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Should You MAKE Your Child Practice?

I met a very successful doctor at a party who said to me, when he discovered I teach piano, "I don't believe in MAKING my children do things."

I responded, "I do."

We did not have much more to say to each other after that.

I did understand what he meant, although I do not think he understood what I meant.

A lot of children are overscheduled, and sometimes their schedule is a result of their parents' choices and desires and not those of the child . Forcing a child in to an activity in which they have no interest or makes them feel uncomfortable is not a good idea, maybe even cruel in some cases. (To be clear, I am not talking about homework and household chores. It is never too early to learn to contribute at home by doing your part.)

But if the activity is something in which the child has expressed interest or chose from some options a parent presented, then the parent really needs to support the idea that if you want to learn something or get better at something, you need to spend time doing it.

Children are children, not adults. With very few exceptions, they do not understand time management. They do not understand the impact of their choices on the rest of their life. They do not understand that taking music lessons while they are young may be the only chance they have to do so in their lifetime. Taking 15-30 minutes out of their day for 4-5 days a week may seem terrible to a child at the time, but it is the adult in their life that needs to set the expectation for regular practice. And to make sure they have time to practice.

Should I MAKE my child practice?


IF the child originally had some choice in starting the activity/lesson.

IF the time required to practice is reasonable for their age.

IF the child also has time to just relax, because we all need that.


We are not talking Beethoven's childhood stories. His father wanted him to be a child prodigy like Mozart. Beethoven was talented, but not a prodigy. Reportedly, his father would lock him in the basement or beat him because he was not practicing enough.

Every music student who is not going professional will eventually discontinue lessons.

Just be careful not to give in to the first sign of flagging interest. I would make deals with my own children as they matured. "If you still want to discontinue when you get to this level, we will make a decision then. We will keep practicing until then." Ironically, one of my children, who was a teenager when he discontinued violin lessons, told me a few months afterwards "I miss taking lessons."


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