2 kids—Need connection/moral support

Beth Eyre said: Jul 21, 2008
4 posts

I have a son who is 7 and a daughter who is 4 and we have been doing Suzuki violin since January (7 months). And it’s kicking my butt. I am hoping to connect with other parents who are doing 2 kids at once for moral support. How do you do it day afer day?

Please tell me I can do this! The hardest part is the discipline it takes on my part to gather the kids and get the ball rolling each day for their lesson. During the school year, we have only 4 group lessons a semester with a private lesson each week for each child. So I’m not meeting too many other Suzuki parents in person.

I called the office to ask if they knew of any other parents teaching 2 kids who they could refer me to and they said they don’t know anyone else(I’m the only nut). So I have turned to the online community for support and encouragement.

I did things kinda backwards and started violin lessons myself about a month ago and that has helped keep the momentum going.

Thank you!

said: Jul 22, 2008
 4 posts

I am in a similar situation. I have two girls, ages 5 and 8. We do piano. The 8 year old is starting her 4th year of piano and the 5 year old just started this summer. To get them both to play everyday (or twice a day) is a challenge to schedule some days, but we are surviving. The little one isn’t bad, but I am having a harder and harder time trying to help my 8 year old, because she plays so much better than I do!


Lynn said: Jul 22, 2008
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

I have several families in my studio that have more than one child involved in Suzuki, and it is a big assignment for Mom! I think sanity lies in what you have as your agenda when you start out. Forget learning to play the violin. If that happens (and, trust me, it will!) that’s nice; what you REALLY need to focus on and figure out right off the bat, is how to have practice happen so that you can bear to think of doing it again tomorrow—or even again right now, with the second child!
What about practicing is hard on you?

Beth Eyre said: Jul 22, 2008
4 posts

Thank you for your responses. I think I’m feeling overwhelmed and need to take things day by day or week by week. I’m feeling a little lonely in this endeavor so connecting with other parents is helpful. We went on vacation recently and missed 2 weeks of lessons and when we got back we had lost so much and it made me realize that daily practicing was a necessity if we were going to get out of this all that we can. There are times when I think, what have I gotten myself into! Everyday, for how many more years?!! Back to taking things week by week I tell myself. But oh the responsibility . . . . the discipline needed.

I like what you said about making lessons fun and the learning will come. I need to think more about this because that attitude will take us far. I read the book Helping Parents Practice (I can’t remember the author, it’s out on loan) and it really helped me look at things differently and calm down and be more patient.

The lessons for my son (age 7) are more fun. Things come easier for him and he can focus and pay attention. I’ve learned that doing lessons earlier in the day are best for us all because we are fresher and I have more energy for patience. I think it’s my daughter’s lessons which I dread. She’s four and I have to coax her into doing it. She wriggles around, and is slow to get her violin out of her case, she does the sigh thing, she get easily distracted, and she looses skills from one day to another. But good golly she is only 4!!

I feel so good when we finish our lessons, but sometimes I don’t look forward to them and now that you’ve made me think about it, I think it’s because of all the resistance I get from my daughter. I have this guilt that I started her too early. Maybe if I can find a way to make her lessons more fun, I won’t dread things so much.

Thank you for listening,

Lynn said: Jul 22, 2008
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Sounds like a regular old, ordinary four-year-old to me! If you said she was always attentive, focused, cooperative, willing and able to stand still for more than a minute, I’d start to think maybe you had some kind of alien child!

You know, there really is a reason why formal education starts at age 5. Even though 4yos can be taught, the idea of intentional learning is only just beginning to occur to them. Generally, they are still just doing the sponge thing, sucking it all in for as long as it holds their attention, then moving on. There is a big difference between being absorbed in an activity, and having the mental ability to consciously decide to maintain attention on purpose. I mean “having the mental ability” quite literally—developmentally, the brain connections that enable that kind of attention and self-control are still forming. What you get to do is help that along by providing her with daily opportunities to develop those skills!

Some things that parents find helpful:
2-3 short 5-10 minute sessions throughout the day rather than one long one, especially if the child has limited attention. They find that their kids are more willing when the sessions aren’t so taxing. If practice sessions immediately follow some other regularly occurring event, like right after breakfast, lunch and supper, it becomes part of a routine, and you won’t be trying to pull her away from play, which can be more difficult.

Other parents have a practice theme song, which they play to alert their kids to practice time. (Not one of the songs on the Suzuki CD; you want it to be unique.) Introduce, and practice responding to the theme music by playing hide-and-seek with the music; your daughter hides somewhere in the house, and when the music find her (she hears it) she has to be at her practice spot before the song ends. If she arrives on time, there is a treat waiting. A bit Pavolvian, to be sure, but hey, it beats nagging and grumping! I never cease to be amazed at what kids will do for a jelly bean!

If you ask a 4yo to “focus” or “pay attention”, they won’t have a clue what you are talking about. They also may equally clueless about what you have in mind when you tell them to “behave” or “cooperate”. Instead, describe exactly the behavior that constitutes “focusing” or “paying attention” or “cooperating” or “behaving”, and practice that behavior. Think of practicing the violin as the opportunity to practice the kinds of behaviors that will enable your daughter to learn. If you can really grasp the distinction, and forget trying to teach the violin directly, you have the freedom to invent a bazillion silly little games and activities to induce, and motivate those behaviors.

Christine said: Jul 23, 2008
 22 posts

I have 2 daughters (ages 10 and 8 ) who both play violin. My youngest started violin about six months after my oldest. The oldest is in Suzuki book 5 and my youngest is at the end of book 4. We’ve been doing this for going on 5 years—so it can work!

Right now, keep it fun and short. Set a practice goal and stop when you meet it. Resist the urge to add just one more thing to your practice because things are going well that day (I’m legendary for this.) Don’t compare your kids’ progress—chances are they learn and are motivated very differently. They’ll have their own strengths and weaknesses. Have fun and cherish this time when you get to learn so much about how your children think and learn.

I started violin when my kids did—and they both play much better than I do. However, we can play together now, and do quite frequently. We play in church on a regular basis, play duets and trios, and have fun making music together.

You didn’t mention what your kids are working on right now. Pre-twinkle stuff, twinkles, book 1? Has your teacher given you some fun practice ideas? I posted a list of games we’ve used in the past to help us get through practicing. Hope these help.

“6″ things a day—pick 6 things to practice. For example—10 perfect bow holds (counts as 1 thing), some drill work on the working piece, 3 review pieces, preview for next piece.

Birthday Candle—Light a birthday candle (make some type of holder- we used play dough) and have that be the length of the practice session.

Violin Tour—take the student “on tour” —playing something different in each room of the house (the big tome produced in the bathroom is very exciting!), in a different place in the yard, or at different neighbor’s or relative’s homes.

Student as Parent—Let the student be the parent for one day of practice. This can have mixed blessings because a parent will often see his own behavior reflected in that of the child’s.

25 minutes = 25 cents—practice for 25 minutes, earn 25 cents.

Recital—Plan a recital for stuffed animals, friends, family, etc. and make a program and decorate it. Practice for a week in preparation and let the child decide the pieces that will be played, what favorite cookies will be served, etc. Set up a stage and make a spotlight!

Dice—Roll a dice to determine the number of repetitions of a piece or for drill work (ex—play this section the number of times you roll on the dice.) Or, roll the dice to determine the piece to play. Ex—1 = Twinkle variation A, 2 = variation B, etc.) Buy a package of math dice—these dice have more sides with higher numbers.

Deck of cards—like the dice game,, only use cards. Assign pieces to each card. Have child pick cards to determine the pieces to play and the order.

Draw a name—write the piece names on pieces of paper. Put in a hat and draw to determine piece to play and order. Or put practice item on paper (bow holds, scales, etc.)

Silly Cards—make silly cards and let child draw a silly card as a reward. Ex—stand on one foot, stick out your tongue, sing the piece, play pizzicato. For example, if child needs to play twinkle and draws “stick out your tongue,” must play twinkle with tongue out the whole time. It’s quite amusing.

Make a video—regularly video tape your child playing violin. You’ll be amazed at the progress they make.

Chip Game—use “chips” (pennies, marbles, any kind of token). Set a goal—for example, keeping thumb bent while playing piece or keeping a good violin posture for entire piece. Give child and parent 5 chips each. If child meets goal, gets a chip from parent. If misses goal, parent gets a chip. Keep playing until someone has all of the chips.

Beth Eyre said: Jul 23, 2008
4 posts

Thank you for the replies. Great stuff. Things I need to hear.

Lucy, last night I had my daughter pick out a song on a CD and we are going to play it today to signal violin lessons. Great idea!

“Think of practicing the violin as the opportunity to practice the kinds of behaviors that will enable your daughter to learn. If you can really grasp the distinction, and forget trying to teach the violin directly, you have the freedom to invent a bazillion silly little games and activities to induce, and motivate those behaviors.”

I really like this sentence. I wonder if you could elaborate, and give me one short example of a game motivating a specific behavior of learning.
My daughter is working on the monkey song right now and learning to clap MSS for twinkle and say the letters. My son is working on the variations of twinkle.

I’ve actually come across that list of fun games and I think I may have printed it out but it has become lost on my desk. I just printed it out and I’m going to tape it to the wall. Thank you for posting it again.

“Don’t compare your kids’ progress—chances are they learn and are motivated very differently. They’ll have their own strengths and weaknesses. Have fun and cherish this time when you get to learn so much about how your children think and learn.”

This sentence really hit home. I guess they do learn and are motivated very differently, I hadn’t thought of it that way. I would love to hear an example or observation of how your own children learn differently.

The thing that is hitting home the most is that I have an opportunity in front of me to enjoy being with my kids and experiencing learning but often times I view lessons as a chore. And I think my ego is getting in the way. I was so deflated when we came back from vacation and both kids had pretty bad lessons with the teacher and she made a comment how they had slipped. Of course they slipped, they hadn’t touched their violin in 2 weeks. I need a different attitude about why we are learning violin. It’s not to get approval from anyone but the excitement of learning something new and the wonderful feel of music.

our teacher does fun practice games in our lessons, I just haven’t always incorporated them into our home lessons. The list you posted is going to motivate me though.

Thank you all for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. It’s helping me climb out of my lesson hole.


said: Jul 24, 2008
 44 posts

I have four kids who have all “graduated”from the Suzuki repertoire-at times I practiced with three kids at a time. I have a full-time job outside the home, so this was a big endeavor for us. However, I just saw this as a time every day to spend with each child individually. This was true quality time, not just me sitting and watching them participate in a sporting event. We actually interacted, talked to each other, touched each other, without distractions (well, almost without distractions.) Your practice times at this age can be very short; you will be able to grow into longer practices. Actually, practice will increase your “endurance.” Don’t despair, remember that this is something you want to do!

Laurel said: Jul 26, 2008
Laurel MacCulloch
Suzuki Association Member
Langley, BC
120 posts

I am both a Suzuki teacher and parent; I’m teaching my youngest (age 4) myself; my older son goes to a local teacher (although I taught him for the first 2 years).

With my willful youngest, I’ve really had to focus on a ONE POINT lesson/practise—and it’s harder than I think! I’ve had success with telling him straight out: Your job is to do X; my job is to do Y. And frankly, his current job is to “not whine and cry during practise”. My current job(s) are to “not get frustrated” and to “look only at the violin hand”—i.e., not pick at his bow hand or his foot position or anything else. I’ll fix them if I need to, but will only say things about his violin hand.

Another thing—I wait till later to expect them to get their violins and bows out of the case themselves. It’s one more task for them to do, and for the 4-year-old, it’s a challenge. So we’ll focus on that some other time; just now I set them up myself and (hopefully) off we go.

Good luck!


Beth Eyre said: Jul 26, 2008
4 posts

Thank you Laurel and Advocate for your replies.

I really like the idea of One Point lessons. I’ve been doing this with my daughter but what I really need to do, is do it for myself. My job definitely needs to be “go with the flow and not get frustrated.” I need to break things down for myself as well as my daughter!

I’m so glad you mentioned getting the violin out for your child. It takes my daughter FOREVER to get hers out and I feel like I’m going to die from old age and so I’m already impatient before the lesson begins. Good suggestion on just eliminating this for a while.


I read the list of fun practice ideas to the kids and they picked the recital one. Off they ran to put on their fancy clothes and then we had the big introduction, spotlight, clapping, bowing. They even peaked out from behind the door before their grand entrance as they saw their teacher do in her recital. They also played Monkey Song together! We probably spent an hour doing this. My son did most of the playing, but my daughter got in a lot of playing too but the most important part was that she was smiling and laughing the whole time. I even laughed too. The whole time, I worked really hard in keeping quiet about corrections, just clapping and yelling “Bravo, Magnifico!” My daughter even did some interpretative dances to almost every song that my son played. The whole thing made my heart swell.

We won’t be able to duplicate that magic every day but at least I’m closer to some kind of middle ground. Thank you for giving me the nudge that I needed.

I know everyone is so busy so I have really appreciated all the replies and suggestions and support.


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