"My son/daughter loves music, loves the instrument, loves the lessons...but won't practise! WHY?"
Firstly, it's GREAT news that they feel positive about the lessons, the instrument and music itself. This is likely to mean that they're interested to learn and you've found a good teacher. In fact, if they positive about any of those three things it means you've got good start.
The bad news is that it won't last unless there is some progress being made.
What is practice?
Practising is the deliberate repetition of something, with effort and attention, over a period of time. This allows us to gain proficiency at the thing we are practising.
To make progress, we must practice. Consistently, with effort and attention until we get it. We front load the work, and reap the results later.
This may be an easy concept for adults, however when it comes to children it's important to understand that most of the information and entertainment they engage in is relatively PASSIVE and has to be fun RIGHT NOW.
Netflix, Xbox, Playstation etc are all activities that demand very little effort and attention. If a video game made the player follow a set sequence of events repeatedly until they became proficient at the level, this too would be less enjoyable.
What is playing?
Playing is the culmination of the skills and knowledge you gained through study and practise. This could be performing, making a record, playing in a band and so on. This is the fun stuff, and you can't get to it without practising and developing your skills first.
Playing 5 a side football is a relatively easy and accessible activity. Being able to run and kick a ball are the only requirements to have a good time.
To actually get good at football, you will have to spend hours practise drills and be a sufficient level of fitness. This will require a lot repetition, attention and deliberate practise.
It's the same with music, however you have to put in a level of practise before you can even go out onto the field.
"If they genuinely like music then they'll pick it up and play it and I shouldn't have to ask them to practise"
Sure, your child may pick up the instrument to play it, but if they just started learning they won't be able to produce anything musical on it. They haven't developed the skills yet. They will put the instrument down and pick up a playstation controller instead.
If they have been playing for a while, they may instead play something they've known for a while, (passively) and then go on to do something else.
In both scenarios, practising is avoided.
As adults, we generally we can generally discipline ourselves to do a given task whether we feel good about it or not. You don't have to feel good about doing the washing, taking out the rubbish, or even brushing your teeth. You just do it.
Same mentality must be applied to practising.
"...I don't want to be a strict parent that forces my kids to practise"
This doesn't have to be the case at all - you can offer guidance and accountability to help your child become disciplined, help them manage their time and take action on tasks that will help them reap the rewards later.
1) Schedule their practise at a time they can meet every single day. This could be before school or after school - whatever works on a daily basis. You probably schedule homework time, dinner time and playtime anyway - so it won't be anything new.
2) Start small - just five minutes of absolute focus can be enough to begin with. You can extend this to ten minutes the following week or whenever they're ready. Remember - thirty minutes to a child can feel like an hour! Set reasonable expectations.
3) Reward consistency. If your child has been practising every day you could reward them with something. Many parents have reward schemes with stars, stickers on a chart etc. Figure out what works for you and what gets them motivated.
4) Be involved and hold them accountable. Ask them to show you what they're working on, express interest and they will feel motivated to engage in the task. Don't be afraid to remind them of their commitment to practise that day.
The Take Away
Discipline and taking action consistently allows us to progress. In our experience, parents who implement these strategies finnd that their child enjoys learning and playing FAR MORE than before because they feel like they're progressing and getting great at their instrument - and it's easier to like something if you're good at it.