Give The Kid A Reason To Practice
You have to give the kid a reason to practice. Saying. "Go practice that'" won't work yet. It will take months or years to get the child to work on their own. You'd better be ready for a long wait. If you put a standard piano book on the piano and expect any kind of enthusiasm from a child today, you are insane and living in a pedagogical dreamland of unattainable expectations. I'm not talking about prodigies. Prodigies take care of themselves.
Everyday Kids And The Piano
I mean average American children, brought up on a diet of indulgence, television, Disney and video games. These kids are simply the product of the parental input they have received. And then you, the piano teacher, get to teach them the piano, if you're crazy enough. They are actually all wonderful kids, but you as teacher will have to learn how to deal with every facet of their imagination and mood. Teach each one the same way and you are going nowhere.
Not One Size Fits All
If you put a regular text (Bastien, Alfred, etc.,) in front of a child at the piano, you may realistically expect boredom, perhaps not the first time, but eventually. The child will tire of the mind numbing process of learning to read music. Unless you've also shown the child how much fun the piano can be, piano lessons will come to a crashing halt. It's like algebra, calculus or trigonometry. Do you remember any enthusiasm for these subjects? It was like pulling teeth, and as soon as you could avoid such courses, you did so, unless you were dead-set on being an engineer or rocketeer.
It's Not A Lecture
Perhaps the difference between reading music and playing music is the same as between a real building and architectural engineering. Thus, you could probably interest a child in the actual Eiffel Tower, but not a course in the details of nineteenth century French pre-cast architectural engineering. The only reason a child ever practices the piano with enthusiasm is because they are playing music they love. Give a child a song they like, and you will find it difficult to get them to stop playing that song.
Doesn't Have To Be The Whole Song
The trick is to give them songs, even snippets of songs, to play rather than dull exercise pieces. Anything that can be learned from a Bastien or Alfred book (popular conventional piano methods) can be learned from a real song that they want to play. The difficulty is for you, the teacher. You will have to rearrange the music at a moment's notice to the child's tailored abilities. This takes a lot of work and many piano teachers are too lazy to do it.
How Do I Play That Song?
If you've got a nine year old who wants to play the theme to Super Mario, you'll have an enthusiastic candidate as soon as you satisfy this kid's musical tastes, whatever they may be. The child will absorb whatever you say more quickly and deeply if they are working on something they care about. So you can choose as a teacher to hammer home your curriculum, boring the child and turning them off, or find the route to their sense of joy about music.
Silly Kid's Songs Are Fine
If that route involves Chopsticks, Super Mario or the theme to a Disney cartoon, you better find and deliver that song quickly. Chopsticks, for example, is loathed by conventional piano teachers, but loved by kids. What does this tell you? That kids have no musical taste? No, it tells you that piano teachers have no idea how to engage kids on their own level. Of course, Chopsticks is a loathsome song, but what it does is magic. It allows a child to play a recognizable melody easily, becoming part of the club of those that "play the piano." And in addition, any good piano teacher can use Chopsticks to teach a thousand lessons about rhythm, timing and memory. Don't turn up your nose at the corny little ditties children latch onto. They are the gateway into their musical imagination.