on one foot, stick out your tongue, sing the piece, play pizzicato. For example, if child needs to play twinkle and draws "stick out your tongue," must play twinkle with tongue out the whole time. It's quite amusing.

Make a video
- regularly video tape your child playing violin. You'll be amazed at the progress they make.

Chip Game - use "chips" (pennies, marbles, any kind of token). Set a goal - for example, keeping thumb bent while playing piece or keeping a good violin posture for entire piece. Give child and parent 5 chips each. If child meets goal, gets a chip from parent. If misses goal, parent gets a chip. Keep playing until someone has all of the chips.