Motivating a 11 year old to practice

said: Apr 25, 2006
 2 posts

Hi everyone,

I’m asking this great community of Suzuki parents to help me figure out how to motivate my daughter Abby to practice daily and to enjoy it. Abby began violin lessons five years ago. She is playing the Gavotte by Martini now in book 3. I’ve been told by Abby’s violin teachers that she has a lot of musical talent. She has received honors awards and is one of the top violinists in her school’s string orchestra.

In my family, I’m the Suzuki parent. My husband is not enthusiastic about the Suzuki approach. He feels when in comes to music practices, I’m an overbearing parent and a terrible coach, even if I try really hard to be gentle in correcting my daughter when she is practicing. I do tend to be somewhat direct when offering feedback to my daughter during her practices. (I play violin as well.) He often has the TV while she is practicing. He doesn’t feel she needs to practice every day.

He is of the opinion Abby is old enough to practice by herself without me to correct her. He doesn’t support me when I suggest that Abby and her younger sister attend a Suzuki institute or workshops. He believes our daughters’ schoolwork should take precedence over their music practices.
My husband, by the way, is very laid-back. In contrast, I’m more of a “type-A” personality. I come from a family where musical and educational achievement were prized highly.

At this point, both girls (Abby’s younger sister is studying cello) feel musical practices are like chores to be done just to get it over with. Abby is close to her father so his words does carry some weight.

Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thank you in advance,
Wendy

Wendy Cheng
Amateur violinist, viola student
Clarion cochlear implant
Gaithersburg, MD

Gloria said: Apr 25, 2006
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
70 posts

Good morning. After reading your post, a couple of things come to mind right away. I think you really need to talk to your husband and see if he can at least accept his attitude might be affecting the girls negatively; it is one of the Suzuki axioms, that the environment will influence the child, but also a truth generally accepted (at least I hope so). Could he consider changing his “tone”? Maybe more of a cheer leading parent? I am sorry he is not more supportive; try to get from him what it is he really is against with the music ; maybe it takes too much time and that affects him; maybe it bothers him to have to endure practices while he is trying to relax… could you find another room to practice? At least you can move a violin easily.. (I am a pianist, and our piano is as far from the noise of the family as possible).
Another thing: record your practice sessions and then LISTEN TO YOURSELF and, decide if the way you speak with your child is what you would find the right talk you motivate you or anybody else. I also tend to be clear, direct, sort, efficient minded (and my husband all the opposite); as a Suzuki parent, I am sure I was hard to be with; now that I am a teacher, I am VERY aware of the importance of how we address the children.
I could continue for a long time, but will say just this: if you want to change something in the child, a parent needs to change something in him/herself first.
Best of luck.

said: Apr 25, 2006
 2 posts

guayi

Another thing: record your practice sessions and then LISTEN TO YOURSELF and, decide if the way you speak with your child is what you would find the right talk you motivate you or anybody else. I also tend to be clear, direct, sort, efficient minded (and my husband all the opposite); as a Suzuki parent, I am sure I was hard to be with; now that I am a teacher, I am VERY aware of the importance of how we address the children.

Thanks for your feedback. I’m profoundly deaf, and generally don’t hear auditory input very well….so I’m not sure how listening to myself will work. Let me think about it.

Wendy

Wendy Cheng
Amateur violinist, viola student
Clarion cochlear implant
Gaithersburg, MD

said: Apr 25, 2006
 26 posts

Hello.

Just a couple more ideas…

What does your teacher think about your daughter starting to take a little more responsibility for her learning? I usually introduce this gradually with my students over a period of years, starting when they are about ten (but this differs greatly from student to student). Some Suzuki Parents don’t realise how difficult it is to ‘let go’ but it does have to happen eventually! However, this is really a matter for you to discuss with your teacher, probably without your daughter present.

Much is made of the influence of the home environment, but Dr Suzuki also recognised that other tremendously powerful environment (especially for 11-16 year olds)—the peer group. Do everything you can to encourage your daughter’s friendships with other kids who learn an instrument. When taking your daughter to a concert, invite a friend to come along too. Organise for your daughter and a couple of friends to play Christmas Carols for some local senior citizens… whatever you can think of. Suzuki institutes are also great social times for Suzuki kids.

Remind your husband that Suzuki music activities provide a ‘wholesome’ group of friends who are unlikely to lead your daughter astray! (Dads tend to worry much more about their daughters when they start turning into women!)

One other thing—I remember violin practice at age 11 and it was pretty much a chore. I was never that thrilled about having to do it.

Good luck!

Eve Weiss said: Apr 25, 2006
 
Suzuki Association Member
Guitar
16 posts

For us, much of life with an eleven-year-old is about slowly letting go or weaning. Going cold turkey is usually not the best process. We have been letting go wiht regards to individual elements and encouraging our son to increasing practice in response to the teacher’s prompting and (to a varying degree of success) for the intrinsic awareness of musical improvement. At eleven our son needs some independence but still needs an external reason for doing things. So shifting the focus to peer suuport/approval and to teacher pleasing seems natural. He still comes out of the room to demonstrate proficiency with the assignment and to get some feedback, but my wife no longer sits with him for every part of the practices.

Practically, start with scales or vibrato or some such technical exercise and work your way up to independence with practicing old pieces to practicing new pieces. Let consultation replace monitoring and directing and let the child develop a sense of control (since everything for a pre-teen seems to be about control…)

said: Apr 25, 2006
 7 posts

Here are a couple of thoughts from a fellow parent of an eleven-year-old…

Are you enjoying the practices? There is no reason why practicing can’t be enjoyable. (I came to this conclusion when I started learning an instrument as an adult. Before that I felt a little bit sorry for my son. But playing every day is a pleasure, actually, not a burden!) Let your daughter know how much you like to hear her play. Make sure your face is relaxed and not showing displeasure at the things she is doing “wrong”. Maybe it is time to become less active in your coaching. Maybe asking your daughter questions about her assignments and letting her give you information would help. It would be the two of you on a path together, sharing information. Since you are learning the viola, you two must have lots in common!

As for your husband, maybe you could strike a deal—he supports your authority in music-making decisions, and you support his in another area.

said: Apr 27, 2006
 16 posts

I’ve been thinking about your post since yesterday. As the daughter of a deaf father (no coclear implant) I am in amazement. Congrats! As the mom of a preteen, I understand. As the mom of five year, I have a story to share.

My youngest always got distress with my tone. I tried to be patient, but, I did reflect my true emotions in my voice. Try as I may, she looked at me with sadness. I then would try to immediately change my tone… Here is the light bulb moment. I lost my voice. The only sound I could manage was a whisper. She had to focus completely on what I said just to hear me. No tone, whispers. That was the MOST productive our practice sessions have ever been. Now I try to whisper when I really want her attention. Sometimes, I just whisper the entire practice session.

As for motivating my preteen, I am doing what a previous poster said, to a degree. I am coach. I lay out the study list for her. Review pieces (repetoire), working piece, recital piece, etudes, other books, then I remind her to practice virbrato (or any other exercise given for the week). After her practice, I ask if she remembered (whatever I did not hear). Now practicing is not optional. She can choose her own practice time, she just needs to tell me when it will be. I remind her when the time comes. If she complains, I have posted her schedule on the fridge, so the schedule states practice, not me.

As for general motivation, seek musical friends, attend family concerts, go to workshops and institutes. If you are only practicing, then why play. Think of a kid who just practices tossing the ball and never gets put in the game.

As for your husband, there are studies you can show him showing benefits of practicing. When we found out these benefits, both my husband and I were on board when it comes to music.

Good luck.

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