As piano teachers, we spend much of our time inspiring, reminding, asking, and… begging… parents to help their children practice at home. In fact, it is by far the most common “piano teaching problem” cited by teachers.
But there are times when the opposite should happen. There are times when asking piano parents to make sure practice happens will actually work against our goals. Sound counter-intuitive? Let me explain…
Four Times When Piano Practice Should Not Happen
Sending parents information on when piano practice should NOT happen can be as valuable as sending parents information on how to inspire regular piano practice at home. There are some instances when insisting on practice doesn’t accomplish anything… in fact, it can actually be detrimental to their child’s progress at the piano.
We all want our students to develop a sense of diligence and stick-with-it-ness… and we all know that learning to persevere is one of the many side benefits of learning to plan an instrument. However, we also know that, when working with small children, sometimes a bit of flexibility is required; developing “grit” is a multi-year process that doesn’t happen overnight.
While daily practice is important, it’s also important to arm your parents with the permission to say, “Let’s leave it for today…” in the following four instances.
1. When Their Child Is Exhausted
Attempting to get a child to practice when he physically or emotionally tired is never a good idea. Tired children are children who are easily frustrated, quick to tears, and closed to working through challenges. Pushing practice on a child who is very tired doesn’t result in progress. Instead, it creates feelings of inadequacy and negativity towards the piano.
If a parent notices that their child is frequently tired at the piano, they should instead choose a regular practice time when their child is fresh and ready to learn.
2. As A Punishment Or Chore
If a child associates piano practice as being a form of punishment or a chore he will eventually learn to avoid going to the piano on his own. Any feelings of enjoyment will be replaced with feelings of resentment. Parents should avoid using piano practice as a way of enforcing family rules. They should not send their child to the piano as a way of removing him from a tension-filled moment.
Reminding parents to treat piano practice as a happy activity will prevent their child from associating piano with negativity and/or attempting to practice when their child is emotional or angry. Piano practice can still be a daily activity in the home, but it should be treated as a desirable activity.
3. When A Family Is Rushed Or Distracted
“Cramming sessions” at the piano are never a good idea. What should be happy time spent enjoying the music-making progress can quickly take a downward turn if practice becomes a frenzied checklist of tasks to complete in an impossibly short amount of time.
Ask parents to avoid hurriedly asking their child to practice immediately before a piano lesson or as they’re racing out the door to another activity. Instruct them to sit down with their child at a time when they are not distracted or multi-tasking. Leaving electronics out of the room and attempting to find a time when siblings will not interrupt is also important. Children sense parental stress and anxiety so if parents are feeling rushed, stressed or pulled in several directions children will react negatively.
4. When Parents Are Frustrated With Piano Practice
We’ve all gritted our teeth and bit our tongue when our child just doesn’t get something. Those same wrong notes or mistakes grate on us as we attempt to help… over and over and over. Our own daily stressors can become amplified by a less-than-cooperative child at the piano and we soon find ourselves saying things we will regret later on.
Remind your piano parents that it is always better to switch focus during piano practice If they find themselves getting hot under the collar with their child’s practice performance. Advise parents to instead, close the book (nicely) and suggest a different piano activity or piece. Learning to play the piano is a process, and parents must know that we, as teachers, will be more than happy to help rectify the issue in lesson time.
The Perfect Time To Practice The Piano?
The perfect time to practice the piano is when a student’s home is free from distractions, when everyone is in a good mood and when the child is content. Parents should seize those opportunities and let go of the times when practice is not going well. ‘No practice’ is better than practice in a stressful or negative environment.
The best way for parents to initiate happy practice? Have them start off home practice sessions with our story-based technical exercises from TEDDtales. We promise… you’ve never seen a technical exercise resource like TEDDtales! Our interactive, story-based approach will have your piano students begging (that’s right, we said it!) to do their technical exercises. Learn more by clicking here on the image below.