Practice Makes Perfect


My parents drove us all over south Alabama and half of the state of Mississippi for piano and voice lessons and continued even when the eye rolls and teenage years were in full force. They enforced practice times and expected our best. They didn’t let us quit or give up, and in the process, gave us a lifelong gift. So many times, in conversations with fellow parents, I hear the oft repeated phrase “I wish my parents hadn’t let me quit (insert instrument or activity of choice here) lessons” slip into the narrative. In our culture of instant gratification, activities such as sports, music, dance and many others are excellent ways to help foster self-discipline and a work ethic that can contribute to lifetime success.

However, enforcing practice schedules/times with whatever activity sounded “fun” at the beginning of the year often turns into a torture session for both parent and child by year’s end. To try and eliminate some of the angst, each season we have the following conversation with each of our children:

“Do you want to keep on with (insert activity)? Yes?

Do you know that if you are going to do (insert activity) you are going to be required to practice? Yes?

By saying yes to each of these things, this is your contract until the activity is over” (or summer break rolls around season ends, etc.)

This, and some of these tips have helped ease the pain of practice in our family:

  1. To make practicing a musical instrument into a rewarding activity, we encourage reaching daily musical goals instead of simply focusing on the clock. For example, we will set a goal of playing a certain amount of measures that day, and then expand the goal for the next day. The time needed to meet the goal becomes unimportant as the child feels motivated to finish a task and has a sense of accomplishment versus aimlessly practicing just to fill the minutes. Our kids have been more motivated and have put more effort into practice since we have employed this method.
  2. Make a game out of practice so that it doesn’t seem so routine. Switch it up! We have used reward systems, let them have some choice over which pieces of music they play, watched online videos with tips on the sport they are involved in, and randomly let them have a surprise day off from practice or a lesson. One of our girls is much more motivated with practicing more challenging gymnastics skills when she has loud, silly music of her choice booming through the living room. After we establish that they are going to practice but give them a bit more freedom over how they practice, we have seen much less grumbling!
  3. Be involved and be positive. From time to time, we sit in on sports, dance or music practices and actively watch (no iPhone in hand!) instead of just simply dropping them off and discuss things that they did well during practice on the ride home. Other times, we may sit with them while they are practicing their instrument and give real-time positive feedback. As a result, our kids have become much more confident and motivated when they know we are watching. We have seen them blossom and want to “show off” new skills during practice times. Positive feedback from a parent or other close adult during the routine, daily grind often unearths newfound enthusiasm in our children.

Life is stressful and chaotic and crazy for us (just like everyone else), and tonight I sat at the piano and found myself thankful for this mental balm that has given such depth and value to my life so many years after the initial investment. So, keep on keepin’ on mom and dad. When you are tired of the parent taxi and the waiting and the wailing and gnashing of teeth over practicing, remember this. And remember there is an adult on the other side of the hard stuff that will be eternally grateful.




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Born and raised in South Mississippi, Jennifer is proud to call herself an 8th generation Mississippian. She holds Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate Degrees in Nursing, and is affiliated with numerous professional nursing organizations. Jennifer is an active member of the Junior Auxiliary of Gulfport, and is truly passionate about impacting the lives of children in her local community. When she isn’t busy working or volunteering, Jennifer spends her time chauffeuring her 3 children to 3 different schools and cheering them on at more than twice as many activities. As a devoted wife to a military officer and pilot, Jennifer counts deployment survival as one of the most indispensable skills she has acquired in this role, and began blogging shortly after her children were born as a means to stay connected during lengthy absences. Jennifer serves as a frequent vocalist in her community, and considers traveling, porch sitting, reading, and binge watching historical dramas to be a few of her very favorite things.