3.5 year old refuses to talk or sing during lessons


Marie de Caumont said: Jan 15, 2014
 1 posts

Hello everyone,

I have a question about my daughter’s attitude in lessons.
She started violin lessons in October when she was 3.5 after asking for them all summer, and has been making slow but steady progress with a very nurturing teacher.
The only issue is that my daughter is quite shy, and when asked to sing some of the Twinkle variations (”Mississippi Hot Dog”, “Run, Pony, Run, Pony”, etc) or recognize which note or variation is being played, she looks highly uncomfortable and does not say a word. At home she has no problem shouting it out loud, and during lessons she is perfectly ready to clap the rhythms or play them on her violin, so it must be social anxiety. At the end of each lesson she bows to her teacher, but she cannot thank her verbally either. I find this quite surprising because her teacher has a very gentle demeanor and does not pressure her in any way, apart from asking her once per lesson, to sing back or recognize the music.
My daughter also goes to preschool, where her teacher tells me she is very quiet.

So far her violin teacher and I have not pushed her to talk, but I am wondering how to handle this going forward.
Thank you very much for any advice or insight you can give me!

Mengwei Shen said: Jan 16, 2014
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
221 posts

Can you video the home practice to show to the teacher? Then praise her for what she does “for real” in the lesson as well as for what her video “does”.

How about talking to a stuffed animal? That could be less intimidating.

I wouldn’t push her to talk though. If she currently enjoys playing and pressing the talking issue could ruin things, then just enjoy what you have now. She’ll come around on her own time.

In my group class, we go around the room saying “my name is _____, what is yours?” in rhythm. I include all parents and siblings too and if a sibling can’t/won’t talk, the parent or I say the line. There was a shy one who, after several months of this, one day stepped up to his turn without missing a beat!

Renee Shaw Nutwell said: Jan 16, 2014
Renee Shaw Nutwell
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
20 posts

I wouldn’t push her either, just let her go at her speed.

Perhaps a story of encouragement for you? Earlier last year I started a student who was also very shy and quiet during her lesson. Though she would answer direct questions, frequently they would be the nod or shake of the head with little verbal communication, though she followed directions easily for both playing the violin and exercises we had for internalizing the rhythms. Fast forward to present day and she it the one of my most talkative and engaged students currently in my studio! Give her the time she needs and listen to her guidance. Do not be concerned, for every student is different.

Mengwei Shen said: Jan 16, 2014
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
221 posts

ALSO, I have to say, I wouldn’t mind if some of my students talked less…

Jennifer Visick said: Jan 16, 2014
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1072 posts

Talking/singing during lessons is not necessary to playing the instrument, though if a student does respond it makes the teacher’s job easier.

I remember being very quiet during my lessons when I was growing up. I never thought of myself as needing to talk: I did what was asked, nodded as needed, and was focused on taking in information, not giving it out. As an adult I still have a tendency to want to listen, to gather information and evaluate it first, before speaking up or asking questions. It was work to generate longer responses and I was spending all my brain processing power on looking, listening, and figuring out what to do with my hands.

There does come a point when talking is inefficient. That’s why we have lessons in person, so a student can see how the fingers move, touch the instrument, see the example and then try to figure out how to do it themselves.

Speech is only necessary to point out things that someone has not observed, or to slow a student down if they’re moving too fast, and make the student evaluate. If the student is evaluating and going at an appropriate pace, and if they’re getting everything the teacher is teaching, what need is there for speech in the music lesson?

Gregory Guay said: Jan 27, 2014
Gregory GuayGuitar
Mount Pleasant, SC
14 posts

Sing or grunt in different animals voices??!! Anything to get them laughing.
And patience.

Jennifer Kovarovic said: Feb 7, 2014
Jennifer Kovarovic
Suzuki Association Member
Seattle, WA
18 posts

Maybe you could try giving her a hand puppet and then have the “puppet” sing/talk when needed?!

Also, when I encounter a problem of ANY kind with a student, I ask that family to observe another student’s lesson. This frequently resolves whatever issue has presented itself. Perhaps you and your daughter could observe the lessons of a more vocal student for a couple of weeks? Good luck!

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