Sadly there are no magic answers, but here are some ways that may help ….
1. Don’t expect them to do it spontaneously! Children are experts at being busy, and are often being told what they should be doing and where they need to go: football, cubs, swimming, homework, after school childcare. Music practise becomes another battle – and arguments are often a reason for children giving up their music. Set them up to succeed. Help your child to identify which days are ‘good’ days, when they have ‘free time’ at home to fit practice in – set funny-noise reminders on phones / iPods, hook up with a practise buddy or relative – get into a good routine!
2. Let them be the teacher: sit down for 10 mins on the evening of the day of your child’s lesson, and ask your child to teach you something they’ve learnt today! Their lesson will be fresh in their mind, and it will reinforce what they need to practise. It also helps you to know what they need to practice ….. And may encourage you to try and learn a bit, too (sneak some late evening practice in yourself so you can get better too 🙂
3. Teach them how to practise! ‘Practising’ doesn’t come naturally, and your child will struggle with the time management and self-discipline skills that are involved. With time this gets easier (honestly!!) as children are motivated by their own success and will spend more time playing things they can now do, whilst realising that it was practise that got them there, and then be more willing to tackle new tasks.
4. Use a timer, and set it for an agreed length to practise (10 mins at first). Look at any written notes from the teacher and pick one of the tasks to practise and ask your child to repeat it up to 6 times, before moving onto something else. Keep it manageable! The teacher may give you lots of tasks …. but he/she will be happy if you master 1 or 2, rather than panic over them all and do nothing.
5. Rewards! Consider dusting off those motivational sticker charts that work so well, or a jam jar with pom-poms or lego bricks (they can add one to the jar every time they practise!) – a little bribery can be very rewarding (extrinsic reasons) until the natural (intrinsic) response takes over . Agree in advance what success looks like, and what the prize will be! Maybe consider making the prize something musical – ie. a completed half term’s chart, with 3 or 4 stickers a week (be realistic!!) or a jam jar with 25 pom-poms = a new music folder, some new music, cleaning cloth or accessory for your instrument. Maybe some 1-1 time with you or a treat of some kind.
Above all … try to help make it manageable, and maybe even fun? And if your routine stops working, re-think and try a different way.