Spouse trying to obstruct practice


Eva Brodbeck said: Oct 4, 2016
 21 posts

My husband and I have different opinions about home practice and he is resentful if I ask the child to practice at the weekends. He views daily practice as an unfair burden to the child and makes negative comments if we practice at the weekends. Certainly we have different values on music and musicians. He has low opinions on musicians and doesn’t want my daughter to devote her spare time on practice. Our conflict is apparent and gets confusing to the child. What should I do to convince him practicing violin at home daily isn’t such a bad thing. And to the opposite it’s just getting easier now for the child. She seems less frustrated and more willing to go through the pieces learned. My problem looms large though between me and my husband. He calls me tiger mom for what I call fun music making.

Sylvia said: Oct 4, 2016
Sylvia Evert
Suzuki Association Member
Inchelium, WA
19 posts

I am sorry this is happening to you. I can understand this is a lot of stress. You may not be able to change his mind on this. So looking for other work-arounds may be less stressful.

I personally have my kids practice 6 days a week— as we take Sabbath off. I think a day off is good for the kids. If 5 practices a week is the best you can do— and you are ensuring they are good practices— they will still make great progress.

And you can listen extra. Listening is seriously like free practice. On weekends see if they can get a lot of listening while they play!

Edward said: Oct 5, 2016
Edward Obermueller
Suzuki Association Member
Morris Plains, NJ
73 posts

I’m going to echo the Listening Counts advice: http://edwardsviolinstudio.com/practice-tips/#/practice-tip-2-listening-counts/

I teach students of divorced parents where one parent literally takes zero interest or responsibility. This is tough to navigate, and definitely holds them back from full potential. However, we have to do what we can, trusting that the environment we are creating on the “on” days will compensate for the “off” days.

Happy practicing,

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Anni said: Oct 5, 2016
 1 posts

I’d like to know why your husband has low opinions on musicians. Does he think that the time invested in music should be used in a better way, whatever that is?

The purpose of music education is not to choose a career for your child. I have played the violin since I was 5, and I’m a scientist (natural sciences). The people I have played with in various community and university orchestras and chamber groups have really diverse backgrounds, but you would be surprised how many MDs, PhDs, engineers, architects, and lawyers I have met through music. In my opinion, smart people make music, and making music makes smarter people. Unless your husband is against having a smarter child, I don’t really understand why he couldn’t be more supportive on practicing.

Heather Reichgott said: Oct 5, 2016
Heather ReichgottPiano
South Hadley, MA
102 posts

I was going to suggest similar to Sylvia, that you find some kind of compromise.
You could agree to one weekend day off and he agrees to support practicing on the other weekend day.
Or you could agree that practice on both weekend days will be brief and at a time when you won’t normally be doing something as a family, like first thing in the morning before everyone is awake, or when some family members are off doing errands or other activities, etc. so it doesn’t directly conflict with family time.

(Certainly his attitude toward practice needs to change, but this way he won’t be the only one asked to make an adjustment!)

As far as the benefits of playing the violin, maybe there are other activities he sees as valuable that you could help him see the parallels—the value of school subjects that she likes but doesn’t plan to use in her job? the value of sports or other extracurriculars for kids who don’t want to be professional athletes? Becoming awesome at something you like is really its own reward, whether it’s your job or not. Maybe he has something like that in his own life.

Eva Brodbeck said: Oct 7, 2016
 21 posts

Well, he just thinks to make an amateur musician we shouldn’t devote so much time in it, otherwise we’re aiming at another direction. And he doesn’t want our child to become a professional violinst. Thus practice should be very limited, to his opinion, lest the child would be led into the path of being a poorly paid musician with an unstable life. Any serious thoughts and efforts on musical training abhors him.

Dennie said: Oct 7, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
San Rafael, CA
25 posts

For the record, I was reading in a San Francisco Bay Area publication about a year or two ago that one of our top brain surgeons at the University of California Medical School plays Classical piano in order to keep his hands in shape for doing brain surgery. And retired professor of Clinical Psychiatry Denny Zeitlin is an award-winning jazz pianist. This is not a joke and you can quote me. But your hubby doesn’t have to take my word for it, he can research this on his own, and here’s a place for starting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWwKe3yksA8 A lot of the people who operate on very high levels in two demanding fields at once such as music and medicine do so not because they’re just plain far and away smarter than everyone else but rather, they are high-energy people.

Mengwei Shen said: Oct 9, 2016
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
221 posts

I’m guessing mom is initiating and overseeing practice and there is probably some resistance on the daughter’s part, making it seem like a “burden” that dad could save her from.

He objects to time spent on practicing—what about time spent on homework, structured leisure, unstructured leisure? Is there something he’d rather her do that practice time is displacing? It seems he would agree that some practice is acceptable or tolerable, but he has a line for “too much” practice. If you allow TV, video games, etc., is it also that some screen time is tolerable but there is a such a thing as too much? What about sports or dance or another type of hobby that is comparable to music in terms of using up time and money?

But the comment “he has low opinions on musicians” makes me think it would be tough to sway him with logic. Is it “musicians” or “professions that are poorly paid and unstable”? It’s only natural for any parent to be concerned for his child’s future well-being, so here’s my angle:

  • That practicing “too much” leads one to becoming a professional musician is a false assumption. Although I’ll concede that less practice probably does make it less likely, I wouldn’t call half hour a day, 4-5 days a week, too much.

  • Musicians are not all poorly paid with unstable lives. This is only one story, but I left a “well-paying, stable job” with no intention of continuing in that career path. Three years later, although I’m not matching my previous salary, I make enough and enjoy a much improved quality of life.

  • There are plenty of non-music jobs that are low-paying and/or unstable. You and he can steer her in your desired direction by having age-appropriate discussions and experiences throughout her life about professions and future careers. Actively guide her on actual choices instead of playing keep-away-from-such-and-such.

Also, it’s possible to be highly paid yet have an unstable life because of other choices, so you can teach her on those matters. Music/practicing is the subject of disagreement on the surface, but I think there could be something underlying that you could join forces on.

Alan Duncan said: Oct 10, 2016
Suzuki Association Member
81 posts

This is a difficult situation.

  1. Would your husband be willing to entertain some counter-examples? In my own personal circle I can name a number of people who are highly accomplished both musically and in their formal careers. My own career path took me into medicine but over my career, I’ve repeatedly veered off into music because I love it, and because people don’t always fit neatly into defined boxes. Many many examples abound. The violinist in my former trio was a physician-scientist and the discoverer of one of the interleukins. The cellist was a respected oncologist. etc. etc.

  2. Can you come to agreement that the focus is on excellence, self-discipline, and enjoyment, not on career? Who knows what the future holds for our children? Depending on your children’s age, a career in music may be way in the future. Or not. Who knows? No matter what, the focus is on the present. Is the child learning focus, self-discipline?

  3. Can your husband begin to see things from a brain development perspective? The data on neurocognitive development and musical practice are robust. Irrespective of his opinions on music and musicians, would he be willing to see practice as brain training for math, etc.?

  4. Would he be willing to consider how daily practice can benefit the child in terms of habit formation? The data on willpower and self-control as predictors of success in life are well-known. Can you share with him how daily practice is like exercising the willpower muscles so that no matter what career the child pursues, it will better equip the child for success?

Eva Brodbeck said: Oct 10, 2016
 21 posts

I think he’s well aware all the seen and unseen benefits of learning to play an instrument but still feel unwilling to infill discipline on the child or lead her into a more structured daily life. To him, simply seeing a routine of practicing violin for 20 minutes or learning to read for a few minutes after dinner is too much, let alone the child might complain about it sometimes. He is the guilt ridden parent who’s afaid of ruining a perfectly jolly childhood. Of course the thoughts of her possible future career being a musician doesn’t help. And he can’t get rid of the baffled question of why work so hard if not aim at making of a future violinist. Why not just do a sloppy job and relax?

Kay said: Oct 10, 2016
 9 posts

There is great parent education material available on the Suzuki philosophy. Dr. Suzuki wasn’t so concerned with turning children into little prodigies, hence the pressure, as he was in simply creating “good citizens” . I wonder if Dad would feel better about the music lessons if he knew the benefits his child is receiving, or if parents could agree on a few goals.

Kay Woods

Mengwei Shen said: Oct 10, 2016
Mengwei Shen
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Piano, Cello
Jersey City, NJ
221 posts

Structure is part of life…school is structured, homework when she gets older, future job if you’re looking that far out, etc. Does she complain about taking a bath, brushing teeth, eating vegetables, do you make her do it anyway? Is she expected to pick up her toys, help set or clear the table, or other age-appropriate “chores”? (picking things that children are likely to complain about but you can substitute for what applies at your house)

If she grows up and leaves your home without learning: the value of work, having to do things even if you don’t like to, planning for and reaching a goal even if it’s difficult, etc.—well, life is going to be tough. Does she have to learn those now, through music? Of course not, it’s a process, and it could be done through other types of activities, but you’d have to be intentional about it. I think quite a few studies are out there on why children need rules/boundaries/discipline to become healthy adults, and if this is the root issue, the music disagreement is just the symptom.

I tell my families that fun and hard work are not mutually exclusive. A thing might not be fun if you don’t know how to do it, but getting better at it might take hard work. I think it’s appropriate to strike a balance between “relaxing” and “working” (various definitions of work). It’s one thing if a child is overscheduled and doesn’t have “enough downtime” but suppose she has 2 free hours after school and 1 hour after dinner (just making up numbers), 20 min of violin and 10 min of reading is not very much of that.

Anecdote: a while back I ran into a former student, I think kindergarten age (the family had been having major challenges with practice and quit). The parent mentioned that they were now reading one book per day at home as required by the school and were seeing considerable improvement in the child’s reading skills. I thought to myself, of course! Perhaps they felt more able and/or willing to act on that assignment coming from the regular school. I don’t know if the child was “enjoying” that particular bit of homework but certainly they had done it and saw the result.

Vanessa Jacky Davis said: Jan 20, 2017
4 posts

Dear Eva, I understand. My husband was similar. He resists structure, routine and planning which is necessary for obvious reasons. Firstly, you’re not alone. Secondly, good for you Mom. You’re taking care of what needs to be taken care of.

So when my husband was disgruntled about imposing practice, I just remind him that it’s a commitment that our son has made, but I don’t try to teach him. Then I reach out to my son and reminded him that he is a musician. That is a remarkable thing. And I let him know, if he stays with it then he’s giving himself a unique and lovely gift. I put the power in my sons hands so that, hopefully, he’s learning to value his knowledge. It’s a deliberate continuous conversation and part of our practice.
Just this past year, my husband began change his attitude on his own. He is beginning to understand that it’s a real accomplishment. Like learning a sport, we don’t send our kids to baseball practice to become baseball pros, we send them to learn how to be on team! Music is the same way, it enhances life. But I don’t need to tell you that…. Sometimes it takes time for adults to learn new ways of thinking.
Stick to it! Don’t give up! Your kids will thank you!

Sylvia said: Jan 20, 2017
Sylvia Evert
Suzuki Association Member
Inchelium, WA
19 posts

Vanessa, I love the way you have dealt with this. This is fabulous.

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