does fine in private lesson but doesn’t like group lesson

Nadia said: Mar 2, 2009
16 posts

My son is now 4.5 year-old. He began taking Suzuki private lesson in October, and is playing Aunt Rhody in Book 1. He began in group lesson in January, but he says “I don’t feel comfortable” and says “he’s not sure”, and simply doesn’t want to participate. I have insisted on his participation, and he has usually stayed in the group lesson for at least 40 minutes (Pre-twinkle through Book 1) in the beginning, but his willingness to participate is decreasing at every lesson. Today he left the group lesson within 10 minutes. I couldn’t make him go back on the stage as I could in the past. He does fine in his private lesson. I have noticed in the past that he doesn’t necessarily corporate in the group activity of any kind; he’s not disruptive, but he simply watches whtat other kids do, or wants to go away and does his own thing. I usually make him do what others do, but I have less control of the situation in the group lesson that’s conducted on the stage. I believe it’s important for him to learn to be a part of group; at the same time, I’m beginning to wonder if I need to just let him observe the group lesson until he wants to do on his own rather than always pushing him. Any advice, anyone?

Jennifer Visick said: Mar 3, 2009
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
997 posts

Ask the teacher what he/she thinks you should do. 40 minutes for a not yet five year old boy sounds like a long time. How long are the classes total?

The essence of Suzuki philosophy is observe, watch, listen, absorb—create an environment where the child wants to participate because of social reinforcement—not because of being told to do it. Instead of verbally urging your 4 year old to participate, bring him and bring something soft or quiet for him to play with while you intently observe the class. Don’t let your son distract you from watching…. don’t let him wander around either…. up to a reasonable point, if he bugs you for anything, say “not now, I want to hear the group class” or some such thing. Maybe even “participate” yourself in any activity that doesn’t actually require an instrument … show enjoyment by moving to the music and smiling at good things you hear during the class… only keep his instrument out and ready and respond to him if he wants to go up on stage. Eventually he will understand how important it is to you (if you are consistent, he will figure out that if he wants any kind of attention or if he wants to do anything besides sit next to you during this time period, he will have to actually be in the class).

It’s important not to pretend to be raptly absorbed in the class for his sake, but to actually be actively observing. Watch so that you can imitate group activities at home. An extreme version of this might include bringing a portable sound recorder and recording the class, then play it back in smaller sections at home, finding the songs he knows and having him pretend to be onstage and play them “with” the group class at home. He’s still relatively new to playing the instrument, so hesitation in a group—which is not tailored to his pace like a private lesson—is natural.

Lynn said: Mar 3, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

I had a little boy (5yo) a few years ago who rarely participated in group, and when he did, it was only for a very short time. Mostly he sat and watched from his mother’s lap. He was also absolutely adamant about not missing class!

Group can be an intense experience for some kids for a variety of reasons. Sound volume, the effort of trying to coordinate their own playing with the kids around them; competing demands—watch the teacher when they still have to watch fingers and/or bow; a high-energy teacher or class that goes from fun to over-stimulating…..

In my classes, sitting and watching is a perfectly acceptable alternative to participating, especially for a child who is not yet entirely comfortable in the class. Not only are they still learning, I believe they are learning more, because they are not stressed by being pushed or maintained outside their comfort zone. They are also allowed to decide when they have had enough, and need to pull out. I will turn to them periodically and invite them back in—”would you like to do this with us?” or “I think this is something you might like”—sometimes all they need a little prompt or encouragement, but I never force it.

It is important for your son to learn to be part of a group, and when he’s ready, he’ll want to do it—you won’t need to push. Let him participate in group either by playing, or by sitting with you and listening. Keep in mind that playing quietly with crayons or small toys does not mean that a child is not also paying attention to what’s going on around him. On the way home, you can talk about the events in class that match what he is learning to do in his lessons, or whatever else seems relevant and interesting. You can also reference your group observations during your practice—I like Rainjen’s suggestions!

If you have been pushing him to participate, and you do decide to back off and allow him to go at his own pace (which I recommend!), talk with him about it, but also expect that he may test the truth of that by spending a few or a bunch of classes on the sidelines. Don’t worry about it. As he gains confidence that you won’t push him to participate fully before he’s ready, you can work together on identifying and encouraging what he is ready for now, and developing enthusiasm for what he might be ready for soon.

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