Should You Force Your Child to Practice?

Practice makes perfect—and when it comes to young children, it is often repetition and practice that makes it possible for a child to learn to read, write, kick a soccer ball and all sorts of other activities and skills. As parents, however, we may find ourselves in the midst of a teary, painful power struggle—trying to force a child to practice writing his alphabet or reading out loud, and wonder if forcing them to practice is really in the best interest of everyone involved?

The truth is, we parents are often trying to get our children to do things that are good for them or things that they do not necessarily want to do. This does not make us bad people or mean people (despite what our children may think in the moment), it just makes us parents. I do think there is a line; however, between motivating, encouraging, and supporting—and fighting the unwinnable battle by using too much force.

I think it helps to try other motivators first—incentives, rewards, breaking the tasks and practice up into do-able parts: “Let’s practice writing for a half hour and then we’ll go outside and ride bikes” can work better than “Sit down and do your writing homework now!”

A very young child will likely not appreciate or understand that practice is good for them or will make them better at things. An older child can start to realize this, however, especially if there is modeling going on at home. Let your child see you practicing to learn new tasks and talk to them about how many times it took you to learn how to make a great pie crust or learn to drive or share what it is like when you have started a new job. Support and encouragement are also key to encouraging a child to practice and work at things. Point out how much better he or she is getting and notice the improvements. If you can keep the power struggles out of practicing, your child will likely develop more of a willingness to do it.