As I finish up a working week of teaching young adolescents, I try to put myself in the shoes of a kid going to school.
Students observe passively, have some time for creative and constructive learning, contribute to the class, and get the occasional score for their test.
Sometimes they’re told they have underperformed, and interpret that as “I’m not good enough”.
Sometimes his/her group of friends get incriminated for a crime they did not commit – like hitting the football over the fence.
Kids are kids, and we need to consider their mood swings after school, particularly if they have extra-curricula.
I use 4 strategies to boost confidence and motivation during all lessons, be they guitar lessons or Mandarin Chinese lessons. Understanding what’s worked for teachers, may help parents inspire their kids during guitar practice.
- Give them food and water. It’s important to keep hydrated, especially if you are concentrating for a long period of time. A bit of sugar – lollies – is ok as well, and can be a great reward. Oily food makes them feel sluggish, so avoid if possible.
- Stretch. Emotion comes from motion, and often, we can change how we feel about guitar lessons or guitar practice through changing our body language. For posture, try practicing with a strap, or finding a different chair to sit on. Coupled with hand stretching exercises, this can make for a radical improvement in concentration, especially if practice extends to a long 30 minute block.
- Remind them of their goals. Teachers often forget to review what students need to do for homework (trust me, I know!), and so students are often left with no indication of how to be successful every single day. Get clear on what the student needs to do for the week, and break practice into small chunks. Also make sure you understand the goal that the teacher set, and it is aligned with what your child wants.
- Celebrate their quick wins. Film their practice videos, and show them how much they’ve improved. Take them to do (window) shopping at a guitar store, and let them explore music through a concert. Like adults, kids need context for their guitar lessons, and so little rewards like this help keep them going.
I hope these 4 tips are useful, and that as a parent, you can take over the role of a teacher / coach when guitar teachers like me are not around.
Here’s to productive guitar lessons and practice this week!