Following Directions

Elizabeth Friedman said: Jul 2, 2012
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

I have a 3 1/2-year-old beginner who has been having a very difficult time in lessons. To some extent, I think I could state the obvious (he might not be ready for formal study)—but there have been some genuine extenuating circumstances and he is going away with his family for 6 weeks after his next 2 lessons. I suspect he will return a different child, as they tend to do at that age.

Very telling is that in his first lesson, I started by asking him to put his feet on his foot chart so that I could trace around them, and he said, “Actually, I’d like to read a book now.” Obviously I didn’t let that fly. But there have been other issues—climbing under the chair, pretending to sleep when I ask him to do something, lying on the floor, etc. Mom has been reluctant to engage in any discipline, but is coming along.

Any suggestions would be great!

He had a Million Dollar Lesson 2 weeks ago, and I’ve tried diversions, being firm, being nice, changing activities frequently and quickly, etc. I’m used to dealing with very young children and the special issues at hand (i.e., that they’re not in school yet and we have to start at a different point from 5-year-olds). He is fantastic in group class.

What I really need are some games to help him learn how to follow directions. Last week, we had a very successful game of Simon Says, and of him following me silently.

I don’t have an enormous amount of space in my studio, so I’d thought about Red Light/Green Light, but I don’t think it’ll work with the space I have. But, I also want to give Mom a list of games to help her son learn how to listen and follow directions while they are away.

Irene said: Jul 2, 2012
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

When my daughter started to “play around” in violin lesson, I left room immediately. When she is left alone with her teacher, she is a different person and behaves very well. Maybe the parents can leave the room for a while maybe he is not following instruction?

Lori Bolt said: Jul 3, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

He sounds like a strong-willed child, and you’ve hit on something when you say Mom is reluctant to discipline. You may need to offer her some guidance on training (disciplining) her child. At lesson, I would be firm but kind—as you are being—playing a lot of copying games (Follow the Leader, any Copy Cat activity). Be silly as you like. Small rewards—stickers—may motivate him to do things “just right”. Maybe some kind of Treasure Hunt where he follows directions to find a treat.

Good luck!

Lori Bolt

Lori Bolt said: Jul 3, 2012
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
226 posts

Irene is right—he might be a different child w/out Mom in the room.

Lori Bolt

Sue Hunt said: Jul 3, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

A friend of mine once taught a very badly behaved little girl, that is until she announced to the child, “In lessons we don’t behave like that, your job is to do as you are told.”

The little girl said, “Oh, sorry I didn’t know” and has been well behaved ever since.

Some kids need the million dollar lesson more than once. Stick to your guns. Children are a great deal happier if they know their boundaries.

Meanwhile, ask Mum for her views on obedience.

Carrie said: Jul 4, 2012
 
Suzuki Association Member
58 posts

Sue,

Wow! “Ask Mum for her views on obedience.” That knocked me speechless. How often I think a child needs to obey, end of story. I doesn’t occur to me that the mom may have a different view. Yay, I’ll be pondering that for a while.

I had a similar situation to your friend’s when my youngest daughter was in swimming lessons for the first time. The young instructor asked Gayle if she wanted to do the thing she’s just explained. Gayle replied, “No.” and hung onto the edge for the remainder of the class while the other kids participated. Fortunately, I was there to witness it and explained to Gayle that I was paying the instructor to teach her to swim and that from now on when the instructor asked her if she’d like to do something, her response should be, “I’d love to.” She responded like your friend’s student, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” All Gayle’s swim instructors after that were amazed at her willingness and eagerness to learn. It’s nice when we figure out a student’s thinking and can address it where they are.

carebear1158

Sue Hunt said: Jul 5, 2012
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
389 posts

Another thing is never never ask a child anything like “Would you like to/shall we…” etc. The answer will always be “NO.”

If you want a child to do it, it’s a good idea to tell him what he is about to do and leave it at that.

On compliance, acknowledge, i.e. tell the child what he has just done and leave it at that too. You don’t have to go overboard with praise. It is more than enough for him to know that he is the centre of your undivided attention.

Elizabeth Friedman said: Jul 9, 2012
Elizabeth Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
49 posts

Thank you all for these suggestions! I had tried most of these things with this particular child, especially since I’ve encountered a few children this year who have had a tough time following directions. (Most of them are doing just fine now!) Usually, just telling a child that their behavior is unacceptable works, but it hasn’t with this particular child. Thankfully, the mom ended up deciding on her own that they should take a year off before trying again, and I’m glad it came from her rather than from me. I have a hard time ‘giving up’ on a child, even if I shouldn’t think of it that way- but a parent knows their child best, and knows whether they are capable yet of following directions.

Given that I just taught another 3 1/2 year old this morning and it went very well (of course with lots of songs and games and redirection of attention span), I think that a break is definitely the best choice for this other child. Redirecting enthusiasm is, I think, much easier to do than attempting to grow enthusiasm out of apathy.

Incidentally, I have one other student who is nearly 6, who has often acted in a similar way to this 3 1/2 year old. His mom has also decided to take the summer off, as they’re in the middle of moving. Honestly, I think it has all been a bit too much for him, and that’s why he’s been acting up—so perhaps it will be easier to establish a good lesson pattern when he’s not frustrated and exhausted by other things in his life.

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