How to motivate a 5 year-old practicing suzuki violin

said: Nov 7, 2006
 1 posts

Can anyone give me some creative ideas on how to motivate my energetic 5 year old son to practice his violin? He loves the music and his lessons but when it comes time to practice, it is so difficult to get him to do it! He always wants to do it later and then he is too tired and cranky. When we do practice, he goofs around a lot and takes many breaks, so that it is usually a long session. I’ve read that as a Suzuki parent, we shouldn’t force a child to practice, but most days, that’s the only way to get him to do it! It’s become a battle of wills that gets both of us pretty stressed out—does anyone have any advice? My child always follows instruction very well both at Kindergarten and with his violin teacher, but not with me, his mom (I also feel like he is setting a terrible example for his 3 year old brother, who will be starting lessons soon too). Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

said: Nov 7, 2006
 21 posts

I have a 5 year old who takes piano. In our house, watching TV is a special privilege reserved for Friday evening and Saturday. For each song Lanie practices cheerfully, she earns 1 sticker. When she has earned 20 stickers, she earns a free hour of TV, an ice cream cone from McDonalds, or a pickup from school (instead of riding the bus). She can also earn stickers by playing songs by ear.

During practice, I sit right next to the piano and act as a cheerleader. Lanie enjoys the time with me one on one.

I also encourage practice by encouraging my older daughter to play along with her violin with Lanie’s music.

I think the biggest factor though is limiting television. All my children play their instruments much more when they are not allowed to watch television.


Lynn said: Nov 7, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

In this case, I would say that the primary focus of your practice sessions is for him to practice being willing. What you would do is identify the components of willing behavior, which would be determined in part by what you need to see and are not, and use violin practice as a time to practice those responses. Keep score, use a sticker chart, make it a contest between you and him, points for you if he acts unwilling, points for him when he shows willing behavior, whatever gets him fired up! An intruiging discussion/discovery is that 1: you don’t have to feel willing in order to act willing, and 2) the violin is magic. When you start off your practice feeling unwilling but acting willing, the violin can actually change how you feel! It’s how the violin says “thank you” for acting willing!

One way to get the ball rolling is to choose practicing “theme music” just like there is theme music for his favorite TV show. When he hears it, doesn’t he come get ready so he doesn’t miss his show? Choose a 5 minute piece that is not on the Suzuki CD, and when he hears the music, he has to go and get ready. Start with playing “hide and seek” with the music: he hides, you start the music, and when the music “finds” him, he has to get to his chart and be in rest position before the song ends. The song should be just ong enough that he can hear it start, put down whatever he is involved with and go get ready before the song is over. The point is that it is not your voice interrupting his play, AND the song gives him a sense of time/timing.

Jennifer Visick said: Nov 7, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1072 posts

Check out Ed Sprunger’s Book “Helping Parents Practice: Ideas for making it easier” —he has some very good principles.

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said: Nov 11, 2006
 8 posts

He needs to be self-motivated—but there may be ways you can encourage this. I see a parent here who does this by being a cheerleader; with my four-year old grandson, he prefers to teach me his lessons. He was having so much fun last night that he didn’t want to end his practice even though his arm was getting tired holding his violin.

said: Nov 16, 2006
 2 posts

I found it easiest to avoid the argument totally by making practice something that happens every day before other things happen. Three things happen before the rest of the day starts: getting dressed, eating breakfast, and playing the violin. He can choose in which order they occur, and sometimes I will give him a transition by asking if he or I should practice first. He only misses if he is sick enough not to eat, because of the expression “we practice every day we eat”. :) It works. Some days I’ve thought we’d skip practice because he was sick, and he said “after I’ve played violin, I want to….” I can choose the length of the practice, so if I know he isn’t feeling up to much, we have a very short practice. I like the “theme music” idea.

Suzuki mom to
DS (born April 2003)
DD (born Jan 2006)

said: Dec 12, 2006
 56 posts

Some ideas :

  1. buy a violin yourself and practice yourself. The kid will follow your example.

  2. Name your kid’s violin. My kid’s violin is “Thumbelina” , no prizes for guessing that its a 1/16 size. :D And my kid is taught to love and treasure the violin like a friend.

  3. Keep a record of what is done well during practice times, my kid simply loves it when i give a tick on the record book whenever a practice step is done well.

  4. Make it rewarding—give stickers when something is done well

  5. Make it fun—conjure games out of ordinary practice steps.

  6. Occassionally perform a “concert” in front of family members, like the grandmother, cousins etc….remind everyone to clap heartily and sincerely even if its just the e string concerto !

Talent is not born, but created

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