Discipline vs. teaching with Love

Maria Stefanova-Mar said: Jan 23, 2012
 Violin
Albuquerque, NM
19 posts

Monica,

I undersand your concern. It is hard to find balance between being positive and setting boundaries especially when a kid is being disrespectful. It will help to know what exactly the child you are thinking about is doing in their lessons.
I am including a link to a blog post, I hope it helps with some ideas.
http://www.musicteachingandparenting.com/2012/01/positive-discipline.html

Monica said: Jan 23, 2012
Monica Frahm
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Flute, Cello
Elk Grove, CA
9 posts

Hello Maria,
Thank you I will read it right now.

Diane said: Jan 23, 2012
Diane AllenViolin
245 posts

Boundaries are a part of “teaching with love”. Some people call it “tough love”.

Diane
http://www.myviolinvideos.com
Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Irene Mitchell said: Jan 24, 2012
Irene Mitchell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dallas, TX
111 posts

Dear Monica,
Thank you for asking such an important question; I am grateful for the chance to think through my journey through this issue.

When I started teaching thirty years ago, I wanted to be loved by all of my students. What happened then was that my students (and their parents) called the shots, and I became a doormat. I thought that being nice was what Suzuki meant by ‘teaching with love’ and ‘every child can learn’. Imagine my surprise when I went to Japan and found that the best japanese teachers (Suzuki, Mori, Kataoka) were very firm and had intense expectations of excellence!

Some truths I have learned along my journey are below; I hope they’ll help you on your path:
-Neither the parents nor the student need me to be their friend. We love each other, but that is different from being friends.
-My job in this relationship is to help them be the best they can be. Sometimes I have to be firm with both parents and children!

Diane Allen generously shared her ‘studio pledge‘ on the SAA Discussion board https://suzukiassociation.org/discuss/12050/
I used hers to create one for my studio, which has been the most profound gift to my teaching this year. In essence, it says ‘taking violin lessons is a privilege’, ‘I will remain open and willing to try new things and follow directions’, ‘I understand that learning a musical instrument requires effort, and I am willing to work’, and ‘improvement involves repeating things over and over again’. Wow. Up until now I’ve had a ‘studio policy’, but this year was the first time the children and their parents have had to initial each line and sign the agreement. They kept a copy in their binder, and we refer to it when needed. Did I lose students with this boundary? Yes, (thank goodness!)…but the universe brought me new ones who were happy to agree to my standards.

The final question I have as I read your post is: what are the parents doing when the kid is misbehaving? If they are either not stepping in, or stepping in too strongly, I call/email/meet with the parent to figure out how to provide a united front. This way, when I quietly take the child aside to talk, or ask the parent to step out of the room, or bring the lesson to an early end, the parent knows that I am doing so for the good of the child.

Children need boundaries in order to feel safe, and will push until they feel the limit. It’s up to us to give them clear and positive expectations for their behavior.

hope that helps.
Irene

Irene Mitchell

Ruth Brons said: Jan 24, 2012
Ruth Brons
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Livingston, NJ
148 posts

Sometimes, not often, I find myself having to say:

“You may have different rules at home, but in my studio [insert a specific required behavior here]. Thank you.”

I operate from the premise that children want to do well, and appreciate knowing exactly what the rules are.

Actually, the most frequent remark like this I make is:

“You may have different rules at home, but in my studio children obey their mothers. Thank you.”

Ruth Brons
www.Things4Strings.com

Diane said: Jan 24, 2012
Diane AllenViolin
245 posts

Irene! Wow! I’m blown away! “most profound gift to my teaching this year”

It’s telling that you lost students over the policies. But it truly is a new world to have new students ready to step up to standards that you established.

I’m feeling TOTALLY spoiled with my studio this year. Every single student truly wants to be at their lessons. Nobody is dragging a ball and chain into my studio!

Big Smiles! Diane

Diane
http://www.myviolinvideos.com
Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

Irene Mitchell said: Jan 24, 2012
Irene Mitchell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Dallas, TX
111 posts

(yea well… the students were ready to go on to another more suitable teacher…)
I don’t dread Thursday afternoons anymore, and even the teenagers are pleasant!
:o)

Irene Mitchell

Monica said: Jan 24, 2012
Monica Frahm
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Flute, Cello
Elk Grove, CA
9 posts

Irene,
Thank you so much! for sharing this, as I read it many episodes of my lessons came back to me like a movie and I imagined doing the same thing again but with clear boundaries and expectations. Kids do like boundaries even though it doesn’t seem like it sometimes.

Parents DO step in many times but this troubled me too because so many of the quotes from Nurtured by Love came to my mind and I just wanted to keep a positive environment. Now I understand that limits, expectations and firmness do not necessarily mean- negative, on the other hand, kids need to understand that music requires discipline and “hard work”.

Thanks for your input, it made a huge impact on me.

Monica said: Jan 24, 2012
Monica Frahm
Suzuki Association Member
Piano, Flute, Cello
Elk Grove, CA
9 posts

Thanks Ruth for this idea, I like it and will find my own “specific required behavior”
Thank you.

Irene said: Jan 28, 2012
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

One of those time when my daughter misbehaves, she didn’t get a sticker after lesson. It breaks my heart but I keep supporting the teacher’s decision. She behaves well in the next lesson. When she was younger , she would act silly and jump around the room. Initially I tried to let her “learn with love” , bring out puppet and tricks and pretend play. It didn’t work. What worked was when I left the room and leave her alone with her teacher. She behaves a lot better when she feels the teacher is in charge and not mummy

Paula Bird said: Feb 17, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Irene said, “Children need boundaries in order to feel safe, and will push until they feel the limit. It’s up to us to give them clear and positive expectations for their behavior.” Right on! This is an echo of an article written by Lamar Burton, I believe, in “Winning Ways,” an SAA publication.

I think we confuse the meaning of discipline, which originally meant to “train by instruction.” For some reason we now equate the meaning of discipline with punishment. However, to help a child feel safe, they need to experience freedom within boundaries. We teachers (and parents) need to teach our students and children how to make good choices about things. Any boundary we set up in our studios or homes is an example of how to make a good choice.

I used to be very permissive in the beginning of my teaching career, because I also confused the meaning of “nurturing with love.” I forgot that setting boundaries and actually teaching the child how to behave correctly in various situations was actually an act of nurturing. I do things very differently now.

I also do as much as I can to teach the child how to respect his or her parent, other children, and me as part of the rank and file of teacher. Sometimes a parent struggles with getting approved behavior and appropriate respect from their child. I no longer hesitate to step in and call a child’s behavior for what it is. Just today I saw a six-year old disrespect his mother several times with “attitude,” shoulder shrugging, rolled eyes, and yucky tone of voice. I immediately called him on every single one of his behaviors:

“Did you just say that to your mother? [Did you just shrug-your-shoulders/roll-your-eyes/sass your mom?) That was disrespectful.”

Yes, it was hard to say this. The first time I did it, it was hard. It has gotten much easier over time. I called the little fellow on every single disrespectful behavior he exhibited toward his mom. I did this because I saw that his behavior and attitude of arrogance and superiority were a habit. Maybe he learned these behaviors from his home environment and one of his parents. It didn’t matter to me where he learned it. I thought it was inappropriate anywhere, and certainly in my studio. Nope, parents do a lot for their children, and they and their authority are entitled to be respected, especially by six-year old children.

Guess what happened? Within 30 seconds! The child forgot once and gave a disrespectful shrug of his shoulders, immediately darted a furtive glance to see if I had noticed it, and then said he was sorry. To me, of course, but we got him sorted out and his apology directed to the appropriate person very quickly.

I hope his parents follow up on this great lesson. He learned a lot today about what I expected of him as one of my students (that he is a child who respects his parents and teachers). So did his younger sister, who observed the lesson.

I also enlisted his help in “my” bad habit of rolling my eyes. I promised to catch him with the shoulder and tone of voice attitude if he would help me remember not to roll my eyes. Kind of a shared responsibility thing for correcting our bad social habits.

I firmly believe that we teachers should help our students learn what kinds of behaviors are expected from them by society-at-large. I believe that I am showing my students love by caring for them and how they turn out as human beings.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Carrie said: Feb 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

I started teaching a new family after Christmas. There are four young children: 3, 4, 6, & 8. They were wandering around my house and backyard during their siblings’ lessons. After the second lesson I found something broken and another item misplaced. I was reading a blog about teaching children mindfulness and realized that I had taught my own children this without realizing it, so why not teach it to my students who needed it.

At their next lesson, with a little trepidation, I told them they would stay in my studio during all their sibling lessons and that I was going to start teaching them how to be a Suzuki family. Now we have circle time before their lessons start, where we sit on the floor together, with their mom, and talk about what they did well the previous lesson, ie. didn’t interrupt their siblings lessons, stayed in the room without being told… And I give them one more thing to work on. Just like Suzuki lessons, I started small with just one thing to work on. Each thing is about respecting others, me as their teacher, their mom, their siblings, themselves. We also spend a little time singing and doing rhythm practice.

At the fifth lesson, the mom came in the door and hugged my neck. I didn’t think she was going to let go. She was frazzled because the kids were out of control and she knew that I would help to calm them and create some order in their lives for that hour. Later she emailed me that she looks forward to their piano lessons and feels blessed to have me in their lives.

Sometimes, when a parent is open, I discuss with them how to parent. In this situation, I learned that example is huge. Instead of telling her how to parent, I am showing her and she is grateful. When we come from that whole place inside of us and speak to the wholeness and goodness in our students and their families, we can teach them much. Recently, I have realized that what I do is way more than teach piano. Like Suzuki said, “Character first, then ability.” Just in the past two weeks, I have seen a father learn to respect his 17 year old stepson, his stepson rise to that respect, a mother grateful for guidance in raising her children, and a teenage girl choose to do what is right instead of what she wants to do.

I am deeply humbled by the influence we have over our students and their families, and pray that I will continue to speak to them from my wholeness, knowing that at times I fail and need to apologize for my humanness. Yet, may the overall relationship strengthen them in their inner beings.

Blessings on your journey, Monica.

Carrie

P.S. I am from Sacramento and will be returning for a visit next month.

carebear1158

Cleo Ann Brimhall said: Feb 18, 2012
Cleo Ann BrimhallTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
West Jordan, UT
39 posts

Wonderful comments.
It is important to remember that Dr. Suzuki’s main goal was to raise good citizens for society He believed that peace started with the individual.
I remember Dr. Kataoka saying we should always tell the truth. Of course there are many ways to do this and with Suzuki teaching it should always be in a loving way—Dr. Suzuki said don’t hurt anyone’s heart.
Discipline doesn’t have to mean harsh, scolding or belittling. It comes from the word disciple which means believer. Our job as Suzuki teachers is to teach the chldren to believe in the beauty of the music, of the world and in gracious social behaviour.
When I hear disrepectul words or actions (usually directed to the Moms) I simple say that this behaviour is not allowed in our studio.
I talk to younger siblings who come with the family—explain that the studio is a special place and there is to be no noise when the music is playing—can you do that? They also agree—then I say, if you forget is it alright if I remind you? That sets the stage for a gentle reminder without a crumpling of spirit.
Also I teach the very young students about concert behavior—mainly that when the music is playing there should be no noise. In additon to being respectful to the performer (which we thing of first) the people around us are listening and we need to be respectful to them also. We practice this—they play for each other and I tell them that their job is to listen to the performer and my job is to watch and listen to the audience. After the student plays I say nothing about the performance—I critique the students listening. Comments range from—you were a perfect audience that time—to—someone was distracting everyone by maiking noice, wiggling, playing with paper, whispering—whatever the problem was.
These are just some ideas on how we can pursue our work in the Suzuki way. I didn’t mean to be preachy,

Cleo

Paula Bird said: Feb 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Carrie, that was beautifully said! I want to be your friend! Bravo for that wonderful message!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Paula Bird said: Feb 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

Bravo to you too, Cleo! There are so many wonderful suggestions here!

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Paula Bird said: Feb 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Viola
Wimberley, TX
386 posts

The article I mentioned earlier was written by Lamar Blum.

Paula E. Bird
TX State University
Wildflower Suzuki Studio
http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com (blog)
http://teachsuzuki.com (podcast)

Carrie said: Feb 18, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

Thank you, Paula. I really resonate with Dr Suzuki and his method of teaching. This forum is the only connection that I have to other Suzuki teachers, besides my wonderful teacher trainer, and I am thankful to be able to read the posts of other like-minded people.

carebear1158

Katie Kerwin said: Mar 7, 2012
 1 posts

Thank you, Paula for your kind words. This topic is so important to the ongoing quality of our precious lesson times.

Michelle Meeks said: Dec 28, 2012
 Viola
4 posts

My 6 year old daughter and I just started Suzuki a couple of months ago. She is very excited about learning to play violin and looks forward to her lessons each week. According to my daughter’s teachers, she behaves very well in school. However, in Suzuki group class, I think because I’m there, she acts up a bit. She doesn’t act horribly, but she will act silly, lay on the floor when she should be sitting, play her violin when she should be listening, etc. The teacher does a great job of getting her on track and I will also tell her to sit up, listen, or whatever the case may be.

However, during our practice time together at home, it is much more of a struggle because she wants to call the shots. She resists any type of correction I suggest and proceeds to tell me how I should hold the violin, etc. If I want her to practice A, she wants to practice B … that sort of thing. I want to remain positive so that when we practice violin at home, it is fun. However, there are times when I abruptly end practice because she’s not listening. I have also threatened to discontinue violin if she doesn’t behave during our time together. Some examples of her behavior are that I’ll tell her we are going to play a variation on string E, then A and then repeat and then she’ll play it on E, A, D and G. She often will sit instead of stand and she fatigues easily. (I’m assuming she’ll eventually build up the stamina to hold the violin for more than a few minutes at a time without complaining.)

I don’t know whether to let her feel a little empowered in the process and let her choose what we’re going to practice first as long as we’re covering what we need to cover just to keep the peace or be more insistent on having her follow the plan which usually ends up with one of us getting upset.

I’ve only read part of the first chapter of Nurtured by Love and now have misplaced it, but hopefully once I find it, it will help me work through some of these issues and teach me how to be a more effective parent/teacher in situations such as these. If anyone has any suggestions in the meantime, I would be happy to hear them!

Sue Hunt said: Dec 29, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Michelle, two questions for you.
1 Have you ever tried to do something very complicated, with two people trying to give you directions at the same time? I know it is sometimes hard to trust the teacher in these situations, but I find that students who are prompted by their parent during classes, have great difficulty in focussing on what I am trying to teach them. Try to keep directions to a minimum at practice time, for similar reasons.

2 Does this contrary behaviour only happen in practice sessions, or whenever she feels challenged? In some families this is an ongoing situation. Playing an instrument is so complicated, that it is difficult to get it right. She could just be feeling just a bit overwhelmed by it all.

Talk to your teacher and if she agrees that this is the case, cut the practice right down to just one or two things. This is a temporary measure and you can always add more tasks when things are going better. Find out what plan works best for her, practicing for a set number of minutes, or doing a set number of tasks. Make an agreement and stick to your end of the bargain. She needs to know exactly where she stands and to trust you.

Discuss with her and stick to immediate consequences for good behaviour. Catch the times when she is cooperating or paying attention rather than focussing on results. If she persists in being silly (most bright kids will try it on), never take away previously earned rewards. Just stop the practice then and there.

You could also empower her by lucky dip games. Get your teacher to tell you EXACTLY how to practice each task and what to look out for. Your daughter needn’t know when you write a task on more than one card. There are 6 free games and gentle practice advice for you if you opt in at Music in Practice.

Charlotte Dinwiddie said: Dec 29, 2012
Charlotte Dinwiddie
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Poughkeepsie, NY
10 posts

I would try some “games”. You can make up cards with items to practice. Shuffle them and let your daughter pick one and have her practice what is on the card. You can make a board game, also with practice items on the squares. Wherever she lands, she follows the instructions. You can also make up a spinner game. Make a big circle with 8 or 10 “slices”, put the spinner in the middle and she would do whichever skill the pointer selects. All of these give her some measure (or illusion) of control without really giving up your control of the practice time. Mixing things up can be fun. This will help you establish that practicing the violin is something we do everyday…..and that is, perhaps, the most important thing to learn.

Nora Friedman said: Dec 29, 2012
Nora Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools
Brooklyn, NY
34 posts

These are all such wonderful comments and ideas. I’m so inspired by this community and grateful to be part of this community. I wanted to add that two books have been instrumental (hyuck!) in helping me figure all of this stuff out: “how to talk so kids will listen and how to listen so kids will talk” by Adele Faber and “helping parents practice” by Ed sprunger. They go hand-in-hand. All the best!

Michelle Meeks said: Jan 2, 2013
 Viola
4 posts

Thank you very much for your comments and ideas. We have been on vacation since I posted so we haven’t started with the games but I will definitely do so when we get home. Thats a great idea! We did bring her violin with us to practice while we are away and I’ve kept her practices very short just because that is all we have had time for and she has done very well. She does like to direct the practice somewhat but as long as it is one of the things we are supposed to work on, I haven’t fought it too much. She is a very strong-willed girl whether it be with regard to violin or anything else. She definitely has a mind of her own. Her teachers have told me she’s going to be president someday. LOL.

She does respond very well to positive reinforcement so when she is cooperating, I will make a point to comment. I will also check out the books recommended above as well. I did find my Nurtured by Love book so I’m working my way through that too. Thanks again for your comments. I appreciate it!

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