Patrick immediately wanted to take piano lessons when I got our piano; I wasn't so gung-ho. He was only 4, after all, and I think you need to be very motivated to be your child's teacher, otherwise your habits (*cough*laziness*cough*) will take over the motivation to keep up something new. Ethan was still so very new (it was, after all, gifted to me the week after he was born), so I certainly wasn't motivated. Now he's 5, Ethan's grown a bit, so I finally relented and he has had a few lessons, and though I enjoy giving him lessons I hate to nag about practicing! Nagging sucks. But there's no point in having lessons if you won't practice! As a step in the right direction I put together a practice log; it's based on the log I kept for my teacher when I took lessons, but much bigger for my early-reader and with stars instead of # of minutes (we aim for 10 a day, small and manageable).
Still, practicing was sporadic at best, and he seemed to think if he had practiced once he had done his duty for the week. Uhhhh, no. Even twice isn't going to cut it (that's why I started at "3 days of practice"). So as an incentive to practice even more each week I came up with these jars:
Quart-size canning jars. GENIUS touch, I wrapped them in paper so the other kids don't get frantic for treats every time they look up on the piano, and I'm much less tempted to steal from the stash since I can't see it and there's a lid on it. They each hold "prizes" for practicing either 3, 4, 5, or 6 days each week. Got 5 stars on your practice chart? Pick a prize from the "5 days a week" jar! The prizes get progressively bigger and better, of course, the more you practice.
3 days: little army men, hard candy, or a penny
4 days: Bubble gum, Reeces minis, plastic insects (trust me, these are good incentive for Patrick!), or a nickel
5 days: Milk duds, plastic animals, Spiderman toys (a paddle ball, top, yo yo, or kaleidoscope), or a dime. The boys are very into action heroes, so hopefully he'll aim high for the sake of Spidey.
6 days: WAY COOL dragons, mini snickers bars (by far the biggest candy), or a quarter
He can either have instant gratification (candy), extended gratification (a toy) or long-term gratification (saving his money up for something of his choice). All prizes came from the dollar store, so $10 got me prizes to last the year and beyond - not a bad deal! I'm also planning on putting notes in each, prizes like "stay up 15 minutes extra at bedtime" or "mom drops everything and bakes a batch of cookies" or something. I'm interested to see which ones he chooses!
Finally, I should note that I fully accept that this is a bribe. "Wanna treat? Sit your butt down and practice." I don't do bribes for things I consider necessities, like picking up toys, going to bed without a fuss, being good while we're shopping, being nice to siblings, or even using the potty (you HAVE to do that eventually, and we don't all get candy because we pooped. Just doesn't happen). But playing the piano is an extracurricular that I would like my kids to do, but I want THEM to want to. And if it takes a bribe to WANT to... so be it.