parents not following through with practice

Barbara Shipley said: Jan 3, 2015
Barbara Shipley
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
3 posts

I’ve been teaching Suzuki method for almost 40 years and still have trouble with parents who do not follow through with practicing. One parent bragged about being a Suzuki student himself and how accomplished he is, but when his children started lessons, he only practiced with them 2 times a week. He leaves everything up to his wife, who is overwhelmed, as 80% of my student and parents are, by the number of after-school activities her kids are in and the amount of homework they have (the oldest is 8!). I’ve asked her to practice with them herself, but she doesn’t. The working moms (95% of my parents) have an even harder time. Yet I also have students of working parents who practice 5 or 6 days a week. I always spend the first lesson explaining what the parent is expected to do, giving handouts that explain further. They promise to do everything, but those who won’t do that begin right away to faiI at these tasks. I have tried observation of other students, rewards for practicing, practice charts, gentle but firm urging, but they still don’t get the message. They watch other kids who practice doing well while their child struggles, and blame it on the child.

Friederike said: Jan 4, 2015
Friederike Lehrbass
Suzuki Association Member
Plano, TX
87 posts

I have the same problem with some of my students. I tried a 100 day practise challenge,what worked for 1week. When I asked how much she practised and I made comments about her needing to practise more,because her piece did not improve,she started crying and I realized that it should be directed to the mom,who was not in the room. I guess we can only do so much. Try to talk to parents, educate them, make suggestions, but if they don’t pull threw,there isn’t really much we can do.

Praise the Lord with the stringed instrument

Barbara Shipley said: Jan 5, 2015
Barbara Shipley
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
3 posts

Thanks Friederike, it seems like you also have the same problem I have with parents of older children, who think they don’t have to be present at the lesson because they think they don’t have to be involved in lessons. Their parents didn’t attend their lessons when they were children, so why should they? It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Suzuki method is, a partnership between parent and teacher. They feel responsible for telling the child to do school homework, but they feel no such responsibility for the child’s practice, and are quick with excuses such as soccer practice. One wonders why they chose a Suzuki teacher, who expects their particiation.

Katherine said: Jan 5, 2015
Suzuki Association Member
75 posts

I think it is hard for some parents to understand the difference between a commitment to soccer (practice once a week game on the weekend) and instrument lessons. Some parents have to be cultivated over time, even if they enter a program believing that they understand it.

The Parents as Partners videos are a great tool. I plan to show some of these during group lessons this winter.

Motivated students may help motivate parents (particularly parents of older children). I thought this article is interesting re motivation:

Alan Duncan said: Jan 6, 2015
Suzuki Association Member
81 posts

I think that modern parents are engaged in an “arms race” of sorts, mistakenly believing that their children’s success is somehow tied to the number of activities they dream up for their kids. It’s all well and good until they realize one day that the children are “a mile wide and an inch deep” in their abilities.

There are the triple threats—kids who excel at academics, sports, and music—but they are rare.

Being a Suzuki parent, especially in the earliest years is hard. Parents need to understand that from the start. Few are adequately prepared for hardships, the crying, the tantrums, the frustration—and that’s just getting the basic Twinkle patterns on rhythm sticks! The work can be so tough, it almost calls for peer-to-peer mentorship of some sort. There are best practices that can be shared among parent-peers if the right forum existed.

As a parent, I would say that any opportunity for parents to share experiences is a step in the right direction. What happens in home practice is a “black box” from the perspective of other parents. It shouldn’t be. Because there’s no magic here. That’s what Suzuki was trying to teach—no magic—just patience, persistence, and nurturing.

Parents need venues for talking about effective practice strategies, coping skills, etc. We also found Parents as Partners videos to be helpful. But there’s a social component that needs to be engaged, e.g. what are parents in my child’s studio doing? Other studios in the community? At institute?

These are my 2 cents as a parent.

Heather Figi said: Jan 7, 2015
 96 posts

Excellent points Allen. Thanks for taking a moment to post.

Danielle Kravitz said: Jan 7, 2015
Danielle KravitzInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Violin
64 posts

Parent meetings are really helpful for revitalizing parents. We do them three times a year in place of the regular “kid” group class. We will discuss a teaching point, list upcoming dates and then just let them talk.

I find it helps bring the parents together. In that room is the complete spectrum. You have parents that are in the honeymoon period because they just started and then you have the veteran parents of book 4+ teenagers. It lets everyone realize that there’s no such thing as a perfect practicer.

Celia Jones said: Jan 9, 2015
72 posts

I think you have to be cautious here. You talk about parents “blaming” the child, and “making excuses”. By this, I guess you mean the parent said the child refused to practise, or that the child was tired after soccer, for instance.

Is that making excuses? They sound like reasons to me. The kid refused point blank to practise. Or he lay down and slept on the hard floor in the hall with his muddy boots still on his feet. What would you do if it was your child?

Why not offer those parents a break from lessons? Suggest that they go onto your waiting list and consider returning when they feel the child can cope with the daily practise.

Man said: Jan 13, 2015
 Violin, Voice, Viola
13 posts

Beyond what Allen mentioned above, I wonder if a few of your younger (mainly Book 1-to-2) students could benefit from hiring one or two of your advanced, teenaged students to be parttime practice partners to help out—maybe once or twice a week. Could be a temporary or long term solution depending on the situation, but yeah, I imagine this will only work for some, not all of them.

This is what one of the Book 1 students in our Suzuki program is doing w/ my 16-yo daughter who is currently “officially” moving into Book 8 (though she’s actually already learned and performed a couple Book-8 level pieces for recitals like Tchaikovsky’s Canzonetta movement and a couple movements from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons among other music outside the Suzuki repertoire). And another early Book 2 student will probably do likewise w/ my daughter though we haven’t worked out the arrangement yet. Meanwhile, my 15-yo son, who is similarly advanced, started doing some of that w/ another end-of-Book-1 student of their teacher (outside their Suzuki program) as a volunteer community service (for school credit). Both of them also regularly help out w/ guiding/tutoring peer students, who probably do not have regular private lessons, for music ensembles/orchestras at their respective high schools during their free and/or ensemble class times at school.

I also sporadically ask one of them to help out w/ our youngest, but she can be a handful for them in this regard (plus it’s still best for me to be the one anyway since I’m the one attending lessons w/ her), so I keep that to a minimum.

No, it’s not the ideal way to go, but if the situation isn’t improving, might be worth considering at least as a short term solution. IF they can only manage to practice say 2-3x a week due to specific time demands/difficulties on the parents’ part, this might be a good way to supplement that. And it’d give your advanced, teenaged students something good to do that might actually benefit them in more ways than one…

Just a thought…



Phankao said: Jan 14, 2015
 128 posts

I am a parent. I would not send my child for lessons if we don’t make a commitment to practise. It would be a waste of time/effort/lesson, I think?! Same with any other classes.

Mengwei Shen said: Jan 14, 2015
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
221 posts

If a student isn’t practicing at home, then s/he’s actually practicing once a week—with me. If that means we’re “having the same lesson” for weeks or months on end, so be it. I won’t introduce new skills that depend on mastery of the current one(s) because that would create a struggling condition (although a skill that’s on a different “sequence” could be okay). Of course, we do want students to struggle and overcome as part of the learning process, but it’s the adults’ job to dole out challenges in healthy, manageable doses. We need to have realistic expectations, not running before walking, cart before horse, etc., and the reality is that if you need more time/repetitions to master last week’s assignment than you actually spent on it, then we’re going to do it again.

Katherine said: Jan 15, 2015
Suzuki Association Member
75 posts

This article addresses this (and other) topics of conflict between teachers and parents and might be of interest:

Here’s a portion of it:

“After three unprepared lessons in a row, Kempter will place the child on a three-month probation period. ‘During probation I offer increased support and ideas for handling busy schedules and try to teach for immediate success via shorter assignments, more review and less technique. I may also enlist the help of parents to assist the child with daily schedules. At the end of the probation, we assess the changes. If the student has failed to meet minimal requirements I say, “This isn’t working, is it?” I have never had a child disagree with me.’”

Alexandra said: Jan 15, 2015
Alexandra Jacques
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Mesa, AZ
35 posts

I think that many parents start their kids in lessons believing that they can and will commit to practicing daily, and find that it’s much easier said than done, especially after the honeymoon period. It is frustrating to hear excuses; I think the worst is when I hear a parent put all of the responsibility of practicing on a young child, but looking from their point of view, it has to be hard! I don’t have my own kids, but I know that it’s not easy to reason with an uncooperative child. It’s not sending the right message to a child when a parent gives in and lets them skip practice when their child isn’t cooperating, but I can see why they do it. I think these parents need support, guidance, and reassurance that no Suzuki family is absolutely perfect about their commitment to lessons, and I really like the idea of parent meetings as a way for them to get. I’m going to consider starting that next school year.

On the topic of rewards for practicing… they don’t work (at least in my experience). I started a small reward system for practicing last year ( hoping it would get a few of my students more motivated, and not much changed. I’ve kept it going since some of the kids think it’s a lot of fun, but I don’t make a big deal about it.

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