Why did you start your child on an instrument? Was it because she showed special interest in music? Was it because studying music has been shown to improve performance in school? Was it so that he would have a great skill in life, a skill that would provide him with emotional well-being and that he could enjoy and share with others? It certainly was not for because you wanted to add more work and stress into your child's life! Yet, practicing can become a real chore and the subject of many arguments between yourself and your child.
As a parent of two budding musicians, age eleven and six, I've gained new insights. I thought that, as a trained music pedagogue, I would find it easy to guide my kids' music education at home, but on the contrary it has been hard work. Here I've compiled some thoughts, as a teacher and as a parent, that I hope you will find helpful.
To maintain a child's interest and enthusiasm in music the most important thing that you can do, regardless of your child's age, is to provide a regular routine for the practicing. Personally I like my kids to get their practice done straight after school, after giving them a light lunch. Other children like practicing in the mornings before school. Try finding a time that suits your family's routine. Aim to get the practicing done five to six days a week in order to maintain progress. Progress on the instrument makes the child proud of their achievements; playing becomes easier and therefore more satisfying. This is crucial for developing your child's self-motivation.
On a busy day, even 10 minutes of practicing is better than nothing. If you're experiencing a particularly "sticky" day there are other musical activities you could do together. Why not check out performances on YouTube of the pieces your child is working on? There are also several web-sites aimed at young students with free music games and fun ear-training.
If you are helping your child with the practicing try refraining from taking the role of a teacher. Even if you hear a mistake being made, instead of trying to correct it, you could suggest that the child plays the piece through again because you like that particular piece. Let your child know that you're proud of her when you think she is doing well.
Ways of stimulating your child could be using star charts with a treat after a certain number of stars, or a promise to do something nice at the end of a practice, sometimes plenty of praise and a cuddle is enough! As the students grow older, they will slowly become self-motivated, through their own progress on the instrument and also through the occasional failure. You have to let go at a certain stage and let them take responsibility for their own actions; if they do not practice they might get a scolding from their teacher or a concert might go less well than they hoped for. We all learn from our mistakes and you have to let your child make them occasionally as well. Keeping certain goal-posts in sight, like exams and concerts, is also important.
The best way to find out what is expected of your child is to talk to the teacher. All students have different levels of maturity and capacity, every child is unique.