time to quit???

said: Apr 22, 2007
 2 posts

I am a new suzuki parent. My daughter is 5 and began violin just 3 months ago. I have really tried to make our short practice sessions fun and game-like. Initially, she liked practicing with me and seemed to look forward to her lessons. After about a month on the box violin she was less enthusiastic. When she got her real violin she wasn’t as excited as I would have expected her to be. Lately she’s been very reluctant to practice and has been asking to quit.

I’m really not sure what to do. I don’t want to force her into something she’s not interested in. At the same time, I wonder if we should hold out a little longer until she’s playing “real” music. Maybe then she’ll become more interested.

I had planned on continuing lessons throughout the summer and enrolling her in a week long summer camp at a local music school. I thought the camp experience with other children might be the motivation she needs.

However, I find myself asking the question, “What’s the point in pushing her into something she’s clearly not very interested in?”

I’d love to hear some thoughts and perspectives on my situation.

Thanks,
Colleen

Jennifer Visick said: Apr 22, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Hmmm

You may want to consider why we “push” children into doing other things they are not particularly interested in.

For example, school. Basic hygene. Eating nutritious food. Etc.! We do those things because it’s good for the person, not because they enjoy doing it or show an interest in it. Do you think music lessons are good for your child?

Second, consider that even people who show interest in something which requires long-term commitment do not always show the same level of interest. Indeed, keeping initial excitement up is kind of strange after a certain amount of novelty wears off. But people who stick with it, (and whose families/parents/friends lovingly helped/made them to stick with it), often come through a “plateu” of not being so interested into a deeper kind of interest which is more lasting and more rewarding.

Feelings fluctuate. 3 months is a typical point for this to happen. At the 3 month point, the reality of working at something starts to set in. This may be one of the first times that such a reality is presented to your child. What do you want them to learn from it?

Starting music lessons is like starting a garden, or planting a redwood tree, from seeds—not from cuttings or seedlings. Quitting after three months is premature, because you have hardly had time to see anything growing at all. A lack of interest (or of interesting things going on that you can see) does not mean that the plants are not growing. There may be a time to quit, but I would recommend sticking it out for at least a year—or two—before evaluating the results of planting music lessons in your child’s (and your own) life.

said: Apr 23, 2007
 2 posts

Colleen—Is your daughter listening to the recordings many times a day? With both my violin children, the excitement of finally being able to play what we had been listening to for so long kept them interested and motivated. You didn’t mention if you were involved in a group class. Is your daughter meeting any other children who play, or is that why you are going to the music camp? A group class that involves a little fun and meeting other children in addition to playing violin might help change her opinion. Also, are you learning on your own instrument at the same time? With my first violinist, I learned along with her and it made if fun to play together. I could also appreciate more what it was like since I had no experience on a string instrument.

I would agree with the other post that 3 months isn’t long enough to determine if this is the right thing for her. You will have to continue to be creative to make it fun. I can remember days where I would be jumping through hoops just to get 15 productive minutes from my five year old. When we were finally done practicing I would actually be worn out.

Some days it isn’t easy, but in the end it’s always worth it.

said: Apr 25, 2007
 13 posts

This is a really good question, which is also on my mind, with my 4-year-old suzuki violin student since 6 months.

First a little background:
We have extremely short practices. That the violin goes out and that he plays something (anything) is my goal for every day. (Now even harder since the whole family has been ill and the habit was broken). He rarely wants to practice. We haven’t even started playing the pre-twinkle exercises, but we/he makes up songs and sings as he plays on various strings. I have started to ask him which string he will play, and he will try playing only (mostly) on that one. Sometimes he holds the violin and I use the bow.

In his private lessons he’s quite shy, and hardly plays anything, but will occasionally do other exercises (a bunny with his hand etc). I think he likes group class better, where he sometimes participates a lot and sometimes retires to my lap.

Right now, quitting is not his choice, and he is not aware of the option. Some things just happen every now and then: Violin, group class, family swim class, preschool.

Why do I want to keep playing?

This is something I want to do together with my child(ren), and have been thinking about since I played myself as a child. An experience I want to share with them.

I like music, and want to introduce my child(ren) to the world of music.

He does enjoy group class, and I think he would miss it. Though he has learned very little playing, he has in general more music in his world now through suzuki violin. He sings more.

I want music in my life. Now with children I have opted out of choir, instead I do suzuki violin. Even if he plays very little, I get to play. The part of his lessons that he doesn’t use, I can use for my violin playing. I wouldn’t play this much if there were no classes.

My son also has a younger brother (2 years old) who is very interested, and joins us for group class. To continue is also for his benefit.

I am almost sure I will give suzuki violin at least another year, before possibly reconsidering. I think it’s too early yet, we haven’t even properly established the habit of playing.

Something else that keeps me going is what the chairperson of our suzuki association said during the parents’ course when I started: Some kids will spend a semester or two under a table at the lessons. This doesn’t mean the don’t learn anything! And I see in my son lots of things he’s learning, though not yet “real playing”—as defined by us grown-ups.

Laura said: Apr 25, 2007
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

I like the analogies to preschool, swimming lessons, tooth brushing, etc. In other words, entered into with everyone’s best interests in mind, so therefore not an option. It’s not a matter of if, but just how… and possibly when.

I think we need to look from the larger perspectives of 1. having kids; and 2. Suzuki’s mother tongue philosophy.

Kids get used to things in their own way, and at their own pace. Our role is not only to provide the experience, but to help them through it (assuming that quitting is not an option). For many 3-5 year olds (when Suzuki is often started), any new routine can be unnerving. What’s more, any new routine that requires that things be done in a very particular way, can seem like torture. This is why there is often a very long “breaking in” period for Suzuki, both for students AND parents.

Give it time. Lots of time. Learn as much as you can, from teachers, books, online, etc… and try anything and everything that comes to mind, aiming to find what works. Cling desperately to those little glimmers of success, and use them to fuel your hope for more. And they will come. After a while, it will all become very much a habit, and the resistance will decrease and/or disappear altogether.

Our own child routinely “hates” violin. And yet this same kid routinely takes out the instrument and plays impromptu “concerts” for anyone and everyone who will listen, while grinning from ear to ear. Claims to “hate” lessons, yet goes through them happily and cooperatively with big smiles and giggles. We prefer to just admire the bigger picture and take the day-to-day (or even moment-to-moment) in stride.

As for mother tongue philosophy, kids learn much more when they are exposed to the experience, than if they aren’t. I have had students start at age 4, and were absolute terrors until around age 6. But we all stuck with it, and by then, they were well into Book 2, and actually enjoyed music from then on and definitely wouldn’t quit after that. It was a matter of maturity. But if they had started at age 6, they might not have learned to play so well, so naturally, or so enjoyably by then.

I absolutely concur with the thing about staying under the table, because I’ve literally experienced that too, with a happy ending.

said: Apr 25, 2007
 13 posts

Thank you purple_tulips, you’re helping me too, to meet with the resistance. And you give me hope!

purple_tulips

Cling desperately to those little glimmers of success, and use them to fuel your hope for more.

Right now we play about poop. :oops: But at least we play.

And a new violin arrives today. I hope it will spark interest instead of resistance.

Laura said: Apr 26, 2007
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

Poop???

Do tell…!

p.s. you’re welcome—and do keep all of us up to date on how things are going :)

said: Apr 26, 2007
 13 posts

About poop: In general I insist my son plays something, but he can choose what he wants to play. Or I make up some words, often to the first twinkle rhythm. And I/we sing, I play in rhythm, he plays though rarely in rhythm. Sometimes we try to focus on only one string.

Very popular right now is Lightning McQueen from the Disney Cars movie. And so he said he wanted me to play Lightning poop ??? As I didn’t know how to play that, he had to show me. And I pretend to be very surprised that you can play about poop, and we both pretend we’re very naughty to play about poop. :D

I’ve thought more about why I want to do Suzuki: The basic reason is that I want to bring more music into my children’s life. If they learn to play the violin, great, but the basic goal is music. This far, Suzuki bring more music than resistance into our lives, no doubt. Quitting might be an option if I felt it brought more resistance than music for a longer period, but this far that’s not the case.

Anne said: May 2, 2007
 Violin
17 posts

Hi:

I started my son at age 3…it took over a year to finish the twinkles and 3 more years to finish book 1. All through Books 1 and 2 almost every practice was a struggle (my husband’s discription: son plays “squeek, squeek”, mom yells, son cries, son plays “squeek, squeek”, etc. —NB, I never yelled on the FIRST “squeek, squeek” ;-) ). I had to find all sorts of creative ways to make practice fun and minimally stressful—which was hard b/c I’m not naturally that creative. I did this to a great extent for all of the reasons listed above, and because I’m stubborn and refuse to give in…and with all of the fights, and crying, and frustration, the music brought something very special that we shared and really enhanced our relationship.

Now, my son is 9 and playing beautifully the Seitz pieces in Book 4. He’s also in several orchestras and is playing a solo in the inter-district elementary school orchestra concert. Just a few months ago, he thanked me for not letting him quit and for pushing him when he resisted. Whenever he wants to do some other activity and we say he can if he gives up one of his violin activities, he says, “No, way!”. I expected to maybe be thanked when he turned 20, not 9! His enthisiasm and passion for his instrument is what is keeping me going as I struggle through the same practice issues with his 4-year-old sister!

said: May 6, 2007
 5 posts

… well, not exactly the end… :D but … we started Suzuki lessons when my son was 6 1/2. It took 2 1/2 years of constant battle with this child to get him to be at a point where he sees the value of practicing.

Well-meaning folk would say “let him play for a year and then ask him again to re-evaluate”, but honestly, he resisted even then, though he freely admitted that it was a love/hate thing.

Now at age 9, he still does not willingly practice, but when he does, he is engaged, focussed (mostly) and works very hard. His daily practice sessions are now 1 hour long and he wants to increase it in tiny increments so he can get to 1 1/2 hours by summer. His lessons are 2 hours long and he is really working hard during those! He recognizes (and admits) that he needs us to push him into starting his practices, b/c he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to do that himself. But once he gets going—he goes! :D

My personal theory is that children who feel and respond to the world intensely, also put up more of a fight when they feel forced or coerced. But these same children enjoy and benefit so much from the beauty and joy of music in their lives. As many carefully chosen freedoms I give my children, music is not optional—it is what we do. I try not to get emotionally involved with the tears but I do insist that practicing gets done and will go out of my way to make it painless and pleasant.

This time around with my 4-year old daughter I can relax a little more seeing that the pay-off will come… maybe just not as quickly as I’d hoped when I was walking the same road with my son!

Warmly,
Michelle

said: May 30, 2007
 4 posts

my husband’s discription: son plays “squeek, squeek”, mom yells, son cries, son plays “squeek, squeek”, etc. —NB, I never yelled on the FIRST “squeek, squeek” :wink:

This made me laugh out loud!
My husband has the same type of description for my now 11 year old violinist and me. We have been working together now for 7 years. He claims all we do is yell at each other…But he can’t hear the hugs.

Finding out TOGETHER what is fun is the biggest challenge as well as the biggest reward.
I have a 7 year old guitarist, too, playing for 4 years.
Each of their journies are different. The games and motivations change almost weekly.

When the practicing parent can convince him/herself that this IS FUN! Guess what? It is! YOU have to look forward to the practices. YOU have to be enthusiastic, motivated, enjoy every squeek. You may start out PRETENDING, but if your enthusiasm catches, it will be real.

Fortunately, mint chocolate chip ice cream is a constant reward for all of us… Good luck!

said: May 30, 2007
 13 posts

Jomo

When the practicing parent can convince him/herself that this IS FUN! Guess what? It is! YOU have to look forward to the practices. YOU have to be enthusiastic, motivated, enjoy every squeek. You may start out PRETENDING, but if your enthusiasm catches, it will be real.

This is a key thing for me right now! Thank you for this reminder, I’ve been in a bit of a lull, and almost dreading getting started practicing. I think I will focus more on my practicing now, which I really enjoy. In time, my son will follow.

Laura said: May 31, 2007
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

If I could just toss in some food for thought:

What puzzles me is how my kid supposedly “doesn’t like” violin, but as an outsider it would be hard to see that. She loves her lessons, class, and teachers. I’ve caught her smiling during practice, as if she’s really pleased with herself, or even making up silly words and dances to her repertoire. Although she wants to quit violin tomorrow (middle of Book 1), she can’t wait to play pieces she has heard in Book 3. Overall, NOT what you’d expect from someone who says almost daily, “I don’t like violin” and is a world expert when it comes to finding excuses not to practice.

I wonder if it’s not violin that she dislikes, but just the act of focused, disciplined practice when she could be, say, watching a Barbie video or running herself silly outside with the neighbourhood kids.

Please don’t get me wrong… we have more than our lion’s share of challenging times too. I’m just saying that there is often much more than meets the eye. We may never know. But the key is to stick with the journey. I beleive both we and our children will end up very pleasantly surprised in the years to come.

Jennifer Visick said: May 31, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Most people like to play what they can play, (and mess around with it, ham it up, etc). A lot of people like to learn HOW TO DO new things (new music, a cool new “trick” or technique, etc…. But not very many people like to practice the trick (technique) that is not “new” but is nevertheless not yet easy for them to do. It’s only after a person is mature enough to connect the dots—(”if I want to play that easily then I must go through this practicing thing”)—AND when a person has done it often enough to feel this connection happening as it happens (instead of just understand it intellectually), that they begin to “like” practicing (it’s not uncommon for the professional musician to say, with genuine convition and feeling, that they both like practicing and wish they had more time to do it!)

Robert Cutietta’s book “Raising Musical Kids” has some good ideas about helping your children get to this stage of ‘liking’ practicing (it doesn’t usually happen until the late teens or early 20s, but you have to have a long-term perspective!)

Laura said: Jun 1, 2007
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

Well, it’s just that when I hear about kids who geniunely love to practice because it means spending time with their beloved instrument (apparently I was one of them according to my parents, but unfortunately that doesn’t help me here!!), then I wonder what the difference is in the long run between that and a more normal kid who has to be trained into it and eventually realizes the benefits—but much later. Perhaps not much difference in the end? Hmm.

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 2, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

I’m going to totally contradict what I just posted in this thread.

Children like to practice. Take a video game, for example. How often will children sit for hours trying to master a level? this is the epitome of suzuki practicing. They try something new (or they try to do the same thing better than before), over and over again until they win through to the next level. Often, a game is set up so that if the person loses, they have to do the same “easy” levels over again before they get to try the “hard” level they haven’t yet conquered (sound like suzuki review, anyone?).

Or take a new toy requiring some kind of physical balance not yet mastered. Hand a group of children a pogo stick or a set of stilts and they will all beg for turns and get mad if they lose a turn and—yes, they will practice—until they can master the physical process needed to walk on the stilts or jump on the pogo stick or ride the bike. They watch each other and learn from each other’s mistakes, and if an adult comes around and shows interest or knows how to do it, they’ll often freely ask for help. (sound like group class or masterclasses, anyone?)

Other children will get interested in, say, doing magic tricks or telling stupid jokes or whatnot, which they will constantly practice on any willing (or unwilling) audience till there is no one left but the dog and the stuffed animals who will sit and listen to them anymore…..

Children are constantly practicing something or other, and they can and do experience the “joy” of practicing. Not every child experiences this joy for every subject—but maybe we should observe which things a certain child does enjoy practicing, and see if we can’t add some of those elements into musical practicing?

said: Jun 5, 2007
 4 posts

“What puzzles me is how my kid supposedly “doesn’t like” violin, but as an outsider it would be hard to see that. She loves her lessons, class, and teachers. I’ve caught her smiling during practice, as if she’s really pleased with herself, or even making up silly words and dances to her repertoire.”

Yes—and as parents, we have to keep reminding them. “See—this IS fun, isn’t it?”
My son told me recently. “I guess this practice is fun, but I would rather be outside riding my bike.”

Who wouldn’t? By teaching them to do the hard stuff first, then go outside and play, we are programming them for a lifetime of good habits.
I believe the term is delayed gratification.

They will thank us, right?

Jennifer Visick said: Jun 6, 2007
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Jomo

I believe the term is delayed gratification.

They will thank us, right?

Right. :)

Laura said: Jun 6, 2007
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

As much as I wholeheartedly agree with Jomo and Rainejen (it’s how I would respond as well)… I have to honestly say that my own kid seems to be the one I can’t figure out! She responds positively to everything violin and music related except actually admitting in words that she likes it or that it’s fun. (If you were watch her learn, play and perform you’d think otherwise.)

Maybe she’s just going through her contradictory phase.

Oh well, it’s not changing anything… we’ll keep going, and I’m sure I’ll find out in a few years what that was all about.

said: Jun 6, 2007
 13 posts

But it depends so much on the child. My (oldest) son won’t try anything he’s not sure he can do (the younger one is quite opposite), and I have a similar trait myself. He’s much more of an observer, he will look until he feels comfortable. He might be persuaded, but I actually think too much persuasion can work the other way: taking away his own joy in doing (whatever it is, this applies not only to violin), and he will do it only for someone else’s sake.

How to work through this with respect to playing the violin, I don’t completely know right now. Baby steps, and doing it on his terms (while insisting we play) are the keys I think.

As for playing the violin first, and riding the bike later: Why does it always have to be this way, the hard, boring stuff first, the fun later? (And do we really want to term the violin the hard, boring stuff?) My son often responds better to the reverse thing: First he does his thing, then he can comply to my request. I don’t think the work ethic is necessarily worse by this: If I rest/read a book/watch TV before I clean the house, I might actually do a better job, rested and in a better mood. (The potential problem is if you run out of time, and of course a four-year-old cannot be responsible for that, that’s my job.)

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