How can I inspire my 8 year old?

Susan Ahlberg said: Feb 11, 2006
4 posts

My daughter started asking to play the violin at age 4 and kept asking every now and then until we started suzuki lessons at age 6. She started off very excited…we have been through one slump, made it through…but now we are in another slump.
She says she is not enjoying it anymore. Practices are met with groans and eye rolling. She treats me poorly and with disrespect…fussing at me when I try to mention something helpful or ask her to repeat or correct.
She does seem to pick up the songs fairly quick, although (i think that because we don’t practice often enough) she doesn’t seem to progress at the same rate as the others in her group. I do know that one big reason we don’t practice often enough is that it is draining for me and seem like a huge effort. Will it be worth it in the end? Does she appreciate any of this?
Yes, I know this is mostly my problem, but I supose I am having a hard time putting more effort into something I don’t know is worth it. How do I know if this is really right for her or not? My one hunch is that is may seem too hard for her. Besides her initial desire to play I really want her to have this as a means of expression. She is a bit introverted and struggles expressing herself. (Geez when I read what I have written I really sound like a bad parent). Bottom line, I just really want her to be happy and find joy from this.
I liked one post that said that quitting was not an option, but how much pushing is too much? Any inspiration for us?

Thank you very much.

said: Feb 11, 2006
 1 posts

One trick that is getting us through all kinds of difficulties is to make daily practice its own goal, with its own rewards—regardless of progress through the book. Our program awards a composer statuette for each 100 consecutive days of practice and listening. I didn’t think a composer statuette could be very motivating for little boys, but I was wrong. They want it because they understand 100 straight days is something to be proud of.

You could start from day 0, although I gave my kids a little extra boost by making sure we practiced daily for a week. That way they could “start” with 7 days to hang on to and be proud of already. Some days the practice is very little—three quick songs and into the bed, now! Usually, of course, it’s more thorough. Even on the days when practice is very short, though, the ideal of daily practice is reinforced. I’ve said to my 4 year-old that it’s his choice to practice or not. He asks if he has to start over at day one. When I say, “Well, I’m afraid that’s what would happen,” he has practiced right away. It’s been a great motivator for the tired parents, too. There’s no way to let yourself off the hook when they have 67 days in a row. I got my kids stickers and their own calendars, though now they mostly just rely on me to keep track. If we start lagging in motivation, I get out the calendars and we play “catch up” with the stickers, which really reinforces how very many days in a row they have played.

Another, totally unrelated motivator has been to review and make the review pieces really solid, so the child has something to feel very good about. There’s nothing like feeling inadequate on everything to bring on frustration—especially if the group’s moving ahead.

Somewhat paradoxically, in our experience, when we have taken our eyes off of “progress” as the goal and worked on strengthening the basics of practice and review, the progress happens more quickly. Also I strongly recommend attending an Institute near you if possible over the summer—lots of fun and as much a boost for parents as for kids.

Debbie said: Feb 11, 2006
Debbie Mi138 posts

Right on!

Also, a very helpful book is “Helping Parents Practice” by Ed Sprunger.

My mom kept on with me even when I went through slumps (I rememer taking an entire summer off and having weeks where I did not practice enough!) and somehow, I survived and am now a professional violinist! And I love it! And sometimes as a kid I loved it! And sometimes as a kid I didn’t!

said: Feb 11, 2006
 104 posts

I think inspiration can really come from other children in the program. Does your program have a group class and frequent recitals? Does she have any “violin friends”? Having other kids that also play and don’t think you’re “weird” because you go to violin camp is real boost. At the age of 8, my oldest daughter just loved summer institute. the teacher was great, she loved the fiddling and improvisation, and all the games and fun really gave the violin a whole new look! good luck!

We’ve never had any extrinsic rewards for practicing, so I can’t speak to their effectiveness, but we find that one parent who will sit and commit to listening to an entire practice session is extremely motivating. I often get tied down helping my youngest one to practice, so when I am done with her, I will still sit down and listen to my other kids play all the rest of their intruments—it really eats up a great chunk of time, but it’s truly family time and I think it makes a big impact. BTW, when I listen, I really don’t comment. I play the role of the audience, not a critic. I give advice and critiquing in separate practice sessions.

Susan Ahlberg said: Feb 12, 2006
4 posts

What is a composer statuette? I think I will try practices everyday…although, and I hate to say it…I kinda dread it. But, I think that even just a little each day could help her to move forward more quickly and hopefully enjoy it all more. She is very strong-willed, I just need to find out how to steer that in the right direction! I think my fear is whether or not I am doing the right thing by pushing through this.
Just yesterday we attended a suzuki workshop. I saw her smiling and having some fun, however she grew tired and hungry and started complaining…from the get-go she did not want to perform in the concert at the end of the day. I didn’t make her—I told her to wait and decide —she still insisted on going home early. At the end of it all she said she didn’t get anything out of it (although I know she must have) and she only had fun because of her friends (which I didn’t know she necessarily had friends there). Anyhoo, on that note, I met another mom there and we talked about getting our girls together for a violin play date… perhaps that would be a good try too.
It just seems like loads of effort….but I want to make sure I am doing right.

said: Feb 12, 2006
 5 posts

My son is going through a similar stage on the violin right now, too. He is 7 1/2. I find that if I start to dread practicing and let sessions drop, he starts to realize that he can whine more and think he can get out of it. If there is no option to not practice, it cuts down on the whining before practice, if not the during-practice whining. sigh

A goal chart has been really helpful in the past and I am about to start it up again. We pick the focus for the week, and if he gets that focus on each piece he practices every day, he gets an inexpensive treat. He likes art and office supplies, so I can usually buy something for $1 or $2 that he is thrilled to have. Before I had kids, I thought bribing kids to practice was a terrible idea, but now I realize that they don’t see the long-term benefits of practicing like we do. Short term rewards make it much more palatable for them, and so far I don’t see the downside. Some of my students also work towards extra TV or computer time for their goals.

My favorite goal has been “cooperation” or “no whining” but those have been the hardest for him. :D

Kirsten said: Feb 12, 2006
 103 posts

This might be a child development issue. I have seen that 8 and 9 year old children become less parent centered and more peer centered. I think your idea of play dates is excellent, especially if you can manage to get slightly older girls to play with your daughter. Workshops and Institutes are also very important if you can possibly manage them.

And I don’t know exactly why this is the case, but in my 16 years of teaching I have seen mother daughter struggles happening quite often at age 8-10. Girls seem to give their mothers a hard time as they are experiencing a very rapid physical, emotional and social growing spurt. It might be good to consider other areas of struggle in your lives together and to find a good book about raising girls of this age. Also, maybe you can invite another Suzuki mother for coffee so that you can swap war stories. It really helps to know you are not alone.

You can be doing everything right, following all of the advise in the book, but the job is still tough. Go easy on yourself, and don’t worry too much if the violin progress is not what you would hope for right now. If you can just keep her playing, she may hit her stride in a year or two.


said: Feb 13, 2006
 104 posts


I strongly recommend getting together with the other little girl—a violin friend is an excellent way to re-ignite interest. Plus, they can work on duets together and make even the book 1 songs sound really terrific! I suggest getting the Suzuki duet book (available through Shar).

Also, I understand your reluctance to enforce daily practice if you are already getting grief for less regular practice—BUT I do think it is critical. Daily practice is crucial. I think the “daily” part is far more important than the length of time spent practicing. In fact, I never require any particular time for any of my kids to practice. We keep our violins out most of the day on a “String Swing” hook—and then they are always handy—no groans about getting it out, tuning it up, etc. It’s just RIGHT THERE—you can’t ignore it. Start with review, work on problem pieces, and then end with something fun, fooling around, playing silly songs. End while it is fun. Put the violin back and agree to come back for a “quickie” reviews later in the day.

I hope inspiration comes back to you and your daughter!

Susan Ahlberg said: Feb 14, 2006
4 posts

I am lovin’ all these suggestions….this is a great community to be involved with…thanks!
It is nice to know I am not alone.
I know I have been recharged and ready to go at it again with sime new ideas!

said: Feb 15, 2006
 55 posts

I have a very strong-willed, independent ten-year-old daughter. She has always been this way, which makes working with her a challenge sometimes. She likes to figure things out for herself, she will play things wrong on purpose, and rarely accept my help. I used to stress about her playing things incorrectly (she plays piano), but I finally realized that it was her way of working things out. She had control over they way she played, and new how to play correctly, but also needed to experiment. It still stresses me when we are getting close to a performance, but now I just remind myself that she will not allow herself to perform badly so I need to relax.
Regarding practice habits, I do not set a time limit, but she has a list of things she must complete and she must practice six days every week. If practice is unexpectedly missed one day, then the “regular day off” has to be a practice day. After scales and warming up, she has control over the order in which she does things. I insist on morning practice before school. Sometimes she gets everything done, and other times she doesn’t. Then she has to finish after school before tv or computer time or playdates. It is within her control whether or not she gets everything done, and she understand the consequences are a result of a choice she makes. Very rarely will she sit and practice for half an hour. Ten minutes here, play with the cat, then practice another ten minutes, get a drink, and so on. When I relax, she relaxes and things are much more enjoyable. I rarely tell her what to do. If she doesn’t want to be bothered with a new assignment then she gets to explain to the teacher! Life is not perfect now—we still have some very rough mornings, however, I am much better at lightening up now, which keeps everyone happier.

said: Feb 19, 2006
 16 posts

go to an institute!

Nobuaki said: Feb 25, 2006
Nobuaki Tanaka
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Mount Prospect, IL
115 posts

I also need a help. one of my students wants to quit. s/he wants to play only “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” and refuse to play all other songs. s/he played “Twinkle, twinkle, little star” really well. s/he can play “long long ago”. She may be perfectionist, but not sure. Should I tell her to play only “twinkle, twinkle, little star” over and over? She is playing it over three monts. I sometimes wonder when should I give a new song also. I may be pushing too much.

said: Feb 25, 2006
 16 posts

Group classes may help. My daughters are at different songs in book one. Just seeing other children their own age playing “new” songs is always encouraging!

Also, my children’s interest level changes over time. I just have to become more motivated, so I do not go down the “why bother when you are not interested” road. When their interest wains, I play the cd, go to performanaces, and get really positive. Over time, my children get the idea that violin is fun.

said: Jun 20, 2006
 22 posts

Take them to an institute during the summer………I recommend the Intermountain Suzuki String Institute (ISSI) in Utah

“Practice! Practice until you go crazy….then do it five more times.”

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