How to Get Your Child to Practice Guitar More

Recently, a reader messaged me about how he can get his son to practice guitar more. He wrote:

“hoping to encourage my son who is 12 to practise more. I don’t think he is that excited by his music lessons, but would like to improve”

Here was my response:

Getting kids to practice is a tricky one. They’re usually at a level where they can’t do anything too exciting (although if his teacher got him playing to a simple backing track, that would probably be exciting).

Sometimes it takes kids a while of very slowly building up their skill to develop a true interest in the instrument. As a parent paying for lessons, this can be quite frustrating… because it feels like when your son isn’t practising, you’re wasting your money on his lessons, but hassling him to practice more will only make him resent the instrument.

What can work really well from your side is to praise him when you see him practising, and praising the effort, rather than the result. For example, rather than say “Wow that sounds really good!” say, “Wow, I’m really impressed by how hard you practised that music”. This helps your child attach the reward (your praise) to the process (practising) rather than the outcome, which over a long term, will lead to better outcomes and them wanting to practice more. The key is to affirm the practice, rather than the playing.

There’s a book called “Mindset” by Carol Dweck which you may find helpful.

Kids these days don’t listen to music that has guitars in it, so maybe introducing him to things like Nirvanna, Guns N Roses and Bon Jovi would help.

In my opinion, kids do too much these days. They have multiple after school clubs, sports, tutors; it must be exhausting. After going through all that, the last thing they want to do is practice an instrument, I imagine if I was in their shoes I’d want to kick back and watch cartoons, in the same way that, after spending a day at work (and then taking your kid to after school clubs), you don’t want to practice an instrument, you’re exhausted and want to watch TV.

The truth is, most parents want to “feel” like they’re doing the right thing, or be able to tell their friends that “their kid is learning guitar”, they’re not really interested in how their child develops at the instrument, they’re just interested in being able to show off to other parents.

If you want your child to become musical, firstly, it has to be their choice. If you force them to do it, they’re going to resent music. If they show a natural interest in learning an instrument, help them explore it and give them the time to be able to do so.

Secondly, if they show an interest and you have them enrolled in activities every night of the week, of course they’re not going to practice, they’re going to be exhausted.

As a final word on the subject, in life it is much more valuable to be an expert at one thing, than to be mediocre at many things. And being an expert at something takes time to develop.