Refusing to practice bow holds

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Pam said: Jul 13, 2015
 Violin
3 posts

My son is 3 and a half and has been taking violin lessons for 2 months now. About a month ago, he began refusing to practice his bow holds (called “bunny holds” right now). He just decided one day that he wouldn’t do it. He agrees to do them at his private and group lessons, but won’t at home.

Everything else is going really well. He’s a very sensitive and intense child so I fear that I might have done something to ruin this aspect of practice for him. I usually try to make things fun, but when something is extremely challenging, he tends to get frustrated and back away a bit.

He started saying, “I will hold the bow my own way.” And usually that’s the end of practice for that day.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to convince him to practice holding the bow properly? I’ve bought books with games that we can try, but it usually doesn’t get that far because he just won’t even put his fingers on the bow properly. I’ve bought puppets, but they don’t have fingers… I’ve tried saying that the bow (or marker right now) is an oar or a drum stick or an ice cream cone, but lately he’s been saying, “Well, if it’s an oar (or ice cream cone or drum stick), then I can hold it my own way.” And usually, that’s where our practice ends.

I would truly appreciate any advice!!!

Thank you!
Pam

Erin P said: Jul 14, 2015
 Violin
25 posts

For my 3.5 year old a “super special” sticker for her foot chart if she did her bow song with perfect bow hold 3x seems to have done the trick.

Christine said: Jul 14, 2015
Christine Van Arsdale
Suzuki Association Member
Harp, Piano
Charlotte, NC
1 posts

You might try letting him be the “teacher” and you be the student. You could make a game of holding the bow all sorts of “wrong” ways and see if you can get him to correct you. . . all in fun. Or you could hold the bow all kinds of “wrong” ways and give each pose a different animal name (based on the shape you’re creating) however definitely holding it correctly a lot of the time. See if he will make up a name for the correct bow hold, or if he calls it the bunny hold, great! You could vary this in any way that seems to work, and do this back-and-forth. . . you, him, you, etc.

Pam said: Jul 14, 2015
 Violin
3 posts

Thank you, Erin and Christine!

I’ll try both of those this week.

Jennifer Visick said: Jul 15, 2015
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Ask the teacher, but at age 3.5, perhaps give the bow hold practice a rest for a week or two. There are plenty of other things to work on, no?

Emmy said: Jul 20, 2015
 9 posts

Hi, Pam, my daughter is 3 and half and she also has hard time doing her bow hold if there isn’t anything to help her on the bow. Her teacher put a pinkinest (it is like a hose tube, you can also buy it on amazon) and put many rubber bands wrapped around on between where her finger 1 and 2 goes. Usually reminding her that these are where her finger goes helps her to do it, but sometimes she ignores them and puts her fingers where wherever she wants. So it might be an option that you can ask your teacher if that is something to consider (some teacher might not like these stuff, so I am not sure) Sometimes my daughter refuses to put her thumb on the corner of the frog often where the hard plastic is. This thumb thing is because she has thumb sucking habit and her thumb is always red and tender that she rather wants to put her thumb on the soft hair part…..so it is a struggle…(by the way, she has been taking lesson for about 9 months now and still!!!)

But also something to think about is that I realized that during this age, there is some power struggles happen, and that my daughter wants to be in charge, and wants to do things in a certain way. For example, she wants to practice review pieces without accompaniment CD on certain pieces or she refused to practice drill spots but rather wants to play through the piece. Or she stops playing as soon as I started to sing along the melody and telling me that she wants to practice by herself…

So I know that we don’t want to be too controlling as a practice teacher, but also have certain rule that you are in charge of the practice and that your child needs to follow your direction. You mentioned that once he starts to insist his bow hold that practice ends….that might be his way to control his practice time. If not with the bow hold, some other reasons he might come up along the way. Don’t end practice just because he insists his way. Maybe give him that if he can do correct bow hold and play twinkles 3 times then he can finish. Always try to end the practice after he follows your rule, not the other way around.

Brecklyn Smith Ferrin said: Jul 21, 2015
Brecklyn Smith Ferrin
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Kaysville, UT
29 posts

Have you tried bow hold buddies? My little students love them. They make holding the bow so much easier and they come in fun colors!
Here is the link: http://amzn.to/1g3diIL

Beth said: Jul 22, 2015
Beth BevarsViolin, Suzuki in the Schools
Richmond Hill, GA
2 posts

Brecklyn, How do you deal with getting the frog part..when it’s on the bow..into the case? It’ll fit in some of the rectangular cases but the violin shaped ones are so difficult! Taking it on and off each time they play doesn’t make sense. At least the fish comes off easily enough! Thanks!

Brecklyn Smith Ferrin said: Jul 23, 2015
Brecklyn Smith Ferrin
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Kaysville, UT
29 posts

That has been a frustrating problem for me too. Right now, I’ve just been telling students to leave their bows out of the case in a safe place, like on top of the piano. Then they only have to take it on and off for lesson.

Bettina said: Jul 24, 2015
 6 posts

We started violin when my son was 3 and a half (he’s almost 5 now). He likes to do things his own way and is quite persistent. I understand where you’re coming from! From the beginning we have practiced daily, but our practices were much more flexible at first. For ex., we did lots of bow hold practice on objects other than bows while running errands and hummed or clapped twinkle variations while driving or taking a bath. He’s always responded well to games where I hold the bow incorrectly and have him correct me by telling and showing me what to do. Or I’ll play one of his songs and intentionally play the wrong note and have him “catch me”. I’ll get him to help me “find the right note” by figuring out if it should be higher or lower. Sometimes we even get his dad involved (he doesn’t play violin) by having our son “teach” his dad to hold a bow and then play a song.

We’ve used sticker charts, coloring boxes on a chart for specific work (use three colors for “excellent”, “ok”, and “needs serious work”), tickets (roll of carnival type tickets), candies hidden under small plastic cups (flip cup and hide a candy under one, he picks up one cup each time he complies), “hot potato” (”loser” plays a song or does a bow hold), using a puppet to correct him (he prefers a puppet with a funny voice over me), rolling dice of various sizes to see how many times he’ll do something (a six-sided die works well for bow holds when starting; roll and do bow holds according to number rolled, do something else, and then do another round of bow holds to break it up…only “good” bow holds count), and other games to keep us going when we hit a rough spot in practice. I’ve accumulated a box of stuff for those days!

If you feel he needs a short break from bow holds, talk to your teacher and let him/her know! It’s not a race to get them playing. Listen to the recordings and work on something else for a week or two.

Kristiina said: Aug 15, 2016
 7 posts

My child is 3 and Ive noticed that its repetition and repetition not necessarily following and understanding special practises.

By that I mean that I put the fingers very quickly on the bow and put the bow on the violin and just play with her hand and hold the fingers in the places. I didnt require her to put the fingers or know how to put them. And then repetition Ive found out that the fingers learn their way way before a 3 year can learn where to put the fingers. Now she puts the fingers quite well after a few months. I think it is too much to expect such a young child to understand the meaning of putting ones fingers so and so, better to do it by making the fingers learn instinctively. Hard to explain. But you need to be quick, it can only take a couple of seconds because a young child cannot concentrate so much. If it takes longer it becomes boring. They want to play not practice ;) And be sure to applaude for everything and be amazed how well he plays whatever he plays.

And then its pure bribery. We use stickers, doing something nice like going out to play for ex, try to connect the violin with everything the child likes. And then very short practises. Like a minute or even under, doing only one thing and then getting the reward if the one thing is difficult. Then do the same thing a couple of times during the day, very very short if its difficult.

And then expect nothing, to learn one thing may take a few months depending on the child. The hardest part is to expect nothing :) But what works for us doesnt necessarily work for someone else, just try different approaches until you find something that works, playing the violin is probably the hardest thing a small child can do.

Phankao said: Aug 15, 2016
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

Kristiina : certainly a 3year old can do finger placings. My youngest went thru Suzuki violin (as well as piano) from that 3yo age and was playing Twinkle variations from the first lesson. Partly bc before that he’d already been doing open strings.

Kristiina said: Aug 18, 2016
 7 posts

Sorry I wasnt clear on that, phangao, that is not what I ment. I was trying to refer to the way of teaching, doing with showing or teaching with verbal instructions. But it is really hard to explain. And surely every child is different as their lever of maturity is different even at the same age.

Phankao said: Aug 18, 2016
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

Definitely with young children—it’s a lot of demonstrating, games, using analogies—related to play or animals or what the little ones have come across. I remember finger exercises being monkeys jumping on bed, monkey climbing up the tree (finger 1, 2, 3,)—umbrella-hook fingers to illustrate the shapes.

Even recently, my 7yo performed Accolay for a festival. The dolce parts were to him “yummy sausages” (in expression), and the fast parts were “F1 racing”. We have to be creative with the little ones. hehe

Mengwei said: Aug 18, 2016
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
127 posts

The vast, vast majority of 3 year olds are not quite so exceptional as Phankao’s! Thinking through the skills needed to play Twinkle (minimally: control of one’s right side, left side, coordinating both, with accurate timing, with comfort and fluency)—it’s really not a one-lesson project. Most certainly, a first lesson Twinkle had prior preparation, such as playing with props, listening to recordings, watching an older sibling, watching other violinists, even being taught by an older sibling, etc. Then there is the dexterity aspect: they need a remarkable (especially for their age/development) level of fine motor control to make and maintain an acceptable bow hold.

I have five(!) 3 and just-turned-4 year old boys in my studio right now (plus a few tag-alongs to older siblings). Regarding maturity, I believe it boils down to this: some of them want to do it but can’t (you can tell they try to participate but simply lack the physical control over their limbs—for now) whereas some can do it but won’t. Wanting “my own way” is typically about exerting independence and control, but of course, you can’t reason with a 3 year old, that if you don’t intend to follow a teacher’s instructions, then you don’t actually need the teacher. Games and the like are a way to “trick” them into learning in the way that young children do—by doing, by playing, by imitating. Detailed discussion of mechanics and process are for adults who are learning in more of an “intellectual” manner.

Pam said: Aug 18, 2016
 Violin
3 posts

I posted this question a year ago and quite frankly, I think that I was pushing my son too hard. His teacher at the time, though a Suzuki teacher, was very strict and I was equally inflexible at the time even though I played games and sang songs with him to teach him the material and we sang songs.

Many parents may disagree, but I decided to give my son a break from Suzuki and we went back to just doing simple toddler music classes. Now, after a year break, he’s begging me for the bow and has been asking me to take out his violin.

I think that at three, my son just wasn’t ready. Some three year olds may be, but he wasn’t. For a while, I was unwilling to admit it and felt I should push him to achieve his potential. But, I think it was causing him pain and hurting our relationship.

I’ll see how he does this year :-)

Mengwei said: Aug 18, 2016
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
127 posts

Pam—I love that you found that out for yourself and are open to giving it another chance. I was responding to the last few posts but did hope that your situation would be as you just said. One of Dr. Suzuki’s writings was something like “wait for the child to grab the violin from you” because that’s when and how he shows his “desire to learn”. It’s one of the reasons I require all 3’s and 4’s (except those attached to an older sibling) to start with me in a general music group. The children have other children to play with, older students from my studio to see, early listening time, much gentler transition to technical details, parents support each other, etc.

Very few 3’s (and even 4’s and some 5+’s…) are READY for LESSONS. We can either wait for them to grow up through other life experience, or to actually “start” early, we have to adjust our environment and expectations appropriately. One day when I come across an unusually precocious 3 year old, it will be readily evident, and spending a few months in a beginner group will hardly be an obstacle.

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