Complaning 11 year old

Sara said: Sep 21, 2009
191 posts

Help! What do you do with a newer student 11 years old boy that gripes and complains every single lesson? He complains over every assignment (they are not too hard)
His mom Ignores it and is fully aware of it. He complains of everything under the sun and I never hear a positive thing about violin or music or lessons. It ’s just complain, complain, complain. It gets warring.
Any thoughts on the matter?
Any would be appreciated!

p.s I don’t have this with other students. I don’t believe its in the way I am teaching or what I am assigning. I think it is just how he is when he has to do anything else besides play computer games.


“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

Connie Sunday said: Sep 22, 2009
Connie SundayViolin, Piano, Viola
670 posts

This has happened to me twice with boys. Both times mom was a high powered academic who pushed her kids unmercifully and had high expectations and demands. (I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing). In both cases, mother and son argued, during the lesson; I had to ask them not to do that, as it upset me. Sometimes it’s some kind of a power struggle in the home, and you have to figure out how to harness the leadership qualities of the son.

Perhaps you can ask them, “do you like lessons” or “how do you feel about lessons?” It puts them in a delicate situation; they may know mom will insist on music lessons, regardless, so they have to decide if it’s going to be with you or some other, perhaps less agreeable, person.

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Laura said: Sep 24, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

Not knowing anything else about the boy, his intentions, or his family situation (Connie is right—you could be battling an entire family dynamic!), I’ll just toss out my thoughts anyway. If they’re not helpful to your situation, perhaps someone else might find them applicable to theirs.

I don’t like to overly generalize. But I have found that many boys around that age have four factors that seem to be pwerful driving forces:
1. They want to prove themselves.
2. They want to be in charge.
3. They don’t like to be regarded as sub-standard.
4. They get turned off if it seems that their music lessons put them in another world than the rest of their lives.

Of course, you must set certain ground rules about what types of behavior you will tolerate and what you will not. But assuming you have done that, it can be effective to try to appeal to all four of those factors. Simply telling them what you expect, and expecting them to comply, can be going completely against their grain. You might have to resort to some subtle mind games and manipulation—but this may yield some highly promising results. :)

Some ideas along those lines that have worked for me include:
- getting them to be the teacher instead
- presenting things as dares, challenges or competitions (rather than straightforward instructions)
- telling them bluntly that “most people who heard that would find it [ugly, irritating, hard to listen to, etc.]” and then immediately offer him the perfect “solution” to prevent that from ever happening
- impressing him with your own playing, perhaps demonstrating a virtuoso version of a technique that you are currently teaching him (e.g. “if you ever want to play like this, we must learn how to do these things right now”)
- playing him something he would instantly appreciate (e.g. a movie theme) BUT with the teaching point you are making
- telling him, “I have 6-year olds that can do this. I’d expect it would be easy for you.” (careful with this one—I would never want to insult or wound a student by saying this to him. But for certain types of kids, usually the tougher kids, it can be highly motivating!)
- for that matter, have him play FOR a 6-year old! The opportunity to be an example can also be very motivating

I have an 8-year old who is something similar. We often have awful lessons because of his attitude and rude behavior. But often enough, we have wonderful lessons. I’ve found that the difference is when I break the mold of the usual expectations, and approach things from a completely new angle that he finds is “cool”. Suddenly we’re best friends again for that 30 minutes and he’ll comply with absolutely everything. If I’m lucky, that might last for a few more subsequent lessons. Then it starts breaking down and I have to find a fresh angle again.

Sara said: Sep 25, 2009
191 posts

Thanks a bunch Purple tulips! Both posts were very enlightening.

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

said: Oct 5, 2009
 3 posts

I am an eleven year old suzuki student myself but I am a girl and I am no where near new. I believe the correct path to take is to introduce him to some new songs and have the teacher show him how to play them something out of suzuki but in his range. It will open him up to music and his teacher and his lessons a lot quicker than normal and the griping will vanish. i call the bored and non inthusiastic child the Beginning syndrome and believe me it happens a lot

Sara said: Oct 16, 2009
191 posts

Thanks, violinmaster! I think you may have a good point there. It’s nice to hear advice straight from your age! Sometimes I try to remember what it was like for me being eleven, but I’m not sure my memory goes back that far :)
Just curious, how long have you been playing? What book are you in?

You are very wise!

“What is man’s ultimate direction in life? It is to look for love, truth, virtue, and beauty.” Dr. Shinichi Suzuki

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