Over the course of my career, I probably have not been any better than any of my colleagues at getting kids to practice. One speed bump that I put in front of myself in that challenge is the fact that I can't quite bring myself to get into a war over it with anyone: not my students, not my son, nobody.
I often quip with my students that practice, broccoli, and naps are three things that I used to avoid when I was a kid that I now crave.
In truth, I think I have always loved practicing the tuba. I have always enjoyed working on technique, musicality, literature, and everything about getting better. I think I was driven a bit by the comparison with other tuba players around, and by my aspirations to make music my livelihood.
I also love playing soccer. I enjoy going to the gym. I enjoy preparing and eating a healthy home-cooked meal. I like having a tidy place to live, and a clean car. I love updating this blog! I don't even mind doing the tasks required to have all those things in my life.
It's just that not all of them are not part of my routine. I have a hard time making those tasks a regular part of my day, or week, or month, etc.
They should be, and probably can be. I am learning very slowly that in order for me to do what I should do, in almost any facet of my life, I need to make it a routine. It has been a great Fall for improving a few aspects of that, and has encouraged me to further explore this with other aspects.
Without routine, kids practice "when they get a chance", and for many kids, that is never. My friend Amy teaches over sixty students in a week, and when practice becomes an issue, she makes them take out a schedule grid and program exactly when they will practice. Maybe they follow it without fail, but at the very least, they hold themselves accountable there being a routine, and if they do not follow it to the letter, they at least adjust to it. It's the same reason I always make a dentist appointment on the way out from the last. There is almost no chance that I will keep that very appointment, but I will reschedule it, as opposed to thinking every time I see a toothpaste ad or drive by a dental office that I need to get around to it. I have a routine with that. My practice routine these days is to take some of the planning time leading up to a class to play, and maybe even get caught at the end of it doing so by my entering students.
In general, kids enjoy playing their instruments, and they will enjoy practice. We just have to work toward finding a way to get the horn out of the case and the backside into a chair with the stand in front of them, and spend twenty or thirty minutes getting better and falling further in love with it.
Of course it is important that they use this time to prepare and improve, but especially when they are young and new at the instrument, it is equally important that they have some gratifying and enjoyable time with it, playing what they like. Often that's just a matter of letting it happen without adult interference, other than "Hey, go spend a little time playing your sax. I'll call you for dinner. Super Mario can wait."
Get that up and rolling. I would wager that their wanting to be prepared for band and/or lessons will help guide them into better using that time, once it's routine. In the meantime, getting the instrument out regularly will likely make them better if even by accident. Neither of you want a battle over it.