Why do kids resist practicing?

As parents we want the best for our kids, we want them to do well.

But ask yourself: How often have you set a New Year's Resolution to lose weight or exercise, and you toughed it out for a few days or maybe a few weeks, and then you crashed? Then you beat yourself up. And then the next time it is time to do the activity, you had negative associations. "I tried, and it was too hard, and I couldn't do it."

It's the same with practicing. We often over-regiment ourselves and our kids, in a well-intentioned effort to work hard, achieve, or to become good at something.

The reason kids resist is that they are feeling what they imagine is negative pressure. This can cause them to go into all kinds of avoidance strategies.

Adults do this too. When we think we have to put in many hours at something, it seems too hard, and we tend to avoid it. Have you ever used an avoidance strategy (ahem, Facebook)?

For a young child, the idea of practicing for a long time is enough to be very demotivating. You can release that pressure by allowing them a "Do More Than None" approach.

I'll admit this is counter-intuitive. But often the hardest part of any task is getting started. If you can supply the energy to do more than none, to usher yourself and your child into the practice room, the rest often goes forward on its own momentum.

I often put it this way: "Let's just get out the violin and say Hi. It misses you."

As violinists we can be perfectionist and try to climb mountains on pure will power and grit. But that can lead quickly to burn out, or for parents, arguing and cajoling about practice time. Instead of berating our kids (and ourselves), it is helpful to remind ourselves that all we have to do is...more than none! 

You'll be surprised at how much more you and your kids practice with this attitude. Try it this week.

ACTIONS FOR THIS WEEK

  • Set a timer for 10 or 20 minutes. (Click to see a fun timer suggestion.)
  • Practice until the timer goes off. If you feel too tired to go on, then allow yourself to stop. Come back tomorrow and do the same thing.
  • Start with a goal of 10 minutes per day and add a minute each week, until you get to 20. (For 3-5 year start with 5 minutes instead. For ages 6-8, start with 10 minutes)


Remember, give yourself and your child permission to DO MORE THAN NONE. Find ways of communicating permission for the “more than none” attitude and it will pay dividends in the amount of practicing that gets done.