Young students advance more surely if a parent or carer can attend the lessons and help with practice at home. The need for parental help will phase out as students become older and advance in level of ability, personal responsibility and intrinsic motivation. It is not necessary for a parent to be a musician in order to assist their child.
Encouragement is essential. Research shows that praising effort (the learning process) rather than excellence (ability) makes students more likely to enjoy challenges, persevere, and believe they can develop their abilities through practice. I recommend the book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by C. Dweck, Ballantine Books, New York, 2006, which presents research on the effects of a growth mindset on learning and motivation.
It is important to discuss with your child what is the best time of day for regular practice at home when he or she will have uninterrupted time and is most likely to be focussed. A practice journal or star chart can be helpful in setting regular practice habits.
It is not necessary to set a timer for the practice sessions. It is more important that a student’s time at the piano is focussed, strategic and enjoyable. Students who are required to practice repetitively for a predetermined number of minutes can become emotionally disconnected from their playing.
In addition to regular structured practice it is an important part of a student’s musical development to have unstructured time to explore the keyboard and discover the sounds they like. This is akin to giving a child blank paper and a box of crayons. A child’s rendition of an intergalactic battle on the piano may not sound like “proper practice” to the uninitiated, but it is important that students feel safe to be creative.
Special educational needs
Please let me know if your child has special educational needs or is experiencing anything that might affect their practice so that I can be sensitive and adjust my approach.
As students progress beyond playing familiar melodies and move into more complex repertoire it is advisable to bring a recording device to the lessons (phone or tablet computer) so they can listen to their repertoire at home.