2 year old sibling can “already play…”

Tiffany said: Jun 9, 2012
Tiffany Osborn
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
Los Angeles, CA
41 posts

…in her opinion.

Just looking for some advice and what other teachers do in this situation, it’s not the first time I’ve encountered it.

Sometimes parents let the younger sibling play with the older one’s violin, I’m sure they think it’s adorable (well, it is!) but they invariably hold the violin under their chin, bow with a fist, and scrub away at it. I don’t like to encourage bad posture, so I tell parents (maybe too nicely?) that it’s hard to undo habits, and it’s best not to let bad ones form.

My solution is usually to give the younger one a box violin so they can participate, and work with their bow hands, finger dexterity, violin on shoulder etc. But- this doesn’t always work. Sometimes (in the temperament of a two year old) they protest on working on a bow hand (I already know how to hold it!) and they want the real thing (I don’t want a box! And I can already play!)

My opinion is that they aren’t ready for formal lessons and they are getting a ton of info by absorbing it in the environment. And of course not all two year olds are like this- some enjoy just doing little things like bunny hands and stuff, and love their box and can’t wait until they are big enough too. But- what to do with the “I want it I want it I want it” two year olds, and the parents that give in?

Sue Hunt said: Jun 10, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

I once heard a well respected teacher tell a tiny beginner, that were going work on growing muscles, before getting their instruments. A collection of pre violin and bow games is a must. See 36 Beginner Bow Hold Games

Small children who are brought up to “be big and do it by yourself,” find it very difficult to let an adult help. I always ask these students to demonstrate, in the lesson, what a good team they make with their parents.

Virginia Thompson said: Jun 10, 2012
Virginia ThompsonViolin, Guitar, Piano, Cello, Viola
Saint Petersburg, FL
17 posts

It sounds like you really need to take control of the whole situation without of course being mean. Always remember what Dr. Suzuki said, “Never hurt the heart of a child.” With that in mind you will be able to speak more confidently to the parent and child. I tell the child that Dr. Suzuki says there are two ways to play: there’s the right way and there’s the wrong way, which way would you like to learn? Leave it up to them to make a decision because you’re giving them a choice and this type of child really needs to make choices. The child always picks the “right way.” Then I say to them you wouldn’t want me to teach you incorrectly and not care whether you play good or not? They always come to understand. All of this I have learned from attending Suzuki teacher institutes and long term trainning with Bruce Anderson. There is an answer to everything. Most Suzuki teachers that I know will not even take a student who’s parent and child is not on the same page. A good course to take would be Jean Ludeke’s Parent Orientation. It’s been years so I don’t know if she’s still teachiing it. We have to educate the parent first if they are unwilling we really can’t help them and that is when a Suzuki teacher has to decide is this about the money I will lose or doing it the right way. I wish you all the best! I hope this was helpful. I love the Suzuki Method. It has truly made me a more understanding and loving human being, and that’s the most important thing to me—to share that love.

Virginia Thompson
www.thompsonsmusic.com
727.576.0166

Carol Gwen said: Jun 11, 2012
Carol Gwen Kiefer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Washington Crossing, PA
75 posts

What to do with a two-year old? I have encountered this attitude with a four-year old.

Other teachers to ask are Mark Mutter and Ed Sprunger. Try emailing them from the SAA directory.

Hope that helps.

Wendy Caron Zohar said: Jun 11, 2012
Wendy Caron Zohar
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Ann Arbor, MI
94 posts

I had a similar problem with my own children! They (twins) grew up as infants watching and hearing me practice and perform in concerts. We were living in London at the time. When they got to be age 4 or 5 they were eager to have their own instrument in their hands, and receive instruction. More than anything they were excited to be little musicians and wanted to be already playing real pieces. But they weren’t interested in taking the little steps and certainly didn’t want to play children’s music. Because they had such fiercely assertive personalities, confident temperaments and they’d been steeped in music all around, they asserted with confidence, “I already know how to play!” It was tug and pull (I hadn’t yet had Suzuki pedagogical instruction), and after a period of frustration on both sides, Kay Hurwitz, who directed the music school where they were enrolled, and I agreed they were not quite mature enough yet. She was concerned they would grow to hate music rather than love it if we followed on the same course. So we agreed they should put the violins away until when they were more ready, at around 8. Sure enough, at that time they were more ready, learned well and became quite good players, one on violin and the other on cello, and they enjoyed and were enriched by their study of music.

Wendy Caron Zohar

Catherine said: Jun 11, 2012
Catherine WhelanViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Viola
Portland, OR
12 posts

I also had this when my daughter was under three. I did a couple of things that helped:

-I had an old school instrument (a violin with no value) that I gave her when she was one. It may sound like I was teaching the wrong thing, however, it was a full size and nearly as big as her, so she did hours of dramatic play holding it like a cello using a pretend bow. I played the Suzuki recording as well as a Beethoven symphony everyday, and she did much of her dramatic play to it, not to mention musical language immersion.

-There was a violin and viola in our house that she saw being played but she wasn’t allowed to touch it, which is a really important point. She could ask to hear them being played and she did so often. The outcome is that she couldn’t wait to be big enough to get her first violin that she could touch and care for. And as an aside, when she got her first real one (and was just about jumping out of her skin with joy at age 2.5), she knew she had to care for it. That night, I found her in bed hugging the case ;)

-Almost daily, before she got her real violin, she took the old violin I had given her, apart and back together again as though it were a puzzle. This included strings, pegs, bridge, tail piece and button. She now knows now how an instrument works and does her own minor repairs as a result.

-I bought Music Mind Games (back when it came in a set), and I played many games with her. She loved it, and it was her ‘practice’ with me, all the while talking about getting big enough for a 1/32. Reading music was incredibly easy for her because she was so familiar with the notes, rests, clefs, etc., from the MMG’s.

After this experience, I made a point of getting Suzuki Early Childhood Education training and started a Suzuki Baby Class as part of my studio, and later I created a blend of the baby class circle with PreTwinkle skills for 3-5 year olds to create a gentle and loving way to build trust as children enter the doorway into Suzuki education. And it’s a significant platform for parent education as the parent is side-by-side with their child.

So even though I didn’t set-out to write a post about Suzuki ECE, I think it is the missing link for many teachers wondering how to work with keen children who are too young for lessons.

Tiffany said: Jun 12, 2012
Tiffany Osborn
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools, Viola
Los Angeles, CA
41 posts

Wow thank you all so much- I was excited to get the 36 bow hold games- but I bought it and I already do almost all of those, or similar variations! Oh well.

This is not my student (yet!), but the newly two year old younger sibling of my 4 year old student who sometimes comes to lessons sometimes and has interest- I know she will take lessons, and they are a good Suzuki family. I’m not sure why the mom let her “play” with the violin, we went through an extensive period before my student (older brother) could put the bow on the string- lots of hands separate work, and I use MMG every lesson, I love it! But it’s one of those putting the toothpaste back in the tube situations, coupled with the child’s personality. I don’t know if she’ll come this week for lessons, but last week she had trouble putting fingers and thumb together to make a circle for the “bunny face”, and she doesn’t want to hear that she needs to do that before she can hold the bow, and she needs to hold the bow before she can put it on the violin.

I have seen this situation in 4 and 5 year olds too (heck, last week I had high-schoolers who were first year students that didn’t feel they needed help on improving anything!) So I guess the discussion can be distilled into two issues, 1: what to do with students who don’t want to be part of the triangle and 2: the special skill of reasoning with a two year old.

I love E. Sprunger’s book and I can’t wait to read his new one too! I’ll revisit it and see what he might say about it- but I just lent it to a parent last week!

Sue Hunt said: Jun 13, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

I hope your students like the lucky dip cards. I customise them to each student and let them take selected copies home with for their practice sessions. They are empowered by thinking that they are choosing which games to play.

This problem does sometime happen with younger siblings and it is very hard for them to have to relearn good habits. All little ones love the idea of being grown up and independent, but ultimately it is a question of who is the boss in the lesson. If, despite everything, a child is uncooperative, I tell them that only teach children who are grown up enough to let me help them. It is important to follow through by gently but firmly terminating the lesson. Usually this only ends to happen once.

Ed Sprunger’s book is wonderful!

Good luck.

Cleo Ann Brimhall said: Jun 13, 2012
Cleo Ann BrimhallTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
West Jordan, UT
39 posts

No one can reason with a 2 year old. They just haven’t learned reasoning yet. But you can set rules and then help them to keep them. Two year olds try to keep rules but sometimes forget and sometimes rebel. They are at the “me” age.

You can play—(Dr. Suzuki was an expert at that) and use games that have purpose in learning. You can praise when they try hard—you can pull away if they are not cooperating—a good beginning—but the beginning is teaching focus and cooperation and how to be a “big girl”—games and help and environment and games and help and environment—games and help and environment—she comes with siblings—can the sibling give and example of doing what the two year old is learning to do? That is environment for how to take a lesson. What more advanced students do automatically needs to be shown in small steps to the little one.

Cleo

Carol Gwen said: Jun 16, 2012
Carol Gwen Kiefer
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Washington Crossing, PA
75 posts

Would it make sense to begin with the parent of the 2 year old? The parent is learning along with the 4 year old? Does the parent understand the Suzuki triangle? Does the parent understand how to work with the 2 year old?

For the fingers how about picking up beads with just the thumb and 3rd finger and place in a small box? I’ve also used buttons (so many buttons, what to do with them!). These ideas may spark your imagination and fit in with games-games-and more games. Explaining to the parent that the lesson with a 2 year old will look like sitting on the floor playing games. Download Mark Mutter’s handout from the conference, “Overcoming your fear of the three year old child.”

Has anyone had luck with the “foam” violins?

Sue Hunt said: Jun 17, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Carol, how do we access, Mark Mutter’s handout from the conference, “Overcoming your fear of the three year old child?” I can’t find it on the site.

A large family that I used to teach used a Foamalin to keep their youngest happy while the others were practising. He would march contentedly round the room with a foam violin tucked under his chin for the duration. I don’t know how this affected his later progress as he became a cellist.

I would advocate a suitably weighted box for an older beginner, as a foam violin is literally as light as air. I make the boxes out of children’s shoe boxes, cutting the hight of the box so that it fits the lid. You can stuff them with anything that replicates the weight of a real violin.

Tina Raimondi said: Jul 13, 2012
Tina Raimondi
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Wilton Manors, FL
26 posts

I would love to see Mark Mutter’s handout as well. It’s probably only available to those who attended the conference. Does anyone have a copy they could scan and send via email to those who are interested?

Jenny said: Jul 13, 2012
 98 posts

I changed the permissions on Mark Mutter’s handout, so you can download it here:

Overcoming Your Fear of the Three-Year-Old Handout

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