How do you get your kids to practice? and how do you find the time?

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

I am a teacher, but parents, I need your advice! I have small children, but not old enough to begin lessons yet so I don’t have firsthand knowledge on this topic.

I am writing a blog post about how pro Suzuki moms practice with their kids, and I would love to feature and quote you.  If you have time, would you answer these two questions for me?

How do you find time to practice with your kids?

How do you motivate your kids to practice?

Thanks in advance!

Brecklyn

Holly Blackwelder Carpenter said: Oct 21, 2015
Holly Blackwelder CarpenterInstitute Director
SAA Board
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
College Place, WA
87 posts
  1. It is hard to find time, espcially when I’ve been teaching all day long. My goal is before school, but that is hard to do sometimes. I just make sure we do it and I have learned to know when I have to adapt the practicee adn choose 10 good minutes over 30 minuts of “junk” pracctice.
    Motivate? Lots of listening, live concerts and we have Sabbath pratice once a week where they can play what they want without correction (this is very short in the beginning and gets longer as technique develops). Frankly, I don’t worry about motivation, there is a requirement in our house that we practice, evn when we don’t want to, just like we always brush our teeth and everything else that has to be done in our home.

My childrn are 4 and 5, and about 4 months ago, I was cooking and they came into the kitchen, clearly with an agenda. The oldest was the spokeswoman:
Mommy, you know we really don’t LIKE to practice, she said.
I replied, no, I don’t suppose you do, not many people do.
She was surprised I agreed with her!
I asked her “do you like to perform? “
YES! she said.
“Then we’d better practice, hadn’t we?”
they agreed. So I guess I don’t really motivate, I expect and I remind them that practice=mastery of the piece and the opprotunity to share it with others.

(sorry for typos, keyboard is iffy)

Holly Blackwelder Carpenter
Director, Japan Seattle Suzuki Institute
SAA Board of Directors

Alan Duncan said: Oct 22, 2015
Alan Duncan
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
63 posts

Hey there are Suzuki dads too! ;-) I’m the dad and practice partner for a 7 y/o Suzuki violinist who has been playing for about 4 years.

We took a very unorthodox approach to solving the problem of practice time. We decided to homeschool. (Finding practice time wasn’t the only reason why we began homeschooling; but it figured in the decision.) That solved one problem—finding enough time to practice. Now we break up the practice into two blocks—a morning block and an afternoon block. The morning block is about an hour and the afternoon block is a little less. In any case, we were fortunate to be in the position to do this. With enough efficiency, I think this could work for households where the children attend traditional school.

The question of motivation is more complicated. My take on it is this: every child resists. There’s always something that is preferable to do. It’s a matter of finding a set time and being absolutely unyielding about a commitment to practice. By unyielding, I don’t mean to approach it negatively. I just mean that the child knows that you treat it with the greatest sense of value and that missing practice would be a tremendous disappointment. Our struggles lasted at least a year and a half. After that, our daughter began to see some proportionality between the effort she put into practice and the progress she was making. I think this is the very early emergence of a sense of identification with her music. Now, after a few years, it’s all very automatic. After breakfast, we put away our dishes and start practicing. In a way, I feel like you have to pay your dues up-front. By being 100% committed to do whatever it takes to make sure practice happens every day, you take a lot of flack early-on; but you have an easier time later once the habit is established.

We also decided to make practice an every day affair. I know that some families have schedules that are too busy or chaotic to make that work—this is just our experience. There’s a point in early childhood where kids become very focused on fairness and doing things properly. If you set up a daily practice habit, then the idea of missing a day seems out of the question. They sense something wrong about it.

The other bit about motivation is keying into the unique personality of your children—being what they need you to be to make practice work. In our case, my daughter is a list-maker. She likes things written out, checklisted and systematized. I’m sure some would balk at that.

And every kid enjoys games.We make up so many games. Some of them make no sense with really bendable rules, but we have fun. We have a 12 sided die. For shifting exercises, we divide the result by 4 to decide what string to do the exercise on, etc. etc. We’ve used puppets and stuffed animals. She invites her dolls or the dog to listen in.

Sorry for the text wall. ;-) This is just our experience.

Angelica said: Oct 22, 2015
Angelica Plass
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
Albuquerque, NM
3 posts

I especially like the part about getting the stuffed animals and dolls to listen to the practice. Precious!

AngelicaP

Alan Duncan said: Oct 23, 2015
Alan Duncan
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
63 posts

Or they can always dress up in a pink princess dress and butterfly wings standing on the ottoman to practice.

Dressing up to practice

Dressing up to practice

Image by Alan Duncan

Phankao said: Oct 23, 2015
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

I have a 7 year old who has been learning the violin for 4 years too. He’s in mainstream schooling (had thot of homeschooling but decided too much effort for me). He breaks up his practices into 3 sessions. he gets stickers for his practice sessions as well as some others—eg. homework or revision done. Actually—we have less problem getting to practise (practising is like part of life for him)… What is more of a concern is the QUALITY of practices. So if it was a careful practice, I’d give him an extra bonus sticker. If he throws tantrums during practices or while doing schoolwork, I “deduct” (penalty!).

He can use these stickers to redeem for certain activities like TV Time, Video Time, etc. There are activities like free play, book readings that I don’t require him to have “stickers” bc I’d be happy to have him playing or reading! hahha.

So far, this method has been working well in teaching him responsibility and planning his time so that he can have lots of playtime!

But I must say, this boy is like every other kid “I love to perform but I don’t like to practise that much”—that’s what he says. In reality, he’s not averse to practising—just averse to putting in extra focus on quality. hahhahha. Practising is more than just running through the songs, right?! :p

REWARD STICKERS

REWARD STICKERS

Image by Phankao Wan

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

I love all of these ideas! You guys are so wonderful. I love the Suzuki community, you are all so supportive and generous.

I will put up a link to the blog post soon—it should be published on Monday.

And Alan—I’m so sorry I slighted Suzuki dads! (How sexist of me!) My husband is so excited to be the Suzuki parent in our house in a couple years, (my oldest is only two.) I will have to share your ideas with him!

Eva Brodbeck said: Oct 27, 2015
 21 posts

My daughter just started playing violin this Fall. She’s three and eight months old when we started. We practice at night after dinner because she has to go to Daycare full time. We dont have time in the morning most days. And she doesn’t really want to do her violin lesson instead of watching kids TV or videos. We practice about 15 minutes a day and I have to drag her back from a hideout place sometimes. Somehow we manage to stick to our daily practice with incentives like stickers, games, and deliver threats like taking away a favorite activity, etc…
Slowly but steadily we’re inching toward the goal of playing our pre twinkle pieces.
For my daughter, who has never seen anyone playing a violin in real life, motivation is not about playing the violin itself, or even performing in the future. Because she has no concept about a live performance she doesn’t care about performing herself. We tried to bring her to a symphony when she was younger it didn’t attract her attention so we stopped doing that. She won’t stay in a live concert for five minutes if it’s classic music. She loves Rock and Roll and other pop music concert open air though. It’s more alive and fun. All I can do music wise at home is to play the repertoire on CD all the time as background music. My infant son definitely benefits from listening to the music all day. He pays more attention to the music played than my daughter and appears delighted whenever he hears it playing.

Arlene said: Oct 27, 2015
Arlene Patterson
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
Longmont, CO
13 posts

There are lots of fabulously exciting orchestral pieces your daughter might love. How about turning on something like Nigel Kennedy’s EMI recording of Vivaldi violin concertos with the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra? He plays at lightening speed and it really is a rockin’ performance!

Later you might play the Suzuki book 4 version of Vivaldi violin concerto in A Minor (4th and 5th pieces in book 4) and see if your daughter recognizes the music.

Arlene

Holly Blackwelder Carpenter said: Oct 27, 2015
Holly Blackwelder CarpenterInstitute Director
SAA Board
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
College Place, WA
87 posts

Hi Eva,
I’d recommend some youtube of younger players, do your research to make sure that it is good quality, but if she sees kids doing it then the light bulb goes on that, hey, I need ot sound that good NOW not when I am an adult! Go to the recitals, and if you slip out after 2 pieces, so be it. Aim for 3 pieces next time, that is perfectly fine. Don’t expect a full concert overnight. Often Symphonies do have childrens concerts, find out about those, and again, don’t try and do the whole thing, do just a bit and slip out quietly. If you pay attention to her cues, so that she doesn’t dread concerts, but just push her 2 minutes past the fidigety point each time, she’ll come around. Recital attendance is a learned skill! Keep at it, I admire you for doing it in teh evening at that age, you are doing great! Would love ot hear how it is going in a few months, this age is tricky, for sure!

Holly Blackwelder Carpenter
Director, Japan Seattle Suzuki Institute
SAA Board of Directors

Phankao said: Oct 27, 2015
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

When mine was 3-4yrs old, we used to practise 1st thing in the morning after breakfast and bath, before going to kindergarten. 10-15mins only. Oh, those were the days. Only needed v short practices then! :D I used toys and such to highlight to the little one what were the areas we needed to work on.

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Practice cards and a 3D eraser puzzle

Image by Phankao Wan

Getting his toys to practise with him like a game

Lego man Riding on Violin

Lego man Riding on Violin

Image by Phankao Wan

Phankao said: Oct 27, 2015
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

As for concerts, I used to look out for free concerts—open air, or even the occasional indoor concert hall types, or those held by schools. That way, we could leave after maybe 20-30mins if he got restless and I don’t feel bad about it at all.

I would prep the child by reading stories about going to concerts (some storybooks I prepared) and also watching Youtube videos of some of the pieces in the programme. Let the child bring a toy to the concert to watch together or even the storybook about going to concert, or a book that shows the instruments of the orchestra for the child to identify, point out the parts of the programme… oh, give the child a kiddy binoculars partly to play or to look slightly more closely at the performers, bring a stick for the child to pretend to be a conductor to “conduct” the orchestra, etc.

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Using Child Toy Binoculars at Concert

Image by Phankao Wan

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Identifying Orchestral Instruments from a Book the Child Brought Along

Image by Phankao Wan

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Watching free performances in the library

Image by Phankao Wan

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“Conducting”—Free Concert in the Park

Image by Phankao Wan

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Children’s Concert—They allowed the children on Stage

Image by Phankao Wan

Hope some of these ideas can be something you work with your child!

Elizabeth Stoltzfus said: Oct 28, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Viola, Violin
Leola, PA
6 posts

I don’t have all the answers, but I thought I’d add my two cents to the conversation! (I love the ideas above, BTW)

I am a Suzuki Mom, as well as a teacher. One thing that I have started for my studio students this fall is a specific listening assignment that is unrelated to their Suzuki pieces. I have been trying to pick a variety of styles and instruments. When I assigned the Canadian Brass Flight of the Bumblebee, I was surprised how many of my students hadn’t heard of the group, much less seen a brass instrument! I teach violin, viola, cello, and piano, so most of the music we listen to is centered on those instruments. I think hearing a variety of music is important for children, not just classical music. Some people just aren’t drawn to classical music, and that’s ok! For this week, we are listening to Simply Three Happy (cover of Pherell Williams’ song). You’re welcome to check it out, it is linked on my website www.elizabethstoltzfus.com

Eva Brodbeck said: Oct 28, 2015
 21 posts

Thank you, those are great ideas. Yesterday I talked with the violin teacher about adding some games to the home practice. She’s worried that board game and stickers would disrupt the flow of our lesson at home and doesn’t help to build stamina. She said the child would need to be able to play 30 minutes without stopping during a performance in the future. So what kind of games should I choose to make it fun and also not too distracting? I think maybe simply rolling a dice for playing the rhythems. But anything else can you suggest?

Phankao said: Oct 28, 2015
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

I think moving to a 30 mins performance is quite much in the future!

Personally I wouldn’t worry about it! At 3yrs 8mths, I think what is important is practising—efficiently and effectively. Getting focussed work done in as little time as possible.

Even now, my 7yo splits up his practices. He has no problem working 1+hrs, but he’d be way more efficient at practising if he works in 20min blocks. He’s working at suzuki book 6 level.

As for performances—he practices with orchestra 2.5 hrs at a time. His violin lessons are 1 hr. He even participated in a national orchestra event where the practices stretched from afternoon to night and he was fine—he hadn’t even turned 7yo at that time.

Kids need time to mature. It doesn’t happen overnight. Now—is the “warmup” period.

Alan Duncan said: Oct 28, 2015
Alan Duncan
Suzuki Association Member
Violin
63 posts

As a parent, I think you must meet the child where she or he is.

It is also helpful to think about what ‘play’ and ‘games’ represent. They aren’t just time-fillers until something clicks in the child and they are suddenly mature and capable of long hours of concentration. Play is a a way of learning that engages children in an activity that enhances learning by tapping into what’s important to them. For example, games often involve novelty. Studies using fMRI have shown that novelty enhances the development of neural pathways involved in learning.

Of course there’s a time for games and there’s a time for concentration. A mindful parent will work that out. And there will come a time when a child won’t be interested in playing games any longer. But by then, there will be a wonderful positive library of experiences around practice that associate the activity with a feeling of enjoyment.

Have fun, play games. This is how children learn.

Here are some game ideas: http://studio5.ksl.com/?nid=54&sid=2668011

I wrote a blog post a week ago or so on making practice more enjoyable. Maybe there’s something useful there: http://suzukiexperience.com/2015/10/23/Making-practice-more-enjoyable/

There are many others. Roll the dice for the number of sequential repetitions the child must do. Save up Skittles for every review piece. Check Pinterest for other Suzuki game ideas. Teachers at institutes often have good ideas. Get some movement involved. If they play a passage correctly the child takes a step forward. Otherwise she takes a step back. Keeping going until the child has made it 7 steps forward. Or come up with a variation of it.

Shelly & Brandon said: Oct 28, 2015
 
Suzuki Association Member
3 posts

Wow—what an awesome group of super moms and super dads with great input. Super Dad Alan mentioned “lots of games” with “bendable rules” and that’s the key. Make it up and find what works with your pumpkin.

Our teacher gave us a miniature card of Candy Land. My 3-year old wasn’t real excited about it, being familiar with the game + not wanting to practice. So I told her it was a “special” game just for the violin. She loved the miniature card and the idea that is was special for her. We pulled out the figures and a few cards from the real game (and I’m totally making it up as I go and thinking “what am I going to do to make this special?”).

We started by holding the violin for 10 seconds with no hands. Once she did that, she got to pick a card and move her figure. Then increased to 20 seconds; then added open ‘E’ + rhythms; then added F# and the “flower song” she’s working on; then focused on tone of flower song, etc. Each time we gradually got “harder” (bad word), I mean “more fun”, and it kept her attention. When it was my turn, she got to count for me or correct my bow hold, tone, etc.

We kept the momentum going by using the transition to move her game piece to practice her bow, walk in rest position and get back in play position, etc.

She tried really hard, improved drastically by the end and, most importantly, had fun. Next time it came to practice, she was excited and began pulling out the game and her instrument.

Her 6-year old brother wanted in on the action and so he joined a practice session with his guitar. With him I really focused on technique, tone and accuracy of part of a piece—rather than the whole piece. I wanted accuracy and also wanted to keep the game moving to keep his sister engaged. The possibility of missing a turn for missing a note or playing with wrong posture was much worse than my nagging and he really did well.

At the very end I had them play together. He played twinkle theme and she played “E-string concerto.” They both got stickers at the end and loved it. It made for a fun family time. (It also helped to have Dad in the audience praising them. Sometimes practice should be a family affair.)

Little kids are easier than we think, just go with their flow (of fun), once you figure out what that is. Our guitar teacher has my son set up dominoes after each play interval and he gets to knock them down when practice is over. He has to be creative to keep my son’s attention for 30 minutes after school.

Structure for little kids is best. If they know that at XX o’clock everyday, they have to practice, they eventually get on board with it. I work long hours and, on the weekends, we practice first thing in the morning, after breakfast, and in our pj’s. (Because, once our day begins, I don’t want to stop and practice any more than they do late on Saturday.) During the week, it’s late but it gets done immediately after dinner.

I agree with Phankao the Great (wonderful ideas!): 30 minutes is too long. Watch for signs of disengagement and then change the game or, with the appearance that you are in control, end the practice time with one last simple activity and on a positive note with lots of praise and hugs. Once your pumpkin is disengaged, you will both become frustrated. If you can come up with something new and fun, practice time will increase with no effort on your part.

Eva Brodbeck said: Oct 28, 2015
 21 posts

Your description is the most specific about how to mingle the practice with board game. I loved this game myself as a kid. I think my daughter has an edge on physicallity. She has no problem on holding the tiny violin for extended time. Problem is her bow hold. Her fingers are stiff and she’s used to grab things firmly. I tried to make her relaxing on the fingers and her right shoulder. She’s impatient when I try to correct her bow hand and posture. I think that’s part of the reason she doesn’t like practicing. It’s like a vicious cycle. Because of the stiff fingers and the unnaturally bend wrist the sound on the open E string is unpleasant and irratating to our ears. It adds more grief on having to bow on open string. Should I use some teaching aid like bow master or bow buddy? Maybe alternatively play with or without the aid would help?

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

Thank you everyone for all of these ideas! I’m so excited to share these ideas with parents in my studio! I’ve broken my blog post up into a series to incorporate as many as I can. Here’s the first part:
How Pro Suzuki Parents Get Their Kids to Practice: Part I

Eva, I have used the bow buddy in the past with students, and I like it very much for issues of crawling up the bow, curving fingers, etc. I’m not sure if it would help with the bent wrist, and some teachers don’t like them because they change the balance of the bow.

When I have students that really squeeze the bow, sometimes we wrap a long thin piece of flexible foam around the frog, and then they have to hold it without making depressions or indentations in the foam. It’s not a long-term solution, but it helps them get that feeling of just barely holding onto the bow without squeezing.

Would she be drawn to someone like Lindsey Sterling? While she is obviously not most violin teacher’s favorite artist, she can be a good introduction for young ones to the violin, and she plays lots of different styles of music.

As for games breaking up the flow of the lesson at home, is that really a bad thing? If practicing at home is causing conflict, it seems like changing things up would be optimal. I play games in the lessons with my students, even with the older kids. It creates rapport, helps them to problem-solve on their own, and game-playing is an essential part of the learning process. Thirty minutes is a long time, not just physically, but mentally. Keeping up focus by playing games is a great idea, in my opinion.

Eva Brodbeck said: Nov 2, 2015
 21 posts

Thanks to your great ideas we did pretty well on our home lessons last few days, except for the Halloween night. I shouldn’t count on the time after trick o treat for our practice. Child was exhausted after returning home from her candy hunt. I didn’t expect her to walk that long at nightfall.
Anyway, my game strategy works well after the Halloween debacle. The next morning we integrate Candy land and Disney princesses into our home practice. We rolled a giant dice to decide the repetition of bowing on open string and steps to go on the game board. She loves to ‘win’ the game quickly so we doubled the numbers for steps taken. If she rolls a 2, then she can move 4, etc… The next day she asked to play the game in the morning without me asking.
The problem is while she moves the bow on the shoulder or on the string, I know she’s still thinking of the game. How would it keep her focused on the actual thing we’re doing? The good thing is what we’re doing on the bow and violin is to built a muscle memory, to make the movement automatic eventually. There’s little thought process involved except for keeping the beat. I think when things get more complex we might need adopt a different strategy.
My husband poses a question. He said if we must practice everyday as a routine what to do when the child starts serious school work. Then we probably will find it harder to pack the violin pratice into a busier schedule. He said violin lessons shouldn’t trump her academic tasks, or sports, etc… My daughter loves gymnastics and we have expectations on her athletic achievement too. So there will be conflict in the future. And we have another child, a baby boy, so oneday he’d want to have a share of the family time too. Any of you have experience on how to keep up practicing with older kids? I think our problem will probably not emerge until teenage though. That’s the time when kids really start dropping out of Suzuki method. This method, and any kind of serious musical instrument training, requires long period and rigorous practicing daily. Not anyone can keep the commitment to violin or piano playing for a life time, right? Maybe I just worry too much too early, but my husband really meant to curb the enthusiasm. Is he right?

Nagaja Sanatkumar said: Nov 2, 2015
 Violin
6 posts

I’m a Suzuki mom, having lived in the US for the first few years of our journey and now living in New Zealand. It’s great to read this thread (I’ve learned a lot!).

My 8 year old has been playing for almost 4 years and my 5.5 year old for ~3 years. After many experiments with time of day and shorter but more frequent practice sessions, we’ve finally found equilibrium in a daily slot after an early dinner—30 min for the younger one (she is in late Book 3) and 1 hr for the older (mid Book 4). Both of us work full time so we found this was the least contentious time. Violin certainly takes precedence over a lot of other activities (in fact we cut down on most everything else save for swim lessons and sometimes practice trumps homework). We take Friday evening ‘off’ but make up in a higher quality practice on Sat AM after breakfast. Usually we’ll use Friday evening to listen or watch some interesting/different music instead. My husband does sometimes feel I overdo it but he is very supportive (within reason!).

Definitely having a set time of day made it much more predictable for all, resulting in much less feet-dragging. Games are helpful but only as needed and age-appropriate. With both I’ve found the output increases exponentially by structuring the exercises based on what needs to improve, but only commenting on what is going well. So for example, if a bow hold technique needs work, we’ll do the exercises the teacher suggested, but I’ll try to remember to point out every time it’s done well rather than the other way around. I didn’t play the violin (or any western classical music) prior, but now do play with my kids. They are both better than me at memorizing pieces and picking up new material which is a huge motivator for them (I’m better than Mom so I must be doing all right!). We also have two ipod docks—one in their room and one in the main living area—so both AM and night time I try to play the CDs on repeat mode for the books they are working through for about 45 mins to an hour twice a day.

I try to take them to concerts as long as they are at reasonable times (afternoons typically). They also love to watch YouTube videos of Joshua Bell, Hilary Hahn and other famous contemporary violinists. Group lessons, orchestra lessons, and Suzuki workshops are always a hit as they really pick up a lot from older children or role models and those are usually super motivating. Both my kids say they want to be violin teachers when they grow up so I’m hopeful they will continue to enjoy this journey for a while longer!

Phankao said: Nov 2, 2015
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

LOL … Shelly Amos …. what a description you added to my Nick ID. Just sharing from my experience with 4 kids.

Phankao said: Nov 2, 2015
Phankao WanPiano, Viola, Violin
128 posts

Eva Brodbeck, yea, practising has to be expected everyday, altho some days can be shorter or longer than others?

In the early days, you help the child plan out their schedule. As they grow older, you teach them how to plan. My youngest is now in Primary school. In Lower Primary, their days are more “free”, less demands. He finds it quite easy-going, but it’s a good transition time. He has now moved towards planning his after-school time for playtime, practice, homework, revisions/studies. He writes down his schedule after school each day based on what homework/assignments have been given, and any tests in the days ahead. I think if he didn’t have music—he wouldn’t be that “forced” to learn or do scheduling, so in away, this is good for him. Planning ahead. He breaks his violin practice to 3 parts, so that each session is a mangeable 20mins. Even parts like exercises that he doesn’t like much would be more bearable if the practice session is shorter bc he gets a break before the other session. It can vary some, but having the practices broken up to 3 sessions is still much better than doing a 1-2hour pratice at one go. better focus, more energy than a draggy long session.

Having practices broken up also works better when you have other kids in the family, who won’t be happy waiting just to run out to the playground, or your other kids’ schedules, snack time, etc.

When they get even older, they would truly have to be independent in planning/scheduling their own practice/play/work time. I don’t do “helicopter” parenting for secondary school kids. My older ones had even brought their instruments to school to practise between class times or any other free time they have during the school day.

So well, just work at it now—think of ideas of how to make it fun and manageable. It’s good training for life, as far as I’ve experienced.

Of course, each kid may vary—do be flexible in that respet.

Eva Brodbeck said: Nov 3, 2015
 21 posts

Thank you, Phankao and Nagaja. You’ve given good perspective on keeping up with violin study and make daily life moving agreeable. It won’t be easy but it helps to build characters if we persevere. Time management is important for both children and adults.
We’re doing better with the practice after I introduced Candy land, Disney princesses and dice. And we also moved the time of home lesson to the morning. Since daylight saving time ended last Sunday kids woke up one hour earlier so we can do this for half hour in the morning. More importantly she enjoys playing the game and also does her part on the bowing in between the games. I’ve noticed her techniques improved a lot except the bowhold. Time of repetition does make a difference! The more repetition the merrier. Even the half hearted playing helps at this stage. I allow her to play with the violin as she likes. She can do straight bowing on G string now. E string is harder for some reason.
Yeah, my husband isn’t very supportive because first he doesn’t feel it’s very age appropriate for our three year old to play an instrument; second he’s afraid of pushing the child to practice; and of course there are other concerns such as the overall cost. He has doubt on the worthiness of the violin study. We have disagreement on how far the efforts should go on this. I don’t try to convince him that it’s worthwhile. I believe in letting the actions and results tell instead of using words. Next year we plan to go to summer institute in Columbus Ohio, his home state. He seems ok with my plan now.

Lisa Mewhort said: Nov 17, 2015
 2 posts

Eva, I also have a 3 year old, 4 in Jan. We will be at the Columbus institute next summer as well! We struggle with some of the same issues but we are behind in the “fun” department. At first I tried to make practice fun, but he seemed to think this was optional and I couldn ‘t get him to practice for 2 minutes. I changed gears and quit trying to make it fun, just started putting my foot down—used to be play the rhythm, get a sticker, now it’s play the rhythm or get a time out. He has made much quicker progress with that, but it’s getting more and more miserable. Maybe we will try a board game approach. Normally we have a pretty close and conflict free relationship. My child is in preschool and is never defiant there according to teachers. But with the violin, he just refuses to cooperate at every single step. I know that discipline does not come naturally at this age, but I have no idea how to teach obedience and discipline without yelling and threats.

As a Suzuki violin kid myself, my experience was that as the child progresses, practice is much less about repetition and does not necessarily take as much time as you’d think—30 minutes of high quality practice is worth 2 hours of mindless repetition at the high school level.

Eva Brodbeck said: Nov 18, 2015
 21 posts

Lisa, my daughter is turning 4 on December, so their birthdays are very close.
Yeah, we play Candy land games now, with Disney princesses on board. We’ve been doing really well recently. I moved our home lessons in the morning while my husband grooming himself we have enough time to complete a 20 minutes practice. Since we play games as well, it takes maybe 25 minutes to finish. We draw cards in turn and count the steps to decide the repetitions for the rhythms.
She always wins, of course, with a little sticker and a piece of candy. Candy does the magic for little ones, except for their teeth. It’s not bribery, she has to earn it after having done the lesson or home practice. Candy land has many versions so maybe you can find one suitable for a little boy.
The first recital for her was also a great inspiration. She was excited to play her E string concerto with eight Mississippi dogs. However, she dropped to the floor in the middle to cut it short. Funny scene.
My daughter wasn’t cooperate at the beginning too, as you can see from my post before. I don’t know what makes the change. Maybe she’s getting used to the routine, maybe it’s my perseverance and the value I put on the practice daily, maybe it’s the new games we play now. The other thing worthes mentioning is I let her and the teacher stay in the class while I retreat to a faraway corner in the room. And i set up a camera/video recorder to record the entire class. Without me being there staring at her she’s doing much better with the weekly class. Mother and child together in the lesson could be very distracting.

Lori Bolt said: Nov 18, 2015
Lori Bolt
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
San Clemente, CA
229 posts

It’s probably already been mentioned, but read Ed Sprunger’s book for parents. He has great insights into a child’s behavior, and many practice helps. Hang in there!

Lori Bolt

Eva Brodbeck said: Nov 18, 2015
 21 posts

We as parents really need to adapt to children’s needs. Kids change all the time.
As they grow new interests and get older, old tricks may not be working anymore.
To keep up with their growth we have to constantly come with new ways to inspire them. I don’t think a three year old and a four year old would have the same motivations in learning. Candy land may get old as a game, so does 100 Missisipi hot dogs as an imaginary number. But we’ll see after Christmas and winter break.
Adopt the wording from a car commercial, love is what makes mom a mom or dad a dad. With love and understanding we can do great things. Yelling and threats won’t do the same to children as carefully catered praises and encouragement.

Laura Burgess said: Dec 10, 2015
Laura Burgess
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
32 posts

This is a great thread. I want to take the wisdm here and consolidate it for my families who feel overwhelmed by practice.

Sue Hunt said: Dec 11, 2015
Sue Hunt
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Violin
391 posts

You might be interested in this blog post about fitting practice into daily family life.

http://www.musicinpractice.com/2013/squeezing-music-practice-into-busy-family-life/

Heather Menges said: Feb 10, 2016
 12 posts

There is no force that works forever. My kids dislike being pushed at all. I try to have two times a day, rather than one. Then if one time fails, we try the next one. I am not pushy, my goal is that they enjoy music, learn about how to stick with something and just keep trying.

I also don’t like to force my son, because that turns out to be stressful for both of us. I look for a window of time when his concentration is better, like after he comes home from school, he gets a snack and we practice. Sometimes, I would just start playing on my own, and he’ll get inspired. I don’t play, but I’m learning along with him. Words of affirmation works great.

Richard Franklin said: Mar 31, 2016
Richard Franklin7 posts

I especially like the part about getting the stuffed animals and dolls to listen to the practice. Precious!

Bessie Gavrilis & George Alexandrakis said: Mar 31, 2016
 Violin
2 posts

Pets make a great practice audience. Our 3 pugs can practically hum the Suzuki repetoire.

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