Same story everyday. Kiddos come home from school, and refuse to do their homework. You ask them to practice their instrument, they whine, you ask them to help clean up after themselves and they act like you demanded they chop off a leg. The whinging and whining never ends. The homework sits there, and you wonder why you even bother paying for lessons if they’ll never practice.
I know you know what I’m talking about, but how do you help your child shift? How do you get them to take initiative? Sure, you can force them to do their homework or practice, but they never seem to learn anything or improve when you do that. There’s so much fighting and tears, but nothing to show for it. Is it possible to get your child to willingly do their homework, in a timely manner, without fighting or tears?
Yes! It is possible. Here’s how I did it, the same method can be applied to any child in any situation.
How I Got My Daughter To Happily Practice Violin Every Day
Our second daughter, 10 yrs old, has been taking violin lessons for 4 years. She wants to be in these lessons. It was her idea and choice to take the lessons in the first place. But even though she dreams of being a great violinist, she doesn’t practice. I can sit with her and walk her through every step of practice, but she’ll have to stop and clip her nails, rosin her bow, wipe excess rosin off her bow, stop to do her hair (so it’s not in the way), then she’ll maybe get 3 minutes worth of playing in and we’ve been at it for over an hour.
It’s frustrating, and more than once I’ve wanted to just stop the lessons completely.
I told her we could stop. But every time I checked in she reaffirmed she wanted to play. I couldn’t figure out why she wouldn’t practice. Some days she said she didn’t want to play anymore at all. There were times I wanted to latch onto that and just quit. But I knew this child had goals, I just needed to help her see those goals for herself.
If she didn’t want to take lessons, that’d be different. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to take lessons, something else was holding her back from doing anything to improve.
I needed to figure out how to Motivate her to practice on her own
This took a lot of digging on my part. We’ve talked about effort and mindset, she understood that effort equaled results. As we talked she kept coming back to saying she’s no good at it, that it was boring, and she wished she was as good as the other students (that started lessons the same time she did).
This is when I put on my coaching hat. The songs were boring? What wasn’t boring? She wanted to play more advanced songs, not the ‘little kid’ songs she had been playing.
“Oh, more advanced songs? What do you think you need to do to be able to play more advanced songs?”
It’s not enough to want your child to do homework. They need to want to do homework – and you can’t force that. In this case, don’t focus on the homework, focus on their hopes and dreams. You can come back to homework later. Once they know why homework might be useful, then they’ll have more motivation to do homework.
As simple as that. We kept exploring her mental block until she realized what the root problem was, then I helped her see what steps she could take to reach her next goal. Even as she recognized she needed to practice, she lamented that it wouldn’t make any difference. She pointed out how she still wasn’t a great violinist, despite years of practice. I asked her how she’d know if she was getting better?
Once she had a clear vision of her goal, she could see the benefit of practicing.
We’ve recorded her playing in the past, and used that as a gauge to help her see improvement. She suggested we could do the same thing again. This would help her see improvement over a short time.
What is your child’s goal? What are ways they can measure their progress toward their goals?
Define Outcome Success
Last I asked her how she would know if her efforts were working. She let me know she would feel successful if she played her concert song with fewer mistakes than she was making now. And by the end of the year she wanted to be allowed to play two songs in the end of year concert.
Success isn’t the same as progress. But they are related. It isn’t enough to see minor success, unless you also have a larger goal to work toward. Think of it like climbing a 20 story building. Each step, no matter how small, is progress. Each floor is a larger goal. The end goal is reaching the top. If we aim for the top from the start, without seeing the steps in-between, we often stop long before the top.
Help you child see each step, and celebrate each step as progress, and each level as a win.
This process can be used in many situations to help unblock our children so they can strive to reach their goals. Our children live lives designed to measure success or failure once – they take a test and do well, or not, then they move onto something else. Classes are not designed to hep children see growth and improvement. They don’t learn to measure success in small increments, rather see success as either great or not.
When we guide them to seeing their small successes, they gain greater power and ability to push for higher success.