keep on keeping on, grasshopper
I have a friend who is a guitar teacher. This morning, he was asking on facebook what to say (especially to parents) who ask why they aren't getting better, after taking lessons. And I think I have a lot to say about the subject, because I started typing and the words flowed out of me...
The thing is, the teacher cannot do the work for the student. The student is the one who must do the work. The teacher serves as a cheerleader and as a fount of knowledge (imparting methods). The student is still responsible for their own progress.
People either want it or they don't. Kids are just people. If their parents want it, they should take lessons themselves! Forcing a kid to play won't get you anywhere (except maybe someone who as an adult thinks, after the fact, "why didn't I practice more?" not remembering the parent-child dynamic that kept them from practicing and the fact that they didn't really want it bad enough to get beyond that).
If they want it, they will practice. If they want it, they will get better and better (in their own way - um, not everyone is gonna be great, even with practice!)
As the teacher, you are there to show them how to practice and what to do to practice. They as the student have to actually do the work.
And, even more: they have to fall in love with the music that is inside of them. If that isn't there, its just gonna be guitar-sounds (or paint on a canvas, or words that might be pretty but don't grab anyone).
The music inside, the voice of the artist that longs to come out as their particular music? That is art. And that's what is gonna happen if you practice with all the desire in you: you will find your own artistic voice.
All art is, at its root, just a way of you (meaning me, meaning anyone) finding your voice and sharing it.
And if you (or your students) aren't progressing, remind yourself this: this takes hours and hours of work. Studies show you have to practice 1000 hours for mastery! And there are plateaus all along the way, and even times when you'll think you're regressing! That is normal! Just keep showing up and practice everyday.
Every freaking day.
If you love it, you will want it.
It is as simple and as difficult, as that.