When people find out that Zach and Charlie take piano lessons, one of the first questions they ask is, "How old were they when they started lessons," and then they always ask, "How do you get them to practice?" Zach started lessons when he was four, Charlie was six, Zoe will start this fall and as far as practicing, it depends on the day.
Thanks to the monotony of Monday through Friday I never have to remind them to practice during the week because it's something that has become as automatic as brushing their teeth or being a smart ass. But any time there is a change to our schedule, like a day off from school or a weekend, I usually have to remind at least one of them that the piano isn't in our house for decorative purposes.
Did their practicing schedule fall into place the instant they started lessons? No way. After the initial excitement wore off, they discovered that learning how to play the piano is hard. It took at least three or four years before they actually wanted to practice and wanted to get better without being reminded by me, in a very loud voice, to put their ass on the piano bench five times a week.
Fortunately for me, the boys are both really competitive and don't like to publicly suck at the things that they have put time into. They've both seen other students show up at recitals unprepared and have watched them cry on stage, make huge errors, and sometimes even forget how to play their song. Neither of them ever wants to go through this embarrassing experience and they know that the only way to be prepared is to practice.
Since I took several years of piano lessons while growing up and still try to play when I have time, I think that a big motivator for them is that they want to be better than me. After all, they can kick my ass at tennis, they're better at video games than me, so eventually being able to play more difficult piano pieces is bound to happen. I figured since Zach's been taking lessons for about 10 years, I still have a slight advantage over him. And then I took a look at what he's currently learning:
Hmm...maybe I'll start encouraging him to not practice and I should be putting my ass on that piano bench more often.
P.S. Happy birthday, dad. Thanks for paying for all my piano lessons.