Happiness on the Music Floor

Happiness on the Music FloorI’m sure it’s never happened to anyone else, but on occasion my daughter is a trifle upset during music practice. She’s actually quite good about coming in the first place, but sometimes she’s mad at me because I asked her to do something she didn’t want to do and sometimes she’s mad at herself because she isn’t automatically perfect at everything and sometimes she’s mad for no discernible reason at all.

I’ve tried various tactics to deal with this, but the one that’s currently working is this handy little poster.

I’ve laminated it and posted it on the wall by our piano. Every day after music practice, I update the number of days of happiness. if we’ve made it through without an argument, it goes up. If we haven’t made it through, it goes to zero. When she reaches 20 days, we have a Mommy-Daughter date to the dessert location of her choice, which we have done. If she can reach 20 three separate times, we’ll go out to dinner at the restaurant of her choice, which we haven’t managed yet.

As a side note, I’m always somewhat interested (and depressed) at how parents manage practice (or fail to manage practice, as the case may be). There’s more than one way to do it, but here’s what works for us. My daughter is 8 right now, but we’ve been doing this for several years.

  • We practice in the morning before school. Yes, that means I wake her up early. There are no exceptions. If it’s a school day, we practice. If it’s a week day but there is no school, we almost always practice anyway, though I don’t wake her up early for it. We take weekends off.
  • Theoretically, we practice for 50 minutes, roughly split between piano and cello. We alternate days on which instrument goes first. In reality, we’re often a little late getting started and the end time is fixed by the school bus schedule, so no wiggle room there.
  • We do lots of games, improvisation, composing, etc. to keep it interesting and to spend at least part of that 50 minutes standing up or moving around.
  • I always, always, always spend the entire time there with her. I have never sent her to go practice by herself. That day is coming, but not at age 8. 

I have often wondered how much progress my other students would make if I could convince their parents to maintain a schedule like this. I do realize it’s harder if you have more than one child or if you’re not a natural morning person or if you have very little musical knowledge yourself.

Even so, practice really does work.

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