Kids need tangible, concrete evidence of good behavior.
Have you ever felt your motivation lagging, and then remembered a reward was coming?
Maybe it was an exciting weekend ahead, or time with a friend. Or how about an old-fashioned paycheck? You were willing to work harder for a short time to get to the end
A number of studies have been done on the fact that we work more efficiently and longer if we can associate a tangible reward. When children can see a result, even if it’s as simple as getting a sticker, they become very motivated. Rewards translate to them as immediate positive reinforcement. They begin to associate reward with practicing.
You may ask whether we want them to want to practice for its own sake, not for some external reward. We don't want to bribe them, do we? We do want them eventually to practice for the sake of its own reward. Taking that level of ownership is a gradual process for a child and we need to help them build up to it in small ways
Be careful not to go overboard or get out of proportion with the reward. A large expensive item as a reward for playing Twinkle would be counterproductive to your goal of developing a healthy psychology about practicing. We want them to discover the joy of hearing music for its own sake, as well as the inner satisfaction of daily discipline.
With that caveat in mind, you can have some fun and get creative with your rewards.
ACTIONS FOR THIS WEEK
- Keep a tally chart. Give one each time your child practices, without regard to the outcome of the practicing.
- Have something mutually agreed to as a reward for a certain number of tallies. The occasional edible treat helps. Something inexpensive like a chocolate milk, a piece of gum, or a trip to a nearby bakery works wonders. The important thing is that it is mutually agreed to!
- Make a daily activity chart, with pictures of each thing you want your child to do after school along the left side. Include violin (and/or other instruments) as part of the daily activities. Use stickers for an extra boost.
- Birthday and Christmas far away? Find out what is on their list and tie it to a certain number of tallies, or for older students, mastery of a certain piece.
- Make an offer! Kids are sharp negotiators, have you noticed that?
During a lesson, I will often make an "offer" to a student (this works especially well for boys): I will get out 5 pennies and say, "You get to keep one each time you follow my directions." If they continue to be silly or uncooperative, and we get to the end of the lesson time, I do not give out the pennies!
REMEMBER: Tangible rewards work! They will give your child something to latch on to, boost them over the plateau, and give them a feeling of ownership because they are allowed to negotiate with you.