Long Term Motivation

said: Oct 29, 2009
 24 posts

I have a 7 year old who has been playing for about a year. We are still on book one and we’re playing Oh Come Little Children. His progress has been slow, his teacher also believes in establishing great technique, but I support her 100% in this. I have a tough time using long term motivation techniques. I’ve seen some of the parents talking about a practice for 100 days. I’ve tried that before, and well, 5 days into it he’s lost the 100 day concept and it doesn’t work as a motivatinal tool. He’s great with short term goals. For example, if I tell him I’ll play board, video, or card games with him for 20 minutes at the end of the evening if he makes it through a great practice session he will immediately perk up and have a great practice session. I have no problem with using this as we go along, but I think it isn’t helping him establish long term goals with his playing. I feel like long term goals are important because those are the goals that will help him become dedicated to playing and feel a very grounded sense of accomplishment toward playing the violin and not just focus on short-term goals that give him instant gratification.

He’s now looking forward to playing certain songs because we listen to the CD a lot together and he loves the fast song, like Perpetual Motion. He also looked forward to playing Oh Come Little Children for a long time as well, and we were able to encourage him practicing with Go Tell Aunt Rhody a lot because of this. His teacher and I were able to use this as a means to motivate him, but I feel this may be an ineffective tool to use because he may need to “hang out” on certain songs for a longer at times, so this may take away from his motivation to practice. I don’t want to get in the pattern of him using the future songs as a means of motivation, because I feel like we may run into some trouble because of this strategy eventually.

Am I placing too much value on the need for him to establish long-term goals? Should I just be grateful that he can be successfully motivated by short term privileges and goals? Do you feel like using advancing with the songs as a means of establishing motivation can become problematic? Or does anyone else have any suggestions or input that will help us with this?

I would appreciate responses from a combination of parents and teachers.

Thank You

Lynn said: Oct 29, 2009
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
173 posts

Kids live in the present! Right now, in the present, you are using effective strategies to get regular, happy practice, and you and your teacher are working together to develop a competent little player. All the long-term goal, dedicated, grounded sense of accomplishment stuff will come—as long as you continue with what you are doing. Which is establishing effective habits, cultivating self-discipline and an awareness of standards, and lots of experience with successfully meeting goals… such as moving on to the next song because he worked hard on mastering the teaching points of the song he’s on.

Did starting a 100 Day challenge mean he no longer got to play games with you after practice? No wonder he bailed! :D Any kind of long term challenge needs interim goals and day-to-day supports to sustain the motivation. That’s part of the strategy to get there! 100 Days is a great way to introduce the concept of working towards something over time, and actually getting there is a huge kick, because it gives him an experience he can look back on. Wow! Look what I did! But right now he has no prior experience of meeting challenging, far off goals to propel him forward, and the end point is too far away to be compelling. (Remember when you were a kid and 3 months of summer seemed to last forever?)

You’re doing fine! Sounds like you’re your off to a really solid start, and there’s really no need to worry.

said: Oct 29, 2009
 24 posts

Hi Lucy,

Thank you for your reply. Your words are very wise and encouraging.


Laurel said: Oct 30, 2009
Laurel MacCulloch
Suzuki Association Member
Langley, BC
120 posts

I started off with not-so-long-term goals with my sons. Instead of 100 days, we set a goal for a week. I printed off a calendar page, he put his sticker on each day after practise, and at the end of the week I had written “Ice cream!” or “Play with Dad’s race car set!” or “Video night!”—whatever little thing they could work toward. They were younger when I started this but still had the concept of how long a week was, so it wasn’t too far in the future for them.

When I did do 100 days, I wrote at the top of the chart which song they were working on. At the end I did the same, so they could see what progress they had made. (They worked toward bigger things, like “out for sushi” or “light-up shoes” or something else I sure wasn’t going to give them more often than every 3 mos!)

I remember it worked for about 3 charts worth (almost a year!) and then their interest waned… they had quite gotten into the habit of practising, however, so we didn’t really need the charts after that.


Diane said: Nov 4, 2009
Diane AllenViolin
244 posts

small steps = BIG RESULTS!

Just keep smiling! Take a video. Take another video a month later. Look and compare them together. Your son will see his improvement!

Women tend to view the big picture—men one thing at a time. Be your son’s big picture in your own goals and give him small goals that are the little steps in the grand scheme!

Videos of student violin recitals and violin tutorials.

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