3 SIMPLE TIPS ON HOW TO GET YOUR KID TO PRACTICE GUITAR
by Piotr Sierzputowski
When you work on achieving any goal like learning how to play the guitar – it is normal to sometimes have a drop of motivation, especially with kids. It is certainly not a positive feeling for the kid, nor it is for you – the parent. You don't want your kid to feel bad, you want to see him / her having fun, being excited, productive etc.
In this article I will give 3 simple tips on what to do in these kind of situations. However, before we begin, there are 3 things I want to emphasize:
You do NOT want to push your kid to practice guitar. That would discourage him / her from playing guitar in the long run.
If a motivation dip happens, make sure to inform your kid's guitar teacher about that, preferably in when the problem is still in an early stage. He / She should have some good methods on tacking these kind of issues.
Even if your kid is not practicing guitar at home, he/she should still attend lessons – this way the practice is being done and the progress is being made in the lessons.
...and now, we shall start with the tips :)
#1: Do You Give Your Child A Good Example?
Surely you've heard such a saying that children imitate us more than they listen to us. I, when I was little, imitated my father when he was working on lake maps (I do not know exactly what he was working on at the time, but I also wanted to work on maps :)). I imitated my grandfather who was a poet - I took an old typewriter from him and rewrote books. When I saw my mother excercise, I excercised with her. My 2.5 year old daughter, when she sees me pull out guitar, she turns the keyboard on, cranks it all the way up and "plays" with me. She has also loved the book about musical instruments and we have to „read” it at least twice a day.
You must also have similar stories about your parents and your children. If we do something positive, we create and work on something (and it looks nice all along), we inspire our children to do the same and quite often this inspiration carries on in them until their adult life.
Does this mean that to motivate your child to play guitar, you have to play guitar yourself? It would definitely help ... but you do not have to. You can do something else - paint, write, sew, work on your passion, even deal with your work. If your child sees that, the inspiration will thrive. It is important, however, that they know about it. If it is not obvious, you have to tell them.
Then, when your child encounters a drop in motivation, you will be able to tell them that you know how they feel, because when you work on your things, you are often tired as well and you do not feel like doing it. You will then be able to tell them that it happened to you many times and every time you made the decision to keep working on it anyway, things always worked out, and you were very happy about that decision.
#2: What Are Your Expectations?
I once had a friend at school, who got only A’s, she paid attention durnig every class, she did all the extra tasks.... She was (and is) a very ambitious, hard-working, motivated and well organized person. She was one of a kind among all the students at school.
Well ... most children have a slightly different approach to life. Usually, it is filling out the necessary minimum required by teachers and parents. If you need them to write an essay for one page, it will take just the one page - no more (and you still need to make sure that they don’t not write in too large of letters).
It is going be the same with playing guitar. If you expect your child to "just have fun, because it's just a hobby ..." - then your child will be playing guitar so much. If they don’t practice for a few days, weeks, then nothing happened. It's only for fun, after all!
On the other hand, expecting your child to play like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, John Petrucci (guitarists famous for their virtuosity) is not too motivational because it is too big of an expectation and might overwhelm your child.
You can expect your child that they will be a great guitarist someday, that they will hold concerts, write and record their own songs, you can expect that they will be able to learn and play their favorite songs. Let them know that this is what you expect and tell them why - because you are 100% convinced that they CAN achieve it.
Do you think that your child will be having a better time then - being able to play the guitar very well? Hint: DEFINITELY YES! :)
#3: Small Victories
I once read an article about a girl who really hated cooking, although she was very good at it. Her husband could not understand how it was possible. Finally, after one visit to her mother’s, he finally figured out what was going on - mommy was the perfect housewife. Everything was perfectly baked, perfectly served and perfectly cleaned and washed afterwards (and wiped with properly selected cloths - different cloths for plates, different for set of glasses etc.). This stemmed from the fact that each time the daughter made a mistake (i.e. wiped a glass with a wrong cloth), she would be instantly reminded of it. No wonder that after years and years of listening to Mrs Perfect the girl did not like to cook ...
This is, in fact, an extreme case (although it is not difficult to imagine at all), but it is true that in our culture we first and foremost pay attention to negative things. In psychology it is called the "missing tile syndrome". The mechanism is that when we see a floor, a wall or ceiling tiled nicely, but just one tile is missing, we only pay attention to the empty space - not the fact that almost all the other surface is tiled orderly.
Similarly - as we try and learn to play an instrument, for example guitar, we first of all pay attention to the wrong things and not the good ones. This is quite understandable especially in the beginning, because we do not have enough skill to produce sensible sounds from the instrument at all, so there are not enough good things to focus on.
Nevertheless, in order to survive the beginnings with minimum stress , one must slightly strain the brain and pay attention to what they have achieved. It helps to keep being positive, which is what it takes to learn new things - especially as complex as playing guitar. If we start pointing the finger all the time, it will be hard for us to keep going ... and if others start doing it, then the failure is almost guaranteed.
How does this translate to you and your child?
The answer is simple:
When your child does something good, let them know that you have noticed it and show that you are really happy about it ... or rather, REALLY REALLY ENJOY IT! Mastering playing guitar is a complex thing, and all the small victories are what it is build upon.
Examples of small victories:
"You played a clean sound for the first time"
"You managed to learn 1 line of a song"
"You managed to practice for 20 minutes despite being tired and having very little time"
"You managed to overcome your lack of motivation and played guitar after a long period hiatus"
Also, remember that your child finds it more difficult to notice their progress than you do. It is worth reminding them that they are "playing much better than at the beginning" or "I remember this song, you struggled with it a little at the beginning and now you play it without any problem ..."
Such small things are gold.
Easier said than done
You certainly know the proverb. People usually say something similar, meaning "it all sounds good in theory, but in practice it will not work ..." for example - after reading an article like this one. I like to associate a little different meaning to this saying - much more constructive.
"Easier said than done" means that "it all sounds good in theory, but you have to remember that before we can actually do it, we'll have to study it, make a few mistakes, adjust all those rules and advice to the circumstances " etc.
Whenever I am trying to motivate my student to play guitar, I rarely do everything 100% right - despite the fact that I know all those rules quite well, I just wrote the entire article on after all! Sometimes because the student’s situation is complicated and I do not know how to properly react to it, sometimes beacuse I was not paying enough attention ... However, in most cases, I manage to achieve what I want, because it is not mistakes that are most important here. The most important thing is what I can learn from them.
Why am I writing about it? Because this article is full of good advice, which is not so difficult to understand ... putting them into practice is not a snap of your fingers though ... Therefore, if you want to do it, you have to be patient and... forget about your mistakes (after thinking them over and drawing conclusions, of course).
Certainly there will be times when, despite your good intentions, you are going to say something wrong that wiill be unpleasant to your child… I am actually quite sure you have done so on more than one occasion. These things happen. If you sit on it and keep remembering what went wrong, you will be left with very little energy to actually do something positive.
In other words when - you make a mistake, instead of putting time and energy into self loathing, put it to finding a solution and making it right.
ABOUT THE AUTHOUR
Piotr is a certified guitar teacher in Ostrołęka, Poland and a professional music composer, performer and producer.