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#27 Using Feelings Sticks in Practices

Updated: Nov 4, 2022

By Christy | The Practicing Pro

Using Feelings Sticks in Practices

Does your child come to music practice “grumpy” as a habit?

Do your kids regularly have a negative attitude about practicing before they even start?

Sometimes it’s a HABIT how you approach something.

I’d like to share with you a personal example.

I have anxiety whenever I go to the dentist. But it's every time and even when I go to my bi-yearly cleanings. But what am I afraid of? Well, that’s simple - getting a needle in my mouth. But you NEVER get a needle for cleaning and rarely have I ever needed to come back for a dental procedure, BUT every time I go I still have anxiety! For me, it's a habit to have anxiety every time I go even though it's not logical.

My dentist is actually really funny, and I love seeing him. All of the staff at my dentist's office is really nice! So I need to tell myself that this feeling I have from having a few experiences in the past is not today - BUT the feeling has become a habit even though it's not true.

If your child is “grouchy” coming to practice time as a habit, then what can you do?

You can print my special “feelings sticks”!

Have them ready in a container or laid out before the lesson and say “hey, before we start our lesson today, how about we do a check-in and see how you are feeling right now.”

Now, chances are they won't pick out the grouchy one (they might!) but chances are they won't. They will look at the sticks and think about how they actually feel and not just feel grouchy as a habit and pick that one instead. BUT what do you do if they still pick up the grumpy one? Then you can say “oh what's making you feel grumpy right now, I would love to hear.”

Then if they say it's because they don't want to practice then you can say “well what is it about practicing that makes you feel grumpy right now” and if they tell you it's because it's too hard or it's too long then listen carefully to their reasons.

Find out why they are feeling a certain way.


If they say it's too long, then you can say “Well we usually practice 20 minutes. Let’s do half of that today and do 10 minutes instead. Can you be happy for 10 minutes of practice?” Then you can work slowly up to 20 minutes again over time. A happy 10 minutes is better than a grumpy 20 minutes! You will get a lot more done and you are helping them to change their feelings. Afterward, thank them for “deciding to be happy” and let them know it was fun. Refrain from lecturing them about “see how that was better when you were happy?” just thank them for making the choice to be happy. (end)

Try practicing with my practicing feelings sticks!

Sometimes children are also feeling two feelings at one time as well. They can say that they are feeling both sad and happy.

Feeling sticks make it easier for children to tell you how they are feeling. They are like a friendly doormat, welcoming them to open the door and talk about how they feel. See blog A Super Quick Way to Talk to Your Child About Their Feelings.

Parents also can practice listening and help their child to keep talking about their feelings.

Just like practicing your instrument every day to make something a habit, you can also think about your listening skills and how you reply when dealing with your child's feelings. You can also practice and improve. A great way to do this is to print the following PDF list of things to say and not to say. Put the list in your practice binder and read over them often to remind yourself to practice and give you ideas.

Free PDF chart download

Encouraging your child/teen to keep talking about their feelings 

Free PDF download for the Emoji faces

Feelings Sticks Download 

INVITATION from Christy Hodder:

DIGITAL COURSE - Practicing Pro Academy

Speaking of amazing practices, let me tell you all about the digital course I built and teach called "Practicing Pro Academy". It is an at-your-own-pace, six-week online course for teachers and students that will bring you even more successful practices with your players! I am also with you in person the whole time with weekly Q&As to answer all of your questions. It only runs a few times a year so you don't want to miss the next time! I offer a free Masterclass to kick off each course. You can join the waitlist here.

Free PDF download

Checklist for an Amazing Music Practice

Your easy checklist to have successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.


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