If I tell myself I’ll go for a run when I finish work it doesn't happen. 99% of the time I’ll tell myself I’m too tired, it’s too dark outside now, I don’t have enough energy left, it’s too cold, I’m too hungry, I’m too stressed, I had a particularly hard day and deserve to flop in front of the television etc. I know this about myself. If I want to do some exercise I need to get it done in the morning. The later I leave it, the less likely I am to do it.
So why would I expect that children would want to do piano practise when they get home from a long, tiring day at school? And I don’t. I get it. After school you’ve done lots of brain-strain activity, you’ve run around for an hour at lunch, you’ve possibly had run-ins with teachers, bullies or bossy friends, you have homework that is due tomorrow, and finding the energy and patience to practise piano is the last thing you want to do. So you don’t. Or if you’re forced by your parents to put in time, you just play through your pieces from start to finish the entire time, cementing in the same mistakes you’ve been making for the past few weeks and ignoring dynamics and articulation markings.
Save yourself the misery! The secret to consistent quality piano practice is to do it in the morning before you get tuckered out from school or work. I can honestly say I have never had a student who consistently practices 5+ days per week who practices in the afternoon or evening. Never. And I doubt I ever will.
The afternoon is fine for mucking around on the piano – working out pop tunes by ear or playing through pieces from start to finish for fun. But piano practise takes too much energy and willpower to be an end-of-the-day task. Your mind needs to be fresh enough to go to the effort of working out efficient fingerings, figuring out unfamiliar rhythms, looking up new Italian terms, and to have the willpower to work on isolated sections of a challenging piece.
Give morning practise a go for a week, or even better, challenge yourself to 30 days straight. Set your alarm earlier, or resolve to make your mornings technology free, and spend that time doing at least a portion of your daily practise. I’m sure you will feel more in control of your practice session, see more progress, and enjoy starting the day on a positive note.