Literature about behaviour modification for 3 year olds

Beatriz Aguerrevere said: Nov 19, 2011
Beatriz Aguerrevere
Suzuki Association Member
Eden Prairie, MN
1 posts

I started teaching these lovely 3.5 years old delightful twin girls. They love coming here for their piano lessons and playing with my toys. They completely ignore me or their grandma when we try to direct them to the piano. One of them plays “Hot cross buns on the 3 black keys (of course, completely deviating from the Suzuki piano repertoire or directives, but successful nonetheless). They love playing drums and actually recognize some rhythms. (I use plum, apple, watermelon…)

I suggested to Grandma that we should find a way for them to follow directions and she wants me to guide her about how to help them. The mother sometimes is able to come to lessons but being single, going to college and working makes it difficult. Grandma is willing to be the Suzuki parent and is very interested.

I have been in numerous workshops about child motivation but I’m drawing a blank. I have books about spirited children but I think this kids are not in that category.

Could any one give me sources, either online or books that I can refer Grandma to? I would love it!

Karen said: Nov 20, 2011
Karen Huffman
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Portland, OR
28 posts

Have you asked Grandma how much they are listening to the recording? Almost every time I have had that problem, I have figured out that they were hardly listening or not listening at all and the kids were totally unfamiliar with the music. When that was the case, the piano was intimidating and they didn’t want to do anything but goof off and play with the toys. In all cases, once they started listening to the recording regularly, they started coming every week, eager to show me what they had practiced and eager to try and copy the music they had been listening to.

Of course that could not be the case… If they ARE listening regularly, what is Grandma and Mom’s habit of encouragement? Just because Mom isn’t going to be the Suzuki parent, she should definitely be involved! Maybe she should start requesting weekly “recitals” in the few moments that she might have to listen to them. Even if the kids can only play a Twinkle A rhythm on the drum for her or show her their ready positions, if Mom and Grandma both are thoroughly impressed by every tiny step, that will really encourage the girls to want to come and impress you too.

I am not an expert and I have not been teaching long but for that reason I have a BIG population of very young students. Once I have established myself as the One to Impress (and I make that very easy as well), they are eager to please and make progress much faster. As they get more advanced, I get harder to impress and that makes them work harder as well.

Anyway, hope these suggestions are helpful. 3 year olds are tricky!

Barb said: Nov 21, 2011
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Hi Beatriz,

When our kids were younger (a long time ago) we took a course at our church called “Growing Kids God’s Way”. One item they taught was how important it was to teach your children to listen and follow directions. It can be a matter of safety. The one thing I remember as to practical advice as a place to start was to practice (if I recall correctly…): Tell them that you will call their name from the other room, and they are to come to you when they hear you, and say, “Yes mom?”. Then you call them, and when they come your answer might be, “I wanted to give you a hug!” and you hug them and lavish them with praise for coming when they were called. After they get the idea, do this several times throughout the day when they aren’t expecting it—just for the purpose of getting the hugs and thanking them for listening and coming to you.

I also really like Barbara Coloroso’s books. Her key phrase I always remember is, “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and do what you said you would do.” I have seen parents who don’t follow through, change their mind a lot… you can understand why their children might not listen? But that might apply more to older kids.

And I recently read a recommendation for the title, “How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk” somewhere… was that in Edmund Sprunger’s Helping Parents Practice? I haven’t looked at it myself, but the title sounds promising in your situation!

I just had a thought. If the kids do this “ignoring” a lot, they might do a hearing check? I had a son with frequent ear infections who seemingly ignored us lots as a preschooler!

And how about playing a game like Simon Says to get them listening carefully to directions? Or maybe you could have a cue song you play on the piano and sing—something about it’s time to come to the piano—something with fun actions for them maybe that will make them want to come and play?

Does one stay with the toys while the other has the lesson? Maybe they are not used to separating?

Best wishes!

Music Teachers Helper—for individual teachers
Studio Helper—for entire music studios or schools

Deanna said: Nov 22, 2011
Suzuki Association Member
90 posts

This is a bit off-topic but have you had a conversation with the twins about why they come to your house/studio? I find with some of my youngest students (under age 5) it helps just to explain that they come for a violin lesson, that I am here to teach them and to do that I will ask them to do different things. In doing those things I ask, they will learn to the play the violin. Many kids don’t know this until you tell them. They may think they just come to visit you and play with your toys! They might not have any concept of what a music lesson looks like. Having them come observe another child’s lesson may also help too. Kids pick up a lot more from seeing another child in the same situation than from adults telling them what they need to do.

Sue Hunt said: Nov 24, 2011
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

Please bear in mind that small children will have reservations about doing something if it isn’t interesting/fun/relevant. If the consequence of obeying isn’t as fun as what they are currently doing, they are likely to ignore all instructions.

What is pretty irresistible to a small child is your total attention on each time they do what they are asked. All you have to do is to notice out loud, in an interested tone of voice.

Don’t waste energy on superlatives—none of this wall paper praise, “High five! good job! you’re a star! just look at that wonderful way you bent your pinkie!” It’s very difficult for a student to live up to that sort of thing, a child can become dependent on it and it is exhausting keeping up the flow.

“Jane is paying attention to her bent pinkie.” is enough. It tells her that she has your total attention AND that she is doing focussed work. I have written two blogs on this, which may be helpful, The Right Kind of Praise and Three Common Mistakes People Make About Praise

Sometimes however, children have no idea of what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t. A great teacher, Sharron Beamer once told me about how she dealt with a very young pupil who always ignored her during lessons.

Sharron said in a mild way, “Darling, that’s not how you should behave at your violin lesson. When I ask you to do something, you should say yes, Sharron and do it at once.”

The little girl looked very surprised and said, “Yes, Sharron, I didn’t know that.”

They have never looked back.

Music in Practice

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