The good news is that learning to play the violin - or any string instrument - has lifelong benefits. However, if your child dreads practice time, or develops a negative association with practicing the violin, it can crush the spark of musical inspiration before it is time to begin.
Here are a few tips on how to encourage practice time without hindering your child's experience.
FIND THE RIGHT TEACHER
Your child's resistance to practicing may not have anything to do with a distaste for the instrument or practice itself. Rather, it could be a subtle way to communicate his/her lack of connection with the instructor. Just because one teacher works wonders with a friend or neighbor's child, doesn't mean s/he is the right fit for your child.
Take the time to "interview" prospective teachers and let your child be a part of the selection process. When a child establishes a positive rapport with the teacher, s/he has a vested interest to practice more and impress the teacher at the next class. The "best" violin teacher for a young beginner is very different from the best violin teacher for an advanced high school violinist. The primary goal should be to choose a reputable and competent violin teacher who's known for engaging the young beginner, so your child can blossom from there.
"ENCOURAGEMENT" DOESN'T EQUAL "INCESSANT NAGGING"
It's no mystery that children don't want to be nagged. In fact, the more nagging parents do, the more children balk at the requests. This even includes nagging or pressure around things they truly enjoy.
Make sure your relationship around violin practice time is genuinely encouraging (positive and supportive) rather than overbearing (negative and discouraging). Most children wilt under the excessive pressure of parental input around instrument practice. Do your work to find the balance between providing positive support and encouragement and becoming an oppressive drill sergeant.
WORK WITH THE INSTRUCTOR TO ESTABLISH HEALTHY PRACTICE NORMS
Good violin teachers provide age- and ability-specific practice recommendations and schedules. Just because you had to practice violin for a full hour every day, doesn't mean your child should. Remain in communication with the teacher and stick to his/her practice instructions.
In fact, some teachers may let you know that they prefer you not nag your child, but let the student's musical journey remain somewhat within the instructor's control - leaving you off the hook almost entirely. This relaxed space may seem uncomfortable for parents at first, but it may be just what your child needs to establish a firm bond with their instrument, the process, and the music. Check out our article, How Much Practice Time is Too Much?
ENLIST THE HELP OF TECHNICAL APPS
There is, indeed, an app for everything - and violin is no exception. The use of technical apps, via a smartphone or gadget, may be the perfect "bribing point" by which to encourage your child's practice time.
Read, Newest Apps for Learning the Violin, to review high-quality music applications and select the one or two that match your child's age and level. In addition to traditional practice "to-dos" such as scales and arpeggios, apps designed for young children offer fun games and activities that make practice time entertaining.
DESIGN A SPECIAL PRACTICE SPACE
Is your child practicing violin in a space conducive to the work? Creating a comfortable, visually appealing practice space that's free from interruptions or distractions and includes everything your child needs during the practice session. Even a corner of the bedroom can be transformed for this purpose. Here's a few tips to help to create a space that invites practice and keeps them focused: Creating the Perfect Practice Space.
MAKE IT A GROUP EXPERIENCE
Practicing solo is not the ideal for every student, particularly extroverts. Consider providing opportunities for your child to practice with friends. Contact other parents in the area with violin students and create an ensemble or chamber practice experience. Perhaps your home can be the host one day, another group member's home another, and so on. By interspersing valuable solo practice days with chamber practice opportunities can makes practice time more exciting.
This is especially true for students practicing music systems that are repetitive or that support the main melody line(s). Hearing how their part integrates with the whole makes the process feel much more official and "real" than when they play the same, disconnected part over and over again on their own.
Your commitment to your child's musical success is admirable, but never forget that too much pressure can backfire. The more you can inspire children to fall in love with the learning and growing processes, the more self-motivated they'll become around violin practice.