Try This When Kids Don’t Want to Practice

Staying consistent with any practice can be hard. Kids will often avoid practicing when the importance of what they are doing is unclear, when practice becomes difficult or frustrating, or when they get bored.

Here are a few scripts to try when your child doesn’t want to practice. Choose any that seem like a good fit for you and your situation.

Try, “Would you rather practice before school or after school?” Or “Do you prefer to practice all at once, or in smaller chunks of time throughout the day?” Put your child in charge of what, how, and when they practice in a way that is developmentally appropriate. It’s not always possible, but allow them to choose activities they are naturally drawn to help them stay interested and engaged.

Try, “When things are hard, it means you are learning something new. It’s a sign that you are improving!” Assure them that hard is OK. It’s usually easy and fun for your child to practice things they do well, but improving a new skill can be slow and difficult. Emphasize that it’s normal to go through periods of discouragement or feeling like they aren’t getting better.  

Try, “Remember when you started to play chess, you didn’t even understand how all the pieces could move?” Or record videos of your child practicing over time so they can see clear evidence of growth.

Try, “Your math homework is hard, but if you fail your math test, you’ll have to take it again.” Sometimes the hardest part of practice is just getting started. If your child consistently resists starting to practice, consider setting the time much lower to build momentum, and increase it slowly over time.

Try, “Just practice for 10 minutes, and see how you feel. Then you can take a 5-minute break to play with Legos if you need to.” Create supportive conditions: During practice periods, try to set an environment that is quiet and free of distractions such as digital electronics. Also, as much as possible avoid setting the practice periods during preferred activities, like a favorite TV series or when their friends are outside playing.  


Ultimately, consistent practice is about creating conditions in which your child can experience joy in growing and developing new skills— even when it’s challenging.  Helping your child in discovering that life becomes more meaningful and joyful with deliberate effort will continue to serve them long after they stop dance lessons and soccer practices.