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Peaceful Practice:

How to Soothe Frustration and Anxiety during Practice

As a parent or teacher, have you ever witnessed a time when your student was experiencing high levels of frustration and anxiety, either during a lesson or practice session? I’ve noticed that several of my students from time to time will suddenly become super frustrated or anxious because they’re not grasping a concept or mastering a skill as quickly as they would like. Not understanding how to play something, getting confused when reading notes on the staff, or not being able to master a skill or technique, (more deeply, just feeling like a failure) can make students feel very frustrated and anxious. A lot of students have the desire to play a song perfectly every time, even if it is a brand new song they are learning, and they become frustrated when they are not able to immediately get it right. Have you ever faced this issue with your kids or students–the lesson or practice session is going along smoothly, and everyone is happy, until suddenly they just can’t get it, and they become overwhelmed, discouraged, and frustrated? This happens to me from time to time as a teacher, especially since I teach such a wide variety of students, including very young students, teenagers, and students with varying exceptionalities, such as ASD. All students learn at a different pace, and process information in such different ways. So how do we deal with frustrated students, and more importantly, how do we PREVENT frustration and anxiety from happening during a lesson or independent practice, and get to a point of peaceful practice?

Try out these 3 ways to prevent frustration and anxiety:

  1. Regular Routine: Have the same routine every lesson. This helps students anticipate what’s going to happen each lesson, which eliminates some of that anxiety, and let’s them know what they can expect from the lesson, and what is expected from them. This also helps students become aware of how much time they are going to dedicate to each portion of the lesson, for example: technique, method books, games, and theory exercises.
  2. Brief Breaks: Allow your child, or student to take short breaks from time to time, before they become to frustrated. When you see that frustration level start to rise, suggest taking a short break (you only need about 30-60 seconds). This helps the student slow down, take a breath, set their mind on something else, then refocus and restart. When they come back from the break, they are no longer feeling flooded and overwhelmed, and can now concentrate on the task that seemed too daunting before. It’s so simple, yet so effective!
  3. Alternate Activities: Another option instead of taking a break, is to switch up the activity when your child or student starts to demonstrate anxiety and frustration. Sometimes we get so focused on wanting to complete the task we started, that we forget that it’s okay to come back to it later, or even finish it the following week. Once a student becomes too frustrated, he won’t be able to focus enough on completing that task any way, so it helps to just stop, and turn in another direction. Although most students like to have that predictability in lessons, there might be times when it really is best to just take a break from trying to master that song, and play a game instead. You can always come back to the original activity later in the lesson or practice session.

Try out these strategies with your kids, and see how it helps maintain a peaceful and positive lesson and practice! For students who tend to get frustrated more easily, I like to use a visual aid, and post it where students can see it during their lesson, or while they are practicing on their own. This helps kids learn to identify and regulate when they are getting frustrated, and helps them know what they can do to calm their anxiety.

What students can do when they become frustrated in practice or a lesson.

They can pick and choose from one of these suggestions, or they can do more than one. The options are:

  1. Take 3 deep breaths
  2. Count to 10
  3. Slow it down, and try again (for example, pause, take a breath, then play the section again but slower).
  4. Take a 30-60 second break
  5. Say “I CAN do it!”

Always have students start back at their task on a positive note by saying, “I can do it”. Slowing down is KEY because often times students want to rush through a song or warm-up or scale, and they get frustrated when they are not able to play it correctly. By slowing it down, they are able to think and process as they are practicing.

Lastly, remind your child or student that mistakes are OKAY, especially when they are learning a new piece, or practicing on their own. Everyone makes mistakes at first, and that’s why we practice, and that’s why they have a teacher to guide them.

I hope this information helps with your kids and students! For more tips and information, follow Mindful Music Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and visit our website!

Pandemic Pleasures: Music is KEY

Any other parents out there feel like your kids are missing out on activities they would normally be able to do pre-pandemic? I know I have been feeling that way with my 18-month-old these past couple of months. I’m longing for the days where we would go to the library, playground, play dates, meet up with mom friends, and am missing just having the option to take my son on all the adventures we would think of spur of the moment. We are all needing moments of joy and nourishing activities right now more than ever.

So what kind of activities can your kids do during this pandemic that will not only be safe, but that they can enjoy and that will be beneficial to them? The answer–music lessons! There’s no wrong time to start learning an instrument, and now might actually be the perfect time to start! The benefits to music instruction are endless, and right now more than ever, kids and parents are needing something to do that will nourish them, makes them feel good, and gives them something to accomplish.

So why is learning an instrument a great idea right now?  

Read on to find 5 reasons why your child should start learning an instrument today.

1.     STRUCTURE:

With everything so up in the air lately, kids are needing some structure and stability. Music lessons will help build that structure into their daily lives by giving kids something constructive to do with their free time, as they create practice habits. Music lessons will also give your kids something to look forward to each week as they meet with their teacher and receive new material. When your child is enrolled in music lessons, he/she will have goals to work on each week, and can feel great about working hard and achieving those goals! The best thing about teaching an instrument is those moments where I get to see my students reach their goals that they have been working so hard to achieve. The sense of accomplishment and proud feeling I get to see on my students’ faces when they master a new skill, or perform a song, or grasp the concept of reading music, is absolutely priceless.  

2.     CREATIVE OUTLET:

Now, more than ever, kids are in dire need of a creative outlet. Listening to music and creating music has such a calming and positive effect on a person. As a music teacher, I love it when my students surprise me during lessons with a song that they learned all on their own, because they simply wanted to be more immersed in their music! Research shows that learning to play an instrument increases one’s sense of well-being, provides relaxation, and provides a place for self-expression. But did you know that it can also reduce pain and anxiety, decrease the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone), lower blood pressure, and relieve fatigue? Gaining these life-time tools sounds like a great reason to take up an instrument! 

3.     NEW SKILLS:

Taking up an instrument provides the opportunity to gain many new skills, which can help boost your child’s confidence and self-worth, and give them something they can be proud of! It also creates excitement and motivation to keep learning as your children discover that they’re able to master each skill, and continue to tackle more advanced skills. There’s nothing more satisfying for a music teacher, and student, to see the joy and sense of accomplishment that mastering a skill brings our students, and how much more motivated the students become to work harder in the future and reach higher goals.

4.     PANDEMIC-SAFE:

As the spread of Covid-19 continues, I myself as a parent am looking for safe activities in which my child can participate, and I imagine other parents, especially parents with older kids than my toddler, are in the same predicament. The great news is, learning a new instrument is one activity that can still be enjoyed despite the current pandemic! It is easy to maintain proper social distance since the option for online lessons is available, and it’s a great, educational activity to keep your little ones entertained and motivated! 

(Read my next blog post to find out how to keep your child motivated during virtual lessons!)

5.     BREAK FOR PARENTS:

Parents need a break too! I know I’m not the only parent these days who is craving even that 20-minutes of “me time”, right? It’s really hard to get these days with working from home, not having adequate child care, and not being able to treat yourself to a spa day, or mani-pedi! Having your child in weekly lessons will allow you to get your weekly 30-45 minutes to yourself! My piano and voice students have been great at setting up their own zoom lessons, staying engaged during lessons, and keeping up with their practicing, with minimal parental supervision. I even have 6-year-old students who are able to set up their iPad, start their metronome, and sign-off of our lesson when it ends. Your child can stay entertained with an activity that you know is going to benefit them (rather than just watching TV or playing video games), while you can get some much-needed time to yourself.

NEXT STEPS:

If you think you’re ready to start virtual music lessons, then start looking for the right teacher for your child today! Your child’s future happiness is only a phone call away. Call Mindful Music Center to schedule your FREE meet and greet with the teacher of your choice, or visit us at www.mindfulmusicsanford.com.

Practice Persuasion:

5 Strategies to Get Your Kids to Practice:

Sometimes getting our kids to practice their instrument is like pulling teeth! But practice is so important—vital even, in growing as a musician. So, the question is, how do we get our kids or students motivated to practice, and stay in a consistent practice routine?

Continue reading to find out more about my five techniques that I use with my students to help them be consistent with practicing, without shedding any tears!

1. Perfect Practice Plan:

I recently created a weekly practice calendar for my students, so that they can have more effective practice sessions. Effective practice habits are a learned skill, just like studying, and often times students don’t know how to practice, so they just end up playing through their assigned songs a few times, and calling it a day. With this practice calendar, I write down specific, and individualized practice steps for each student. I have them practice different warm-ups and scales each day, with specific directions for each, and they focus on certain parts and sections of their song, with detailed directions. This helps them know exactly what and how to practice, and eliminates some of that practice anxiety of not knowing what to do. It also helps their practice time become more efficient, and even more fun, as we switch up activities more frequently and add some fun assignments. See the picture below for an example of the Perfect Practice Plan!

2. Practice Check-in Chart:

You can either use this as an added material to the Perfect Practice Plan, or for students who already practice efficiently, but just have trouble being motivated to practice, and staying consistent, you can implement this simple Practice Check-in Chart, to provide students with some direction for their practice time. This chart is pretty versatile, and for younger students it could be as simple as having the Practice Check-in Chart printed out and posted by their instrument, and having your student place a sticker or stamp on each day he/she practiced. For older students, the teacher can write more specific goals, techniques, and songs to practice, and the students can either check-off, or write the amount of time they practiced each item, each day. Make sure that you, or the student’s teacher are setting goals with your child/student for how many days in a row they should practice, and check back in to see if they’ve reached their weekly goal.

3. Enticing Incentives:

You can take the Perfect Practice Plan, or the Practice Check-in Chart one step further, by adding an incentive each week. When your child’s teacher sets those weekly goals, you can come up with an incentive, between the parent, student and teacher, for your child to work towards achieving. For instance, if the student practices 5 days in row, for 20-minutes each day, and marks off the time in the Practice Check-in Chart, he or she will get an agreed upon prize. (i.e. game day, treasure chest prize, deciding what they want to do in their lesson). Make sure the incentive is something the student really wants and will work for!

4. Student’s Choice:

Make sure to include songs to your students’ repertoire that they actually want to play! When students learn a song they really love, they will want to practice it. If your student can’t think of a song right away, have them listen to various songs, including different genres, to find out what they like. You could also pick out several songs for the student to choose from, and see if he/she connects with any of the songs you picked out. Once they find that song they love, watch the practicing magic begin! (Just make sure they are still practicing their other material along with their favorite song.)

5. Routine Reminder:

The best way to get students to practice is by creating a daily practice routine. I’m going to reiterate, daily practice. When students add practice time into their daily schedules, it becomes part of their normal routine. They already know that every day after dinner, for instance, they have 20-30 minutes to practice piano. This eliminates a lot of the grumbling and making excuses for not practicing, when it becomes a part of their normal routine. Just like students complete their school homework after school, they should also be practicing their instrument throughout the week. Write down your child’s practice time on a calendar, and remind them when their scheduled practice time is. This might be your job as the parent to remind your child to practice, for a while, until they get the routine down and it becomes a habit. When students put practice into their daily routines, they are already expecting that they need to practice each day, which eliminates a lot of the negotiating about not wanting to practice. It will also encourage them, because they’ll see themselves improving a lot faster!

Another really important aspect of practicing is making sure parents, students, and the teacher are all on the same page with practice expectations. Talk with your teacher about how much time per day your student should be practicing. Then, come up with a good time your child can practice each day, and write it on the calendar. Make sure to continue to remind your student about their practice time. Discuss a practice incentive with your child, and have them pick what they want the reward to be, then print and post their practice calendar next to their practice space. You can turn around your child’s views on practicing their instrument! Just stay consistent, positive, and creative!

Maintaining Motivation in a Virtual World

As this pandemic continues to be prevalent, our music studio had to make the difficult decision to remain teaching only virtual lessons. Some of you parents might be in the same boat right now, where you’re having to decide how your kids should start this school year, and how many virtual activities you want them to continue pursuing. You may be asking yourself, how will my child stay motivated during virtual lessons, when they’re already doing so many other virtual activities, as well as school? Don’t worry, it can be done! Especially when both teachers and parents are working together to make virtual lessons a fun and positive experience.

Check out these 3 ways in which your child can stay motivated during virtual lessons:

1. Regular Reinforcement:

Regular, positive reinforcement is probably the best way to maintain motivation for student learning. Be consistent with your positive reinforcement, and make sure that you are providing 3 compliments and forms of encouragement, for every criticism you give. This will help your students really want to continue learning their instrument, and when they want it, they’ll do it! Get in the habit of encouraging your kids as they’re practicing their instrument, or after a lesson. It could be as simple as “I love how you went to the piano and started practicing all on your own!” or “That song sounded great, keep up the good work!” Complimenting and encouraging is a great and easy way to keep your kids motivated and help them succeed. You can also use more structured forms of positive reinforcement.

Here are 3, easy ways to provide positive reinforcement:

  • Sticker charts: Sticker charts are a really easy and inexpensive type of positive reinforcement. You can use sticker charts to track practicing, or to track engaged/positive behavior during lessons. Simply place a sticker on each day the student practiced, or had a great lesson, and when they’ve earned 5 stickers, they can then get an agreed upon prize (pizza for dinner, dollar store item, pool time with mom, movie day, etc.). Make sure that the prize is something they actually want and will work for. You can discuss the prize with your child and their teacher before implementing the sticker chart, and then keep reminding them, “Remember, when you get 5 stickers you get ____. Keep up the good work!” Make sure your child’s teacher is on the same page so that the teacher can also remind the child what he/she is working for during lessons, and encourage the student as well. “I can tell that you practiced a lot this week. I can’t wait to see what prize you get!” Or “You’ve been doing great so far!  Stay focused so you can earn that sticker at the end of the lesson.”
  • Games Galore: I love using games during my virtual lessons to keep students engaged! There are several different types of games Mindful Music instructors can play with your mini-maestros during lessons, such as: listening games, writing exercises, improvisation games, note-naming games, and even online games and apps. I like to reward students with these fun activities during the last 5-10 minutes of my lessons when a student has worked really hard during the lesson, or has practiced a lot the week before, to encourage them to keep up the good work. Another option is to do an entire lesson of music-games, as a reward for consistent practice, or excellent behavior during lessons. This can either be given as a prize earning all 5 stickers on your sticker chart, or it can be a little less structured. To use games to reinforce practicing, parents and teachers can use a practice log.  When the student has practice for an amount of time previously agreed up by the parent, teacher, and student, they receive a game day at the next lesson. This, of course, is something that has to be discussed beforehand with your child’s teacher. As a teacher, I love when my students’ parents are onboard and involved in the child’s learning and are looking for ways to help the child to practice consistently to achieve his/her goals.
  • Lesson Leaders: Have students take the lead on their lesson. Children love to be permitted to be in charge and make decisions. Of course you would need to discuss this incentive idea with their teacher first. Talk to your teacher about this incentive to have your child be “in charge” of his/her lesson. Having students decide what they want to do during the lesson, and when, can be an easy way to switch things up and have the student take control of their lesson time! (You want their options to be pre-approved activities/songs. Your teacher can decide on the list of choices). Giving students more choices and options, and having them take the reins on their lesson will help them be more motivated and excited to participate and learn.

2. Persistent Practice:

Creating a practice routine and strong practice habits is really going to help your children stay motivated and keep moving forward in their lessons. I love that my students can use their Practice Logs and timers when they are logged into their student portal in My Music Staff. This helps them see and track how long they have practiced each day, and the total amount of practice for the week. They are able to set a timer that automatically starts tracking their practice time. Another great way to track practice is by using a hand-written calendar/goal sheet. With your teacher, create practice goals for each week, and then your child can write down the amount of time practiced for each day, or even put a sticker on their sheet each day they practiced. It really helps students to practice when they have added practice into their daily routines, and it becomes a habit. To do this, have your child practice at the same time each day, while also using his/her practice log to stay on track during practice time. Then, see the magic happen as they begin to progress more quickly and start asking for more challenging music to learn!

Practice Log for Teens
Practice Log for Young Students

3. Make it Fun:

I really want my students to love playing their instruments and coming to lessons, and it makes a world of difference with those students who do. They are more motivated, they enjoy participating, and they typically go above and beyond what I ask them to do. But, if your child isn’t wild about taking lessons, what can you do to help him/her enjoy it more? One thing you can do is allow them to choose their own music. Talk with your teacher about music that would be appropriate for your child’s level, and let your child play a song he/she is really into. This will help your child become more motivated to practice, and once they practice more, they’ll see they are able to achieve and accomplish their goals, which will help get them excited about learning their instrument! Of course, including games, having students take charge of their lessons, and providing regular positive reinforcement also makes lessons more fun and enjoyable!

It may seem overwhelming at first to think about all the ways in which to improve your children’s lessons and keep them motivated, especially during virtual lessons, but, once you start getting in the habit, and create a plan with your teacher, it’s actually quite easy, and will make a huge difference! So, talk with your teachers and your kids about implementing some of these ideas in your child’s lessons.

New and Improved Website

Welcome to our new and improved website! Mindful Music Center is excited for you to see what we have been doing. Make sure you follow us on Facebook and Instagram! All lessons starting at only $105. To get a full list of our pricing and details click here. Check out all the lessons we offer by clicking here. Meet the teachers of Mindful Music Center and see how dedicated they are to teaching various instruments such as: piano, flute, guitar, cello, ukulele, and more. Click here to meet the teachers.