Resistance about practicing

said: Mar 16, 2007
 Violin, Guitar, Flute, Cello, Viola
120 posts

I have a violin parent who is in need of some help practicing with
their child. In fact, I have at least two parents right now
struggling with getting their children to practice, and they are
getting a lot of flack from their kids (tantrums, tears, refusal, and
rude behavior).

Good quality practicing cannot occur when there is resistance right
from the very beginning. I know the parents are frustrated because
they can’t even get a practice session started.

How do you all get your children to do something that they give you
resistance about? What do you do about solving this behavior (lying
on the floor crying about having to practice, for example)? I have
ideas that I have given parents before, but I would like to hear some
thoughts from those of you who have gone through this.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

said: Mar 16, 2007
 16 posts

I read, then reread your post. If I am interpreting it correctly, the child is throwing a tantrum prior to beginning practice. It seems, this is not a response to practicing, but simply a behavior problem. How does the parent already handle this? Does this happen at other times, say for homework or teeth brushing? I think this is an opportunity to find out what is happening with the parent child dynamic. This is the reason violin helps the parent child relationship. The parent learns how to communicate with the child and this should transfer to other aspects of life.

The first thing I would do is have the parent choose a time to talk to the child. This should not be in the middle or end of the tantrum. The time should be when both parent and child are enjoying time together. This talk should be during a nonstressful time, say, over icecream. The parent then discusses how she intends to practice. The child needs specifics, such as the time in the day’s schedule that they will practice, the legnth of the practice. The parent and child can post what they agree on on the fridge. When time comes, the schedule, not the parent says the it is practice time. If the child is not ready, tell the child to finish what she is doing and in five minutes she can begin practice. Show the child a timer and when it dings, it is practice time. Remember this is a behavior problem, not a violin problem. Always calm voices.

Next, practices for the beginner should be short, five minutes. Quit the practice before the child is tired or bored. Choose a time when the child is fresh, not sleepy or in the middle of another project. Turn off television and other distractions. Limit rewards for positive behavior for after practice (such as tv, video games, ice cream). Brag on your child’s good behavior to the other parent in front of the child. (I was so proud of Daniel. He practiced holding his bow hold and we played the bow game together. I had so much fun!) Always find something positve to say at each practice.

If the child still refuses to practice, remove from his possesion the thing he/she wishes to do instead. This is the commodity for cooperation. The distraction is a reward for practicing with a smile.

said: Mar 16, 2007
 Violin, Guitar, Flute, Cello, Viola
120 posts

If I am interpreting it correctly, the child is throwing a tantrum prior to beginning practice.

Yes, this is true.

It seems, this is not a response to practicing, but simply a behavior problem.

I think it is both, but I hear what you are saying.

I think this is an opportunity to find out what is happening with the parent child dynamic.

Absolutely!! Would you say exactly that to the parent?

The first thing I would do is have the parent choose a time to talk to the child. This should not be in the middle or end of the tantrum. The time should be when both parent and child are enjoying time together. This talk should be during a nonstressful time, say, over icecream. The parent then discusses how she intends to practice. The child needs specifics, such as the time in the day’s schedule that they will practice, the legnth of the practice. The parent and child can post what they agree on on the fridge. When time comes, the schedule, not the parent says the it is practice time. If the child is not ready, tell the child to finish what she is doing and in five minutes she can begin practice. Show the child a timer and when it dings, it is practice time. Remember this is a behavior problem, not a violin problem. Always calm voices.

Great ideas!

Choose a time when the child is fresh, not sleepy or in the middle of another project.

My concern is that with a working mom and tons of homework there will rarely be a time when the child is “fresh”. It needs to happen whenever the parent has the time for it, no? I wish the parent would be able to take this into account, but realistically I am not sure it will be possible. Also, there is an older sibling playing violin, too, so I think the younger one (tantrums) is the one who suffers timewise. I’ve mentioned to her before that she needs to spend equal time with them.

Turn off television and other distractions. Limit rewards for positive behavior for after practice (such as tv, video games, ice cream). Brag on your child’s good behavior to the other parent in front of the child. (I was so proud of Daniel. He practiced holding his bow hold and we played the bow game together. I had so much fun!) Always find something positve to say at each practice.

Love these ideas, too.
If the child still refuses to practice, remove from his possesion the thing he/she wishes to do instead. This is the commodity for cooperation. The distraction is a reward for practicing with a smile.

Lovely!

[color=red]One of my concerns is getting ideas across to the mom without making her feel that this is all her fault.

Thanks for your immediate reply!*[/color]

said: Mar 16, 2007
 16 posts

Thanks for your reply. I am just a mom who has attended a few workshops and institutes. My ideas (although I’d like to claim them) came from parent discussions at Institutes. There is always an eagerness on the part of all parents to find a way to encourage practice without tears. These tips worked for me, so I pass them on.

I have seen other parents get so defensive. It would be ideal if you could have a parent discussion with a few parents at the same time, so they know they are not alone in the war of wills. You might want to include a few “ringers” who have excellent parenting/practicing skills. If that is not possible, I think your best alternative might be a private parent discussion. You can open with how thankful you are that they have choosen you. Then what a great opportunity you have to work with a spiritied child/strong willed child. (I think research says that to be listened to, you need to give three to five positive statements before the person is willing to hear one negative comment). Then you can open the discussion to include how your lessons will go and what your expectations are. I think at that point she might be willing to consider some practicing suggestions. You could probably have a list (claim that you have started collecting ideas that work and have started putting them to paper). At the end you can enlist her help in reporting back which ideas work best for her child, so you can add them to the list. (One teacher did give me her ten best tips.)

I really don’t know how to deal with parents who cannot find the time to fit in 5 minutes (for the absolute beginner) of practice. It seems that so much time is wasted throughout the day. I often talk to parents who claim this. I have found they usually have not set up a predetermined time when practice will occur. Time somehow slips away. If the time is predetermined, then it’s not optional. I think its easier to claim to be busy than to stick to a schedule. My older daughter started practicing in the morning, just in case her after school activities (including violin orchestras, etc) and homework got in the way. This way I know that no matter what she has had at least 15-30 minutes of qualitiy practice time and will be prepared for the next lesson.

II think you’ll find a way to communicate with the parent and help calm their relationship. Good luck

Laura said: Mar 16, 2007
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

When I first read the initial post, the IMMEDIATE thing that jumped to my mind was the parent/child dynamic. I echo what was said earlier: this is not so much about violin as it is about how the parent manages to get the child to cooperate or accomplish anything positively.

While it’s not supposed to be torture, beginning young Suzuki children on an instrument has many parallels to introducing young children to other “non-optionals”. For example, going to daycare or preschool or kindergarten, going to the dentist, brushing teeth every day, putting away toys, saying please and thank-you, taking medicine, etc. Parents and teachers first have to establish that this isn’t a choice, it’s just what we’re going to do.

So once the “if” is no longer a question, it becomes a matter of “how”. There are a few parameters at play:

  1. Behavior/attitude—how respectful and obedient is the child in response to the parent, in general? Does the parent seem to have any effect on the child, or is the child “out of control”? If this is the predominant factor, clear and firm expecations and consequences need to be laid out—that is, establishing that certain behaviors are unacceptable, period. And if this continues, then such-and-such a discipline will be carried out. When that’s more or less better dealt with, it will be an easier experience to start dragging a violin into the picture. I try to make sure that basic behaviors and parent/child dynamics are in place before taking on new students. I consider that a part of their overall readiness to begin a Suzuki program.

[With reference to one of the other recent threads about disrespectful behavior, I believe that a lot of good basic child behavior was already in place during Dr. Suzuki’s times. It was part of their society and family culture. Children were brought up to respect and obey parents and teachers. This is no longer assumed to be the case in modern day America, in which absolutely everything caters to the children from day one.]

  1. Coming down to the child’s level—approaching things with games and songs, making things positive and encouraging, keeping practice times short and managable, having goals and rewards the child can relate to, etc. (I have one parent for whom things turned around completely once she enlisted her child’s stuffed animal as the practice “parent”!)

  2. Respecting the child’s needs—choosing an appropriate practice time, establishing a regular routine such that the child will become accustomed to the habit of practicing, etc.

I think that Suzuki really keeps us on our toes as adults—it forces us to find the best way into an individual child’s heart, such that they will respond towards lofty goals and eventually meet them. If there is no connection, there is no positive or productive relationship, so nothing will happen.

I am an exerienced Suzuki teacher but a relatively new Suzuki parent. But even I went through my share of pain and agony in the beginning over establishing good daily practice. It happens with just about everyone! But with enough perseverance, I’d like to say that we’ve gotten past that. We’re no longer fighting over WHETHER to practice. Conflicts may still creep up occasionally DURING practice, but that’s another matter altogether. :)

Those are the general concepts. There are no magic solutions, because what works for one child isn’t going to work on all others. Nor is what works today likely to work tomorrow. (And my post is getting long enough anyway!) Not that we shouldn’t share our specific ideas and experiences, but I think it never hurts to consider the bigger picture.

Laura said: Mar 16, 2007
 
Suzuki Association Member
Piano
358 posts

I should also add that it is common and normal for young children to express resistance over anything that is new, over which they feel they have no control. (Heck, even we adults are like that!) We need to consider it from their point of view.

So we often need to be as creative, resourceful, and entertaining as we can, all with the ultimate purpose of motivate children to accept what is new on their plates. Many great ideas have already been posted—I wholeheartedly concur!

Julia said: Sep 6, 2007
 Violin
2 posts

My child is required to practice. It is not her choice. I wake her up at 5:30AM and we start between 6:30 and 6:45. We have a list of things to complete and she is not allowed to leave for school until this list is completed. She doesn’t want to do this but rarely mentions that because she realizes that practicing is a requirement. I find that as my husband and I hold firm on requirements, our child will satisfy them. She is also required to keep her room picked up, wash the kitchen floor once a week, do homework, brush her teeth, take music lessons and participate in musical ensembles. I’m feeling that she should do more cleaning to make her practicing more effective.
Here are some comments for your parents:
(1) “What is your kid required to do?” If practicing is the only discipline in your child’s life, then practicing will be a lot more difficult than if they had other tasks that they also had to do.
(2) “Where does your child see examples of mastery?” Do they see it at school passing reading, writing and math? NO WAY. If you want to see mastery, you’ve got to look at the arts and sports where people push themselves to a standard of excellence that is extraordinary.
(3) “How much screen time is your kid allowed?” TV and computer time is the leaky bucky when developing concentration. When you watch you have instant gratification and when you have that it is a lot harder to be satisfied doing more difficult things like practicing. We have our kid earn her screen time by starting and ending the violin practice on time. She gets 1/2 hour a day.
(4) For most kids, the parents are the biggest influence on their progress with the violin because it is only the parents that can reinforce daily practice routines.
(5) Bribery works. Getting your child to practice is an extremely manipulative endeavor. Find out what your kid wants and let them earn it!

said: Sep 6, 2007
 Violin, Guitar, Flute, Cello, Viola
120 posts

Julia you make some excellent points. Thanks for posting them.

said: Sep 6, 2007
 21 posts

We limit TV as well. It makes a world of difference in our family life. I’d like to get rid of the TV altogether but my husband is not quite ready for that. Right now, the kids have 1 hour on Wednesday and unlimited on Friday afternoons and Saturdays. If their rooms are not clean, they don’t get to watch TV.

We have a goal of 1 hour of practice per day. We have good days and very bad days (like this morning), but it is a requirement. We decided together, however, what a reasonable amount of practice would be, taking into account homework, school schedule, sleep needs and family time.

Debbie said: Sep 13, 2007
Debbie MiViolin
138 posts

There is an amazing article in the new suzuki journal reguarding this topic!!!

said: Sep 14, 2007
 56 posts

I totally agree with purple-turlips, when you say that Dr Suzuki keeps us adults on our toes. We have to find our way into our child’s heart.

At the end of the day, i realise it is NOT at all about the violin, but how i have connected to my own child on a very personal level. We know what is required of each other and work as a team to achieve the goals. And I think both me and my child mature through the process.

BTW, not sure if any of you have attended the “ACTIVE PARENTING NOW” workshop. Do check out the internet on this workshop and attend one if there is one near your place !

Talent is not born, but created

This topic is locked. No new comments can be posted.

You must log in to post comments.

A note about the discussion forum: Public discussion forum posts are viewable by anyone. Anyone can read the forums, but you must create an account with your email address to post. Private forums are viewable by anyone that is a part of that private forum's group. Discussion forum posts are the opinion of the poster and do not constitute endorsement by or official position of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Inc.

Please do not use the discussion forums to advertise products or services