Ep. 6: How to Get Your Child to Practice…Without Resorting to Violence! (Author Cynthia Richards)

September 3, 2019

How to Get Your Child to Practice

This book is a classic, and I have been recommending it to my students’ families for years. The author makes a strong case for musical training and daily practice for all kids, even if they are not one of the rare kids who enjoy practicing. Gently but firmly implementing daily practice time for your child will provide musical rewards they can enjoy for a lifetime (not to mention the many life skills learned through music lessons, including problem solving, discipline, increased focus, creativity, patience, perseverance). Regardless of whether music is eventually entered as a profession, the ability to make great music is a priceless gift your child can turn to for release, enjoyment, service, or challenge at any time in their future. This book provides suggestions, tools, and strategies for establishing successful practice habits.


Cynthia is a performing violinist and teacher, and has been on the faculty at Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University. In addition to writing How to Get Your Child to Practice, she has both co-authored and compiled several other publications.


Read the book! [Note: This is not a paid advertisement.] Cynthia is offering a discounted book to listeners, available by emailing Cynthia at crich8136@q.com:

  • Offer: $12 book + free shipping
  • Reference Code: MINDY12
  • You will receive a PayPal money request for payment

The book is also available in Kindle version at Amazon.

Quotes from the book, referenced on the show:

  • “Practicing is not a childlike activity. Although human musical interest may be innate, the discipline, vision and willingness to endure are not. Children love to play their instruments, not to practice The process of practicing over and over to perfect a certain technique is biologically and psychologically opposed to a child’s nature.”
  • “So, when I hear a mother say that her child quit music lessons because he or she didn’t like to practice, I am unsympathetic. Of course the child didn’t like to practice. It is normal for children not to want to practice. They are children. Everything is against the probability that they will enjoy practicing because of the complexity of the task and because of their immaturity. It is unfair to expect children to shoulder the entire burden themselves without the continual help and encouragement from an adult in the family.”
  • “A parent’s role is to ‘stack the deck’ in favor of practicing. You can use various types of short-term incentives, you can insist on daily preparation through the use of natural consequences, you can make music a family enterprise and experience, you can find a teacher who is enthusiastic and motivating, you can help your child be prepared for performances, you can help the child form good practice habits, you can give praise when it is deserved, you can offer sympathy and encouragement when the task is difficult. The important thing is that you are involved and interested in making experiences in music successful and satisfying.”
  • “Once the time for practice is decided, it should be upheld, and practicing should become as much a part of the daily routine as eating meals. When it becomes a habit, an expected part of the day, a part of life, there is no room for argument. The mere presence of a structured routine is conducive to motivation. If practicing is left to be done whenever the child feels like it, it is too easy to be distracted from it, and then the parent starts to nag.”
  • “When parents find themselves nagging, it should trigger a response in them that says, ‘It’s time to use fewer words and more action.’ Sometimes the action is close, personal supervision. Sometimes it is the application of natural consequences or the offering of incentives. Be sure it is something which requires little or no verbalization.” 

In the interview, Cynthia notes that the ultimate goal is to have the music itself be the motivator. In the meantime, determine where your child is on the Hierarchy of Motivation and meet them there; gradually work your way up to higher levels.

  • 4. (top level): Motivated by the joy inherent in the activity (the music itself)
  • 3. Feelings of self-worth: Feeling confident and good about yourself because of what you are able to do.
  • 2. Human relationships: I’m practicing because my parent wants me to practice and I love and respect them. I like my teacher and so I’ll practice for them because they want and expect me to practice.
  • 1. (beginning level): Rewards & consequences.  It makes sense to be rewarded for doing hard work! External rewards can get children to the point of experiencing the taste of success.  Natural consequences: You don’t get to play until after your practicing is done. 

Other tips:

  • “Don’t allow yourself to get emotionally involved or upset when conflicts arise. Be friendly. Be matter-of-fact. But don’t give in.”
  • “Enjoy the music they make and praise them for their successes.” 


How can listeners learn more about your work, publications, and connect with you?


Cynthia shares a photo and recording of a student performance of children who have just completed their second year of violin work in The Complete Musician.  The performance was for music educators attending a Kodaly certification workshop. Joyful music making!

Other Resources

NEW Segment

I would like to feature some of YOU on the show by sharing YOUR Improv recommendations! Each episode includes an Improv from our guest – a Try-This-At-Home, experiment, or hack that will enhance listeners’ lives with music. Future episodes will also include a Listener Improv, submitted by one of you.  Send me your Improv suggestions:

  • By email (mindy@mpetersonmusic.com);
  • By commenting below; or
  • By commenting on the latest episode’s post on FaceBook or LinkedIn
  • I look forward to hearing YOUR suggestions and including one in next week’s episode.  Be sure to include your name and where you’re from!

I kick off this new segment today by sharing a hack of mine that makes me smile every time my phone rings: Use the free app ToneCrusher to turn songs you love into ringtones for your calls or texts.

4 responses to “Ep. 6: How to Get Your Child to Practice…Without Resorting to Violence! (Author Cynthia Richards)”

  1. Glad I can still listen to your piano music via the CD’s you made for us. Mom and I will always be your greatest fans! So glad you are passing music down to our third generation and that both of these special grandchildren are diligent at practicing their music. 🙂