Books for Parents

Joanna Pepple said: Apr 5, 2013
Joanna Pepple
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Tallahasee, FL
9 posts

Hello everyone!

I have a parent that wants to pull her 5-year-old child out of lessons because the she claims the child is not motivated. I think part of the problem is that the parent refuses to practice with the student. The parent tells me that she doesn’t want to push her child, and so she simply asks the student everyday if she wants to practice, and as a 5-year-old, of course my student says no. I’ve tried to talk to the parent about making practice into a game, but I’m looking for ways to approach it best with the parent in showing her that she can be the teacher at home.

Are there any books you would recommend to help Suzuki parents find ideas for games and practicing with their students? Possibly for me to read too as a counselor in teaching and inspiring the parent to take an active role in the process at home?

Thanks for any suggestions!


Edmund Sprunger said: Apr 6, 2013
Edmund SprungerTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
Saint Louis, MO
99 posts

The book I recommend for you and for the the parent is EMOTIONAL MUSCLE by Jack and Kerry Kelly Novick. It’s amazing.

Edmund Sprunger

Rose Lander said: Apr 6, 2013
Suzuki Association Member
55 posts

i johanna,
it seems to me the problem would have been averted had you had a serious chat with the family outlining your expectations. even with a comprehensive education of the parent , plus observatons, their full understanding still might not happen.
i also recommend How to get your child to practice without violence, and Helping parent practice by Sprunger. hopefully in the future you can at least spell out what y ou expect from the parent. good luck!
best, rose lander

Teresa said: Apr 6, 2013
Teresa Skinner
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
69 posts

Helping Parents Practice by Ed Sprunger. Excellent book, lots of ideas.
Has this parent read or watched Nurtured by Love? Sounds like she doesn’t
really understand how this method works.
Good Luck!

On Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 9:55 PM, SAA Teachers’ Corner Discussion <
[javascript protected email address]> wrote:

…if you listen to the music, it tells you what to do…

Suzanne Edwards said: Apr 6, 2013
Suzanne Edwards
Suzuki Association Member
Charlotte, NC
29 posts

I have been experimenting with my new Pre-twinkle families by requiring them to buy and move through Ed Sprunger’s new book “Building Violin Skills”. It is excellent in parent education both in the preparation of skills relating to the violin, but more importantly helping them understand so many other facets of parenting. He shares how teaching communication skills, recognizing emotional needs, and the idea of work in small careful steps on a daily basis as being money in the bank for later life skills. He addresses fears of an emotional nature, like you are speaking, as well as the missing routine that you describe. This book has saved me an enormous piece of mind, on so many levels. If the parent is really reading, I know there is so much more parent education going on at their own pace than I could ever do in a class (which I haven’t been able to have happen very well due to scheduling and staggered starting). I highly recommend it to all teachers and parents of beginning students. I keep reading and rereading it with each new beginner. It is a gem.

Now how to get the other parents who are beyond Pre-twinkle to be interested enough to read it.



Heather Reichgott said: Apr 6, 2013
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
95 posts

I use the analogy of brushing teeth. Parents expect kids to brush their teeth before they go to bed at night, and when the kids are very small, the parent has to make sure it’s done properly. Some children will do a good job on their own very young. Some need parents’ reminders for a long time. Some go through phases of resisting tooth-brushing when they are older. However, it is not optional, and all parents (we hope) make sure it happens. Same with practicing. It needs to happen and it needs to become part of the daily routine. I tell parents not to push too much for excessively long practice periods, but to use their parental authority to insist that practice does happen every day, or almost every day. And I warn that practicing twice a week or less is likely to result in no progress at all—no parent likes the idea of paying for weekly lessons with no progress.

Games etc. can be fun, but I’d beware of getting too much into approaching the child as if we (teacher/parent) are entertainers, and the student only has to practice if we amuse them and please them enough. Better to say in a matter-of-fact way that practicing is necessary and treat it as a default, normal part of the day.

With my own 5-year-old daughter, I allow her some choice in when she practices, and in what order she does her different practice tasks, but whether to practice at all is not negotiable.

Regarding motivation, the best way to assess this is for the parent to observe the child’s level of joy and engagement while practicing and while at the lesson, not whether the child desires to start practicing or whether the child is happy to put on her shoes and coat to go to the lesson. Usually there’s more of a hurdle to get TO the piano then to be motivated to work hard once there.

Joanna Pepple said: Apr 6, 2013
Joanna Pepple
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Tallahasee, FL
9 posts

Wow, thanks for all of these comments, everyone!

I will definitely check out these books!

And thanks, Heather, for the last post about the hurdle on getting TO the lesson. That’s definitely happening. My student loves being there for the lesson and hates leaving…but like you said, it is a hurdle to get TO the violin.

Thanks everyone. This has been very helpful. I am happy to read any other suggestions as well!

Sue Hunt said: Apr 7, 2013
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
390 posts

She could try this series of daily emails specially for helping parents with practice, containing suggestions and strategies, games and scheduling, and how the parent can communicate more effectively with both teacher and child. As this comes in tiny daily bites, it is easy to take on board.

Irene said: Apr 7, 2013
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua,, not very popular choice but it is a good read. Kids love to do what they are good.

Barb said: Apr 11, 2013
Barb Ennis
Suzuki Association Member
678 posts

Getting to the lesson… recently had a parent change lesson time and she said it was so much smoother. Rather than a break after school, they immediately prepared to leave for the lesson (included washing hands and I think a snack). Probably he was well into his “down” time after school doing his own thing, and wasn’t enjoying being called away from that to go to the lesson. Tying practice time to another activity such as a meal might also work well. At the least, give the child a 5 minute notice.

I think one of the biggest motivational killers is when a child is not progressing, and how can they progress at age 5 without the help of the parent and regular (even if very short) practice time?

Thank you all for the book recommendations, and thank you, Suzanne for telling us about Ed’s new book. I have been including Helping Parents Practice in my parents’ start-up kit. I will be checking out the new one!

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

Mengwei said: Apr 13, 2013
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
120 posts

I use the brushing teeth analogy with my parents, but some don’t/won’t consider violin a “non-negotiable” activity like brushing teeth. Which is fine—setting priorities is the parent’s job/right—but also sad because as a teacher I see the potential there just waiting to be tapped.

Suzanne Edwards said: Apr 22, 2013
Suzanne Edwards
Suzuki Association Member
Charlotte, NC
29 posts

I want to thank you, Ed for recommending “Emotional Muscle” by the Novicks. I have gotten so very much from it, and I’m not even done with the 4 yr old section! Like your books, I read a bit, and absorb and think about it for the day. Then go back and read the solutions to the problems that I can’t remember, again. I’m using it in my everyday life, teaching, home, friendships, family etc. I wish there were ways to express to people that this book is not just for the parents or teachers of infant-kindergarteners. I have found that my ‘inner helper’ is a bit too critical, and it is silly to worry and be anxious about things that go in the “out of anyone’s control” basket. So many great tools to continue to better communicate. I have been so much better at helping my preschoolers transition from one thing to another, but also help students and parents recognize, name, and feel their emotional muscles working. Thank you again!


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