3 year old wants to practise but doesnt want to go to lessons, what to do?

Kristiina said: Mar 14, 2016
 14 posts

I write as I now dont really know what to do.

My just 3 year old daughter doesnt like going to violinlessons but likes to practise with me at home. She started suzuki violin just two months ago so she was still 2 when she started. She said all autumn that she wants to learn to play violin and played with every stick and spoon and everything she could fit under her chin all days long. She also wants to watch violinists playing in youtube. She has been quite fascinated about her violin since she got it, she kisses it and strokes it and plays several times a day, we do very short practices 2-4 times a day plus she plays on her own and I just correct her hands a bit. She has made great procress and can play almost half of the whole twinkle (although in parts stil) and uses all open strings. And wants to hear the cd when she goes to bed in the evening and also during the day.

But out problem is she doesnt want to go to the lessons and when we go she mostly says she doesnt want to play. We had a rough time starting the lessons as we started with another girl but it didnt work out as the other girl stated to cry and refused to play at all and said it was basically because my daughter played too well. Alas we changed into private lessons but they are not going so well either. She plays first what she has learned and then just refuces to play anymore, when I take turn to play she smiles and is clearly very happy to hear me playing my own violin.

To my DH she says she doesnt want to play and go to class but with me she takes the violin without asking and plays and we also manage go to lessons even though they dont amount to much. When I ask her why she does not want to go to lessons she doesnt give any good reasons, just says she doesnt like them. Sometimes she says she likes the teacher sometimes she says she doesnt. Sometimes she says she just wants me to teach her, which I kind of do every day when we practise.

Now I am so confused about the situation and dont know what to do. should I just juggle along and hope that it somehow resolves itself. The teacher is very nice and I get along well with her so I cannot see what is wrong. Could the problem be because we had to change from group to private lessons? We are studying in the only place around here that takes pupils this young. Did we start too early? The situation stresses me alot. If she didnt play at home with me we would just stop but it goes well at home. I dont want to force her but the situation feels so upside down as mostly I hear about children not wanting to practise but liking to go to lessons.

Now I have played piano a lot in my youth and also taught piano to a couple of pupils when at high school (Im almost qualified as a piano teacher but took a different course professionally) but my DH is not musical at all and does not appreciate music or violinlessons as much as I do.
I do small pianolessons with her also as she also likes playing the piano too, but only when she wants which is a couple of times a week, but I really think violin is her instrument. Generally we do get a long well, we have similar enough of personalities and we rarely have problems at home. She is more introvert than I am and doesnt really talk to outsiders and has her own ways and sticks to them too outside home.

Im am sorry this is such a long and confused post but I am confused. I just thought that maybe, just maybe in this kind of forum there would be people reading with experience with a similar situation. So I thank in advance for any comments and advice :)

Anita Knight said: Mar 19, 2016
Anita Knight
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
Kent, WA
26 posts

Dear Kristina,
This is not an uncommon scenario! I find my greatest asset for little ones, is teaching Mama first. Then when/ if the little one isn’t engaged, I get an update on what’s working on at home. The child may give a brief demonstration. Then I can tell Mama: “Remember what we worked on here_____ (bow hold/ posture etc)—work with her on that this week at home.” And because you the mother have already worked through this, you know what to do.
Even though I am open and friendly, some little ones become shy or fearful. I don’t want to exacerbate that, and keep them in a setting that is safe, which at this stage, is sometimes just practicing at home with Mama.
No pressure! Keep it fun, keep it moving forward in a way that works for her.
You are doing an excellent job, for her to be enjoying this so much!
Keep it up!

Anita Knight
“Joyful Sound Violin Studio”

Mengwei Shen said: Mar 19, 2016
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
220 posts

It’s great that she’s responding to your playing and teaching. You have something to do together (bonding experience) and are laying the foundation for future skills. I do tell parents of young children that the child can “like music and want to play” but being willing and able to follow a teacher’s instructions can be another story. That’s why Suzuki is focused on teaching the parent who can then teach the child, and as the child becomes more emotionally and socially mature, she can do more with the lesson teacher.

From my point of view as an outsider, I would say that since your daughter enjoys having you as the teacher, just consider the lessons to be for yourself (to learn how to play and to learn the sequence/process of teaching her). If she objects to going to “her lesson”, you can say that it’s “mom’s lesson” and she’s your helper or something or whatever role appeals. She has to be able to sit quietly though, then during “your lesson”, she can be invited over to do something (if she declines, just ask again later).*

She doesn’t like something about the usual lesson format, and since at age 3 she can’t explain with reasoning, you’ll have to guess by doing different things and seeing the response. It will take a plan with your teacher (discuss this outside of the lesson or arrange for a lesson where you go by yourself) and time for your daughter to notice.

*Younger siblings of my students start like this by tagging along for a long time doing what looks like not very much. When there is no older sibling, the parent has to do it or else wait until the child has learned through other experiences more about how to interact with the world. Parents who start their children young are typically looking for them to have this music experience as a part of the process of growing up (vs. waiting for them to “grow up” first). In that sense, no, it’s not too early.

Linda Louise said: Mar 20, 2016
Rochester, NY
18 posts

I’m glad read Mengwei’s post. Mengwei’s , I have many books about the Suzuki method. you mentioned in your post response that you recommend a reading plan for the parent. let’s say you were designing the reading plan for this student, what you recommend if you faced this situation as the teacher? Thank you for your post response. I’m interested in being able to repair the alliance between teacher and student. Remember the concept of triangle. The side of the triangle most capable of repair seems to be the parent—teacher alliance.

Linda L Ford

Kristiina said: Mar 21, 2016
 14 posts

Thank You so much for Your comments, Ive read them again and again. Its nice to hear that probably Im doing nother wrong and that this is not an uncommon situation. If there is any reading that would be good for me, I would be happy to hear.

Anne Marie said: Mar 21, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
Troy, NY
13 posts


I agree with what the above posters have written, and I especially appreciate Mengwei’s comment. By taking the lesson yourself, you are modeling what you want your child to embrace. We can’t escape what we model!

Ed Sprunger’s book, Helping Parents Practice, is a beautiful guide for Suzuki Parents. It addresses Suzuki students and their journeys over a lifetime, so I tend to re-read it every year. It’s been elemental to me in guiding my children (7 and 15 years old) during these wonderful and terrifying Suzuki family years.

As a Suzuki teacher myself, I think I can say that it’s a very common (maybe universal) experience that parents question their decisions about music lessons and other family matters. We all want to do what is best for our families and every family has different factors and priorities affecting it. It can be a challenge to sort it out.

Good luck in your own personal journeys, making music with your child and enjoy her appreciation of you teaching her!

Anne Marie said: Mar 21, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
Troy, NY
13 posts

In today’s Parents as Partners video release, there is a video by Joanne Martin: Why ARE We Doing Suzuki, Anyway??

She talks about children saying, ” I don’t like that,” and “I don’t want to do it.”

You might find it helpful and reinforcing.

Edward said: Mar 25, 2016
Edward Obermueller
Suzuki Association Member
Morris Plains, NJ
73 posts

Don’t worry. This is common at that age, and yes, very confusing.

It’s counterintuitive, but you need a less-is-more approach when you are getting resistance. If you back away and let your daughter do what she is naturally wanting to, she’ll find her way into it as time goes on. A few months break from lessons may even be in order.

I have a free guide with action steps to help get over this resistance hump at www.EdwardsViolinStudio.com. Check it out.

Happy practicing,

Free Guide: Mom, Dad, Can I Practice?
Free Game: Leprechaun Practice System --> Works for online teaching!

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Kristiina said: Apr 9, 2016
 14 posts

Just an update. We are now juggling along and somehow managing lessons and grouplessons when both me and the teacher basically stopped demanding and started to praise her even though she doesnt do what was asked. I now see it is a maturity issue. She just doesnt like following instructions. So it is very difficult to make her do exactly what is required.

Now she does play but she wants to play her own things. She clearly has a passion about the violin and if told not to do what she wants she doesnt want to play at all. It is hard to watch as I know she can do so much but it doesnt show at lessontime. I quess its like her fingers and musicality is way ahead of her maturity.

We still do very short lessons at home 2-4 times a day and she progresses. So I think that maybe we just go like this and wait for her to mature? But it is hard for me to at the same time keep focused At one task at a time and at the same time try to figure how much I let her improvise. When we practise at home. My gutfeeling is to let her improvise because I did improvise a lot when younger. The problem is that as I am no violinist so I cannot correct her when she tries advanced stuff.

It is also hard for me not to expect too much when I can see she does have the ability in her hands to play further than she is able when taught. Kind of hard to explain, hope you understand. Like furtilizing a plant not knowing if it is going to start blooming or not.

It is a rocky road being a suzuki violin parent :D

Linda Louise said: Apr 9, 2016
Rochester, NY
18 posts

Im a teacher and have been in this situation with a young student and parent. At first I felt badly that I was not ‘desirable’ enough for the child and I felt guilty that no matter how many approaches I tried, the response was at odds with the small game or task. The expression ‘character then ability.’ of Suzuki stands out for me. There is just no getting around some developmental phases and personality factors until the child is ready. You are right, one aspect of the child is ready but not another. I was just reading some of Dr Suzuki’s stories about his students who took so long. I hope you persist with your daughter and yourself. If I was in this situation, I would make the lesson time my own and bring my daughter and have the teacher teach me things on violin. These would be normal things that I and my daughter need to learn. The teacher and I would be very interested in the new items. Maybe just do one or two new things and repeat them and then do review and listening . My daughter would be offered a chance in passing to do the item too but the teacher would not beg her to join. We have seen that children are STILL listening intently while you are doing the lesson even if the student has her back to you. My student would seem to ignor, but at the third lesson, she would mysteriously learn this new thing at home with the parent and feel so smart to show me. And so it went like this. When I was a Suzuki Mom, I had a contrary daughter, but kept going through our paces and she learned many pieces up through book 8 and other non Suzuki pieces and did a Senior violin recital. It was not unpleasant as she had her friends at the music school too. It all worked out and she loved many aspects of playing and the attention of putting on the recital and getting loaded with bouquets of flowers! For us, playing music was just something our family did for development and enjoyment. Guess I went long here. I wish you so well, Linda

Linda L Ford

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