not ready for lessons

Bobbie said: Jul 13, 2007
4 posts

My 4 year old has been taking violin lessons since the first week of May. At his last lesson, his teacher said she would like to go the month of July. And then see if he should continue with lessons, or possibly come back in a year, because he might not be “ready”. I’m a bit confused by this, as I thought that the Suzuki method could work with all children who are able to speak their “Mother Tongue”? If anybody has any advise or comments, please let me know. I’m trying really hard not to be discouraged or take things too personally.

said: Jul 13, 2007
 4 posts

My first reaction was, “maybe the teacher is not ready…” But perhaps that is too harsh.

I think you may need to talk with the teacher to better understand what her concerns are as to him being “ready.” My guess would be that she may find him “too young” and not willing to work around the distractions and silliness that is a part of being so young. Without talking with her, you will not know.

We were lucky to have a teacher who worked very well with my young daughter when she reverted backwards in her progress after her baby sister was born. Some kids forget the potty training, well, my daughter went back to Twinkle. Maybe you will have to look for another teacher who is interested in working with young children.

Good luck! I hope it works out for you. It sounds like YOU are “ready” which by default means your son is, too!

Rachel Schott said: Jul 14, 2007
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

LoriK I couldn’t agree more! (And I’m a teacher) Please Audone, don’t be discouraged. I hope you are in an area where there are lots of Suzuki teachers to choose from.

As long as YOU understand that it is your responsibility to practice daily (and aren’t being the parent who says ‘but they’re too young to have that much structure! :( ) then I think you may have a great experience with another teacher.

As far as not taking things too personally? There could be hundred other reasons the teacher singled you out as unready. Maybe she (or he, sorry guys) is trying to cut down on teaching load. The fairest thing we can do when we find ourselves overwhelmed is to prune the newest students, sadly, though it should still be done honestly. Maybe she is is just going through a difficult personal time and doesn’t feel she has the positive energy needed to guide a little one.

Sounds like having a little guy around is making her face a weakness in her own teaching. Rather than learn, she is passing on the opportunity in favor of ease.

Please post back. I would love to hear how it pans out. Keep up the good work!

Laura said: Jul 14, 2007
Suzuki Association Member
358 posts

I agree with everyone who has posted. There are so many possibilities, and none are necessarily to be taken personally.

May I throw in one more possibility? This might be the easiest suggestion to (mis)take personally. Audone, if this does not apply to you, please ignore it. I’m only contributing to the overall discussion, knowing that others are reading this who might find it relevant.

Okay, after all that set-up, what I want to suggest is: sometimes children are “not ready” for Suzuki lessons simply because they are unable to work productively in a one-on-one relationship with a teacher, due to poor behaviour or attitude.

No matter how friendly, positive, fun, creative, or engaging a Suzuki teacher can be, many children have had little or no previous experience being expected to follow instructions or respond directly to input from an authority figure—teacher, parent, or otherwise. This is often the case with parents who are too permissive, passive, or “friendly”, children who have been brought up on too much entertainment (lots of high-stimulating input, very little focused output), or children who lack adequate social experience relating one-on-one to other adults.

A major part of the “mother tongue” approach is the home environment. If children have not been brought up knowing their limits or practicing proper social skills, this can spell disaster in a private lesson setting. The best Suzuki teacher can only do so much if a child is not receiving the proper input from the parent(s).

If this is the case, the teacher will find it frustrating, and most of all, unproductive, to work with this student at the present time. A good Suzuki teacher may do everything in the bag to help this student. However, if only so much can be done, he or she may be suggesting to wait until it develops on its own, perhaps through a little more maturity or life experience (e.g. at school, where certain behaviors are not acceptable in the classroom).

Yes, it’s true that the Suzuki METHOD can work with all children. However, a Suzuki TEACHER may not be be able to work with a particular child if there are significant components missing from that student’s home environment, particularly in the areas of developing positive and respectful behavior. The home environment, which is equally if not not more important to the Suzuki method, is within the responsibility of the Suzuki PARENT. I believe this was simply a given in Dr. Suzuki’s culture and therefore was rarely a problem that he had to deal with.

Teachers would never want to outright say that a child is a “problem”. That would be awkward, negative, and also disrespectful of the child’s future potential. However, a wise parent who is told that their child is “not ready”, when they are clearly at the age of other beginning Suzuki students, may find it worthwhile to simply ask, “Do you believe this is because of my child’s behavior or attitude?” This may help break the ice into a sensitive issue, and allow both teacher and parent to discuss things proactively without risk of anyone being offended.

I’ve experienced this type of situation before. In one case, the parent stormed off, making every excuse for her child, and never came back. In another case, the parent took the opportunity to examine her child’s behavior and her parenting relationship with her child. She found many consistencies with the same poor behavior in other areas of the child’s life, and vowed to improve her parenting strategies. (It’s all a matter of attitude on the part of the parents and teachers, too!) Sometimes it takes something like school, or Suzuki lessons, or what have you, to expose weaknesses in a child’s upbringing—and as parents we need to be responsible enough to respond accordingly, for our child’s sake as well as everyone else’s.

Debbie said: Jul 15, 2007
Debbie Mi138 posts

Another possible explanation for your situation:

When I first started teaching 3-year-olds, I was a bit unsure if it would work out or not. I was also very afraid to be firm about anything. I just did not want to officialy put into stone that everything would for sure work out, and I was very scared as it was all new territory for me.

Now that I have more age and experience, I don’t treat things in quite so hesitant a manner. But it took a while for me to get here.

Luckily, most of my students had never been exposed to larger Suzuki programs (not that I think exposure is bad, but in this situation it was actually a blessing!). They did not realize that I should have been more firm, and so they stuck with me. Happily everything ended up working out much better than I ever expected.

I’d say, give it a try before automatically finding a new teacher, especially if she is a newer teacher. If she is a well-established teacher already and still approaches young students this way, than definately re-think your options or have a long conversation with her to find out why.

Good Luck!

Debbie said: Jul 15, 2007
Debbie Mi138 posts


I just re-read your post and realize that my advice really doesn’t fit with your
problem, as it is not the teacher just being hesitant, but she actually wants you to quit lessons and wait a year.

I do not think quitting is a good option. One of the whole points of starting children when they are 3 is so that violin becomes a normal part of their lives and they just are used to it always being there! Quitting is not usually the way to achieve this. With some students I have resorted to 15 minute lessons in an order to help them when it seems like they are “not ready”.

The things the other posters said are great!

Good Luck!

Bobbie said: Jul 16, 2007
4 posts

Thank you all for your advise and suggestions. They have been wonderful and very helpful. I have to admit that I am a parent who takes things way too seriously. This started out as a chance for some structure and one on one time with my son. He’s always enjoyed music (what kid doesn’t). I got a viola for Christmas, and he was so fascinated with it. To actually hear music being made (even though it wasn’t very good music) was pretty cool to him. I wanted to get him started in some kind of music, so I could maintain the interest he had. And when I would ask him things that he wanted to learn how to do, “play the violin” was always the first thing he would say. So, it’s gone from seeming like a fun mommy/son venture to a stress filled too much pressure on him, am I the worst parent in the world or what kind of thing. I have to say that every time we (my husband and I) put noticeable emphasis on something, my son rebels. This has been from toilet training to writing his name (he is successfully doing both now, btw). But now it looks like we’re down the same road with the violin.
I’m stuck between thinking the teacher was saying the right thing, to thinking what kind of lesson will it be for my son if he is shown he can quit something, to thinking I really need to lighten up…he can tell it’s not fun anymore. And maybe stepping back and going for a much more relaxed approach to things.
Sorry, I’m getting a bit long winded here.
The teacher, didn’t seem to be quite firm enough. She uses a higher pitched, sing-song like voice, that I don’t think my son responds well too. Nobody else talks to him like that. He’s the only child of parents in their 30s, and his daycare teachers don’t approach him in that manner. Anyway, his last lesson was better, she seemed quite a bit more strict (?) with him, and he seemed to respond a LOT better to it. She made the “not ready” comment at the start of that lesson. And at the end of the lesson, she seemed very pleased with him. I will see how this weeks lesson goes. Hopefully I can put all of this emotion to rest.
Sorry to be so long-winded. That’s not the norm for me. Any continued advise or suggestions would still be REALLY helpful.

said: Jul 16, 2007
 38 posts

A couple of things that may (or may not!) help…

I am a Suzuki violin teacher and also a mom. (Also in Utah!) I started my daughter when she was a few months shy of four. We had a tough few months in the beginning as well- she always responded well in lessons, but things were very hard at home. It came down to a very firm approach at home that worked well for my daughter, but might not owrk for other families. I sat down with my daughter and told her that violin was something that we were going to do. I told her I knew that it was hard, that it was frustrating, and that there were lots of times that she didn’t want to practice, but that we were going to do it anyway. Somehow, once she knew it wasn’t negotiable, things started going a bit better. As we’ve gone along, we’ve had other talks about how being happy at practice time makes things go better. I have a practice chart that I give out to students who are giving parents fits that has a great big smilie face on it and says “I practice with a smile.” Their only practice assignment for the week is for both mom and student to be pleasant to each other at home. Mom get to decide if student gets a sticker on the chart for a good practice day, and vice versa.

I have more ideas, but I have to run. Be back later with a few more ideas.

Bobbie said: Jul 18, 2007
4 posts

Thank you everybody, for the encouragement, suggestions, and really just being there. We had another lesson on Tuesday, and although my son acted like a really wild 2 year old instead of the normally intelligent, pleasant, 4 and 1/2 year old that he is. Things went okay. I had a great lesson, he learned that if you’re not going to cooperate and follow directions you get to watch. The teacher asked him if he wanted to learn to play the violin and if he wanted her to teach him, to both of these he said yes. So, she asked me some questions about his schedule, when does he do best with practicing, etc. And said she may possibly change him to an earlier lesson time in September. She also said, that right now we’re just going to work on getting him to follow directions, and if some violin playing happens with that it’s a bonus. That sounded good to me. And I am trying to relax, keep things at home short and “with a smile” and listen to him to know when he is DONE, with practice. As well as letting him know that violin is a privelage not a chore.

Thank you all again. You’ve been wonderful.

said: Jul 30, 2007
 38 posts

audone, are you sure you’re not my student? :D Your son sounds very much like a just turned four year old that I just started to teach.

Remember that music lessons for young children are not just about learning music. Many children this age, (most?) have never been in a formalized instruction setting, where they are expected to take instruction from someone other than mom or dad. Starting 3 year olds is particularly hard because most haven’t even been in preschool yet! There is so much more to violin lessons in the early years than just making music. They are learning to control their bodies, their emotions, and their responses to other people. They are learning what is and isn’t appropriate. They are learning to take directions from other people and how to repsond in a social situation. And of course, there’s things like focus!

With the little boy I previously mentioned, I have kept my expectations very low. He transferred from another teacher because things weren’t going well, and it took him a few weeks before he would even do anything I asked hom to do. I have had to be incredibly creative, and break steps up into samller fragments than I ever have before, but things are starting to fall into place. He is now following most of my instructions, and I’m starting to get 10-15 minutes of good focus out of him.

One thing that was a turning point was this little boy coming to observe me teaching other lessons. It helped him get over his initial shyness, but it also showed him how violin lessons are supposed to run. I have a studio with lots of twinklers, and lots of young boys, and having him come observe someone just a little bit further along than he was who was behaving appropriately did wonders. I also, (with his mom’s permission,) didn’t hesitate to tell him that “This is not the way we act in violin lessons.” A matter of fact approach seemed to work a lot better with him than pleading, bribing, or begging. (Although a well timed Spiderman sticker has gone a long way at times!)

I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t give up. I have had several teacher trainers remind me that we are building good human beings through music. Being able to play the violin well is wonderful, but having a good heart is even more important.

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