Category Archives: Parental Involvement

S. Hunt: Praise Can Hurt

Praise is a two edged sword. Praise can nurture, but praise can hurt and handicap.
This is how I learned through a bad mistake, to praise with caution for success.

Many years ago, in my first year of teaching, non-identical 6 year old twin girls arrived at my studio for their first Suzuki viola lessons. Bella, a willowy, blue eyed blond, stepped forward and we played some beginner games together. I was delighted to see that she was going to be a very fast learner.

Having trained conscientiously, I was careful to use specific, non-personal praise. Being very careful to talk to Bella’s body rather than to her, I complimented her feet on how quickly they moved from rest position to playing position. Her bow hand got praised for making a nice soft rabbit.

“What a perfect bunny rabbit your hand has made. Your clever thumb is in just the right place, and just look at those lovely round hugger fingers.” We shook hands to the first Twinkle rhythm. “Wow, your hand did that perfectly, Bella. Well done!” Her lesson finished with a copybook bow and smiles all round.

Then it was Andrea’s turn. She was shorter than her sister with intense brown eyes and dark hair. As she stumped forward for her lesson, I thought to myself,  “On dear, I’m going to have to be careful here.”

Andrea fulfilled expectations while she made heavy weather of working out the difference between rest feet and playing feet. The rabbit, that we laboriously made together was more like a stiff little fox. I was at a loss as to what to praise, then inspiration struck.

“Your feet almost found playing feet that time. My, they are working hard. Well done, Andrea’s feet.”  “Look at the rabbit that your bow hand has made. Your hugger fingers are really trying to hang down like rabbits teeth. They are really paying attention to what we are telling them to do.”  We finished with a serious slightly awkward bow and the family trotted off home with practice assignments for the week and instructions for Mum to praise Andrea for trying, even if she didn’t quite succeed. “Yes,” her mum said, “Everything is easy for Bella. Andrea has to work so much harder.”

Next week, I was in for a surprise. Clever Bella appeared reluctant and halfhearted.I attempted to encourage her by telling her how quick she had been at her first lesson. She diffidently repeated what we had done and was obviously uneasy about trying anything new. On the other hand, little Andrea was eager to show me how hard she had worked. She was still finding it a bit of a challenge to make her hands do what we wanted, but I praised her fingers for trying.

So it went from week to week. Andrea continued to work with determination. Within two years, she joined the viola group on stage at the Suzuki National concert. “What a worker that Andrea is.” her mother would say.

Bella had long ceased to co-operate in lessons and mostly stood passively eyes averted. Her mother and I tried every trick we could think of. “Come on, Bella. You can do it. Why don’t you try, just this once, please.” After a year, Bella had switched to the cello in the hope that she would find it easier.  Her cello lessons lasted only a month.

Long after she had stopped lessons, I had puzzled about this ghost of a child, who while obviously quick and potentially talented, refused to try anything remotely challenging.

That was until I came across research by Carol Dweck at Stanford University. Dweck has shown conclusively that kids who are praised for “being talented” do less well subsequently than kids who are praised for “being a hard worker.” The “hard workers” have everything to gain in trying hard, but the “talented kids” had a lot to loose by not reproducing their good results.

This knowledge has made a huge difference to my teaching. In my studio, praising hard work and focus keeps us all moving in the right direction. Even my challenging pupils are beginning to work productively. On the odd times that I slip up and praise results and talent, you can bet your bottom dollar that practice will be skimped and the next lesson will be hard work.

Please remember, praise is a two edged sword. Praise can nurture, but praise can hurt and handicap.
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Sue Hunt was born in Bermuda and now living in the UK. She studied music at Darting College of Arts and the Conservatorium van de Vereniging Musieklyceeum, in Amsterdam.
Mother of 2 suzuki kids, now grown up, Sue teaches a small group of violists in South West London.
Sue is passionate about how the Suzuki Method develops the individual, helping to create great brains, healthy bodies and beautiful souls.

After many years of research into the best ways to help parents and children get full value from music lessons, she started the website, www.musicinpractice.com with the purpose of helping families to practice happily and productively together.

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S. Hunt: Music isn’t a Race

Learning an instrument is not a race. In music education, reaching higher playing standards is not about winning but about doing quality work. These strategies help me calm the competitive element in my music studio.

Parents and teachers who really understand, avoid asking questions comparing each other’s children such as, “What book are you in?” or,  “What music are you working on?” I am more interested in knowing what aspect of playing you are working on. This can mean posture, tone, shifting, et cetera. No matter where our children are in the repertoire, we are always aiming to bring them to higher levels of performance, whatever music they might play.

You can encourage this in your studio every time you put on a recital. Get each child to choose music at least half a book back from the one they are currently working on. Announce to the audience what specific playing technique the child has been working on. Ask children to focus on how beautifully they can play their music and not on level of difficulty of what music they are going to play. For instance, if a child has been working on a relaxed bow hold, I ask the audience to recognize and appreciate the hard work and effort this child has put into it. The music is the vehicle to demonstrate how well the child can perform this specific skill.
Choosing music from an earlier book allows us to play it more beautifully by adding more layers of skill, which we might not have been able to do when it was new.

On informal occasions, such as group music lessons where children have individual performance opportunities, I get them to play one of their earlier pieces. When the applause has died down, I encourage the other children to mention one good thing that they have noticed about the performance. They are getting really good at noticing improvements in posture and technique. It is lovely to see the performer stand slightly taller with each sincere compliment.

Sometimes, I get each parent at the group music lesson or concert to write down 3 good things that they noticed about each performer’s playing. I then compile the comments into affirmation certificates for each child. We present these at private lessons with the words, “You are such a hard worker!” I’m always delighted by the child’s extra efforts in the rest of the lesson.

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Sue Hunt was born in Bermuda and now living in the UK. She studied music at Darting College of Arts and the Conservatorium van de Vereniging Musieklyceeum, in Amsterdam.
Mother of 2 suzuki kids, now grown up, Sue teaches a small group of violists in South West London.
Sue is passionate about how the Suzuki Method develops the individual, helping to create great brains, healthy bodies and beautiful souls.

After many years of research into the best ways to help parents and children get full value from music lessons, she started the website, www.musicinpractice.com with the purpose of helping families to practice happily and productively together.

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S. Hunt: The Right Kind of Praise

Praise is a good thing, isn’t it?  We’re always told that the children should be praised. After all, we want to improve their self-esteem. BUT, did you know that praising your children for their intelligence can make a them anxious and unprepared to deal with failure, creating a generation of Praise Junkies.
Yes, praise IS good but it’s all about using the right kind of praise.
Sue Hunt on Praise 1a

Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck, researchers at Columbia University, conducted studies on over 400 fifth graders in comparing children who are praised for their intelligence and with those who are praised for their focus and hard work. One randomly selected group was told, “You must be smart at these problems.” The rest of the students were told, “You must have worked really hard on these problems.” Subsequent tests the students who are praised for their effort to improved their scores by at least 30% of the students who are praised for intelligence actually got worse by 20%. When children were allowed to choose a task, those who are told they were smart chose questions they knew they would do well on, whereas those who are told that they had worked hard chose harder tasks that they thought they might learn something from.

Next the students worked on some really challenging problems. Again they found the students who had been praised to their intelligence, lost confidence in their ability and they soon began to struggle. When the problems were made easier again these students still did poorly, whereas the students who are praised for their efforts and focus continued to improve.

Finally when they were asked to report on their scores anonymously, almost 40% of the intelligence praised students lied. Apparently they were so concerned with their performance that they couldn’t admit mistakes while only 10% of the students praised for their focus and hard work embellished their results.

Here are some useful strategies you can use with your own children. Make sure that you praise the focus rather than the results.  With a little work your repertoire will grow.

No. 1:  You really studied for your test and the marks show that you really read the notes, and tested yourself on them. What a result!

No. 2:  I like the way you kept on trying all sorts of strategies on that puzzle until you finally cracked it.

No. 3: That was a long hard bit of homework. You stayed there and gave it all you had. You really focused and kept right on working till it was completed. I’m proud of you.

No. 4:   I love the way you have taken on that tough project. It will take a lot of work what with all that research and practice you will need to do. Think of all the exciting things you are going to learn along the way.

No. 5:   For those students who gets top marks without trying: That piece was way too easy for you.  Let’s do something more advanced that you can really learn from.

No. 6:   Finally, what about the student who doesn’t do too well even though he works hard? I liked the energy and work you put in. Let’s have another look at it and see if we can make sense of what’s still puzzling you.

We want to keep students focused not on any “natural” ability that they may or may not have, but on the process of learning – their ability to stay with it and figure things out.  It is not with ability, but with focus and tenacity, that your children’s horizons will become truly unlimited.

“I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance.  It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”  John D Rockefeller, the world’s first billionaire, who was famous for being able to focus so deeply that no one could interrupt him for up to 5 minutes at a time.

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Sue Hunt was born in Bermuda and now living in the UK. She studied music at Darting College of Arts and the Conservatorium van de Vereniging Musieklyceeum, in Amsterdam.
Mother of 2 suzuki kids, now grown up, Sue teaches a small group of violists in South West London.
Sue is passionate about how the Suzuki Method develops the individual, helping to create great brains, healthy bodies and beautiful souls.

After many years of research into the best ways to help parents and children get full value from music lessons, she started the website, www.musicinpractice.com with the purpose of helping families to practice happily and productively together.

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S. Hunt: 10 Tips for Making Violin Lessons Fun

10 Tips for Making Violin Lessons Fun

Please imagine:
Your music school invites interested parents to present them their programs for preschoolers.
You have only 4 or 5 minutes …  to tell them about the most important points for Suzuki lessons and practice. Please look at the video below.

10 Tips for Making Violin Lessons Fun

Music teaching lessons can be expensive.  How can we make sure that it is a worthwhile investment.  We all know that music teaching lessons can make you brighter because of the workout that music gives the brain. 
Hang on a moment…… music by itself don’t make you brighter, it is the practice that does the trick. So, how do we stack the deck in favor of your child benefitting from music teaching lessons?

There are many things which you can do to optimse the process. The following 10 points will help make the most of your investment in music lessons.

No. 1: A small child will learn more easily with the help of a loving practice partner. Your job is to support and encourage your children, not to criticise.

No. 2: Attend your child’s music lessons and make notes. You can use these to plan practice sessions.  If you write each task on a card, you can use them for lucky dip games.  These really help empower children.

No. 3: Set goals. Keep a record, in practice book, of what you have done in each practice.  Your teacher will give you useful feedback during music lessons.  It will help, to put assignments on separate cards and write the practice points on them, as they come up.

No. 4: Keep the practice time short. You don’t want to strain vulnerable young muscles, or to make children feel trapped in a situation, from which they can’t escape.  Aim to stop before the first yawn.  If your child wants more, you can do another mini practice later in the day.

No. 5: Move at each child’s pace. Learning an instrument isn’t a race. Your children are children and when you remember this, it makes it easier not to pile on the pressure.  Focus on all the wonderful things that your children are achieving through music lessons and celebrate with them.

No. 6: Set aside time for reviewing old pieces. Children improve their musical ability by repeating what they already know.  The brain and body, both need about 10.000 correct repetitions to turn knowledge into ability.  What is learnt in early music lessons, is an important foundation for further development.

No. 7: Plan regular practice times. You will find it easier to make practices happen if they are linked to a regular event in your family’s daily life.  After breakfast is a great time as everyone is generally still fresh.

No. 8: Ask, don’t tell. Children who are engaged in practice, stand a greater chance of internalizing what has been taught in music lessons, unlike those who are just ordered around.

No. 9: Have a good collection of music practice games to hand and use them regularly. Children almost always respond better to games than to dry instruction.  Everyone learns better, when they are enjoying the process. There are lots of music practice games for making music fun.

No. 10:  Praise, praise, praise. Healthy praise is honest and directed towards your children’s efforts and focus, rather than the clever things they can do. Listen to how your teacheruses praise, during music lessons and copy at home.

Good luck with implementing these points. They will take you a long way, towards making music teaching lessons fun and profitable for both you and your children.

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Sue Hunt was born in Bermuda and now living in the UK. She studied music at Darting College of Arts and the Conservatorium van de Vereniging Musieklyceeum, in Amsterdam.
Mother of 2 suzuki kids, now grown up, Sue teaches a small group of violists in South West London.
Sue is passionate about how the Suzuki Method develops the individual, helping to create great brains, healthy bodies and beautiful souls.

After many years of research into the best ways to help parents and children get full value from music lessons, she started the website, www.musicinpractice.com with the purpose of helping families to practice happily and productively together.

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S. Beamer: The Parent-Child Relationship

The Parent-Child Relationship

by Sharron Beamer
[reprinted from Suzuki Word magazine, Jan.-Feb. 1985]

‘I know how to nurture my child by love. But how do I get him to practise?’

Parents often feel that these two requirements of the Suzuki Method present them with a contradiction. ‘What do I do when he refuses to practise? Do I force him? Is that nurturing him with love?’

The basis of the parent-child relationship, or of any human relationship, should be mutual respect. For too long, respect was a one-way street. Parents demanded respect from their children, but didn’t feel obliged to consider the child’s feelings or wishes.

Today the pendulum sometimes swings too far the other way. Parents feel they have to follow the child’s every lead and indulge every whim for fear of repressing him or losing his love.

The ideal is for the parent to respect what is highest and best in the child’s character, not to indulge what is petty and capricious. Parents who are firm and give their child loving guidance earn the child’s respect. They also have a right to insist that the child treats respectfully the serious and noble work they are undertaking together; the development of the child’s character to the fullest and best, enabling the child to realise his potential for achievement and independence. The ultimate aim isn’t to dominate the child, but to liberate him.

What is liberation? Maria Montessori, another great educator and champion of the child, said: ‘It is not possible to speak of free choice when all kinds of external stimuli attract a child at the same time and, having no will power, he responds to every call . . .‘ This child is not free. ‘He is .. . a slave to superficial sensations.’

Most children have some modes of behaviour that are neither attractive nor helpful to their development. A woman who saw me hugging a little pupil of mine whose behaviour was, more often than not, silly and irritating, said: ‘You must be a saint! I don’t see how you could cuddle that dreadful child.’ She didn’t see what I was seeing. I, too, saw the child’s behaviour as undesirable, but I didn’t see the child as undesirable. I truly feel all children are wonderful, almost magical people, and of a higher order than adults. I believe with Wordsworth that children are born ‘trailing clouds of glory’.

Bad behaviour is the dross that hides the gold. Not to see the gold in the child is to stunt it irrevocably. It’s like depriving a plant of sunlight and when it fails to bloom to say: ‘See, I told you it was no good.’

Parents are right to fear that to dominate the child will crush his spirit. They should also fear that to leave a child without guidance and correction is to leave him undeveloped or badly developed.

Correction, criticism and expectation should have only one aim — to elevate the child. . . to remove the dross. They should never be used to hurt, or humiliate. We must help the child to develop concentration and regular work habits so that he can progress. This leads to ability and ability leads to self-respect and independence. To me this is the great aim of the Suzuki Method. The ‘perk’ is that the child can also play the violin.

Back to our original question: ‘But how do I get him to practise?’ This is something that parents have to work out for themselves in terms of what is compatible with their own natures and what works best with their own child. However, here are some guidelines that many parents have found helpful:

Have a regular practice time. This eliminates the ‘Shall we practise now?’ problem. . . it’s 8am (or whatever) so of course we practise. Don’t answer the telephone, or be available to anyone else during this time. I had four ‘Suzuki children’ of my own to practise with. Each child knew that they shouldn’t dare to interrupt when I was practising with another. Each child’s practice time was sacred.

Make practice an inevitable part of your child‘s daily routine. It should be as regular and natural as brushing your teeth, eating meals, etc.

Enjoy the process and take seriously what you are trying to achieve. Don’t call the child to practice in a weary or angry tone of voice. Speak with enthusiasm and pleasant anticipation. Don’t think his efforts are ‘cute’. That’s condescending.

Respect the child’s achievements. Playing the violin is complex. Acknowledge the many skills the child has acquired before leaping in to correct a fault, e.g. ‘Bow hold is so good, can we get the left- hand shape just as good?’

Respect yourself. Don’t put up with any nonsense and don’t feel guilty about it. You are doing this for your child. You are a caring parent who is putting a lot of time, effort and money into this study. You have a right to insist that your child makes the most of it. My two younger children went through a period of playing me up during practice. Finally I told them firmly to put their violins in rest position, bow, and say: ‘Thank you for giving me your valuable time. I will try to be worthy of it.’ At the end of practice they had to bow and say: ‘Thank you for helping me.’ This also had the effect of reminding me to conduct the practice in a way that was worthy of thanks. Be on the side of what’s best in the child. I have never met a child that preferred a person who indulged his immature behaviour.

When correcting, use a friendly matter-of-fact tone rather than an angry or critical one. A three-year-old pupil said to me: ‘No, I don’t want to,’ just to see what would happen. Without any change in my cordial manner, I said: ‘Annie, when your violin teacher asks you to do something, you don’t say “I don’t want to”. You say “I’ll try”.’ She looked surprised and said: ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ When I asked again she said: ‘I’ll try’ — and she did try. We had a delightful lesson.

Keep correction impersonal. It is not necessary to say: ‘You didn’t keep your little finger on the bow.’ You could say: ‘Little finger isn’t doing his job. Could you keep a check on him?’ Little finger may be in the wrong, but the child is not.

Realise that you benefit too. You miss out on a lot if you think it is all giving to the child. If your own development was neglected, you get a second chance to grow with your child. I have always felt that my basic nature was feckless and self-indulgent, but in order to help my children I became organised and conscientious. For the sake of children I have achieved many things that I could never have achieved for myself.

Be forgiving. Parents, as well as children, behave badly sometimes. Don’t be too demoralised. It happens to us all. It is a gradual process of mutual refinement. Use each practice as an opportunity for you, too, to improve and to gain insight, intuition, imagination and patience.

My answer to the opening question is this: nurturing a child by love is getting him to practise. The parent’s job is to find out how to do this. If a child is handled correctly he comes to enjoy the discipline and routine and most of all the achievements that come with regular practice. Remember, we have our thoughts and our hearts fixed on long term goals. Dr Suzuki has the children chant to their parents: ‘. . . everything depends on the parent. Father, Mother, please guide us.’ Maria Montessori said: ‘I have seen the child as he ought to be and found him better than I could ever have supposed.’ 

 

sharronSharron Beamer was introduced to the Suzuki Method through her four children who started Suzuki violin lessons at their school. In 1978 she became a Suzuki teacher and was among the first intake of students to do the Suzuki teacher training offered by the BSI. In 1987-1988 she spent 6 months in Matsumoto, Japan studying with Dr.Suzuki himself. Dr. Suzuki called his method “Ability Development” and Sharron has always been inspired by his message that ability is not something one must be born with, but that it is something that everyone can develop. Her primary concern is to help her students to realize that they can develop ability, and to demonstrate how to go about it.

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S. Beamer: Dear Suzuki Parent

Dear Suzuki Parent

By Sharron Beamer
[reprinted from Ability Development magazine]

Welcome to the Suzuki family. This advice is based on nearly twenty years of teaching experience. I offer it to you only because I know it works.

BEFORE THE LESSON
It is essential, if you have not already done so, that you read ‘NURTURED BY LOVE’ by Shinichi Suzuki.
On the way to the lesson, discuss cheerfully with ‘our child what you expect he will do during the lesson. ‘Your review piece is really sounding good. I’m looking forward to hearing it.’ ‘I wonder if your teacher will notice how good you are getting at keeping your eyes on the bow.’ ‘Will naughty Mr One” remember to stay on the E string?’ etc.
Cut the child’s fingernails. Take him to toilet.

DURING THE LESSON
Bring a notebook (the same one each week), a pen and your diary. Check the notice board for workshops, concerts and special dates. Keep careful notes on what (and how) you are to practice.

Ask, if anything is unclear. Keep violin, music, note book, foot mat (and anything else you need) together in your ‘kit,’ a large, heavy duty shopping bag, or similar.

Unless strictly necessary, it is best if you don’t speak to your child during the lesson. The child should have only ONE teacher at a time. Sometimes your child may do something to irritate or embarrass you. Don’t worry. Your teacher may have four children of her own at home, and has probably taught hundreds of children over the years. Teachers have seen it all before. It’s best for the teacher to cope with the child in his or her own way. It is necessary for the child and teacher to form a relationship free from interference. Your teacher is quite capable of setting limits. It is important that the lessons are friendly and enjoyable. If teachers seem to be indulging a child it is for a good reason. It’s not because they can’t be firm.

On the other hand, if a teacher speaks sharply to your child, don’t be alarmed. She’s not really angry.
It’s calculated to stop the child from indulging in negative habit patterns, and the friendship for the child doesn’t alter. Please do let the teacher know if illness or trauma means they need to be especially sensitive to the child on some days.

AFTER THE LESSON
Compliment the child on what he or she did well. For example: ‘I liked the way you listened carefully to everything your teacher said’ or, ‘Wasn’t your bow hold good today! We’re really worked on that, haven’t we? All your hard work has paid off.’
If the child behaved badly it’s counter-productive to make a comment like: ‘You were so naughty.’
‘What a bad girl.’ ‘I was ashamed of you.’ It’s better to say, ‘I don’t like silliness.’ Attack the behaviour, not the child.

NO LESSON?
If a child is persistently uncooperative, a wise teacher will not get into a power struggle and reward the behaviour with lots of attention and cajoling. Your teacher will likely stop the lesson and send him or her home without the lesson sticker. Don’t worry and don’t scold. Take the child away quickly in a firm, but matter-of-fact manner. NO LESSON should always equal NO ATTENTION. Don’t worry if the child is crying. This is a good sign. Explain that you are disappointed but that you are looking forward to next week when you think he will remember that he is there to do his work, to pay attention, etc.

Bad behaviour is usually the result of one of two things: BAD BEHAVIOUR GETS ME LOTS OF ATTENTION, or I’M TOO AFRAID OF FAILURE TO TRY.

If it’s the former, WITHDRAW ATTENTION. Please don’t laugh if your child is rude or silly. Don’t rush to his defence with an excuse. ‘He’s had a bad day at school.’ ‘She’s very tired.’ Avert your gaze from the child and let the teacher deal with it. The time to tell the teacher your child is not on form is before the lesson. We don’t want to send the child the message that if he has had a bad time he is justified in giving other people a bad time. We could all be wonderful if we were never tired, ill, frustrated or annoyed. Bad behaviour remains bad behaviour, whatever the provocation. It isn’t easy for anyone of any age, but character is developed by end eavouring to do the right thing under all conditions. If it is the latter, please be aware of your comments to your child and the quality and consistency of your practice. Does your child feel unprepared? Does he fear his efforts will meet with criticism from you rather than encouragement and delight?

HOME PRACTICE
This is the golden rule: YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE ATTENTION TO. If you want your child to be cooperative, praise him when he is cooperative even if that is only two percent of the time. CATCH HIM DOING SOMETHING RIGHT. If your child can’t maintain a bow hold but manages to get through one bar of music before the bow hold disintegrates, say delightedly, ‘Your bow hold was perfect while you played E-2-2! Can you keep it that good while you play the next bit?’ If he can’t, offer encouragement rather than criticism or contempt. ‘The fingers need more practice. Let’s remind them what to do and try again.’ It is you and the child as a team trying to coordinate fingers, arms, posture, etc., together. Be your child’s ally, not his adversary.

LISTEN TO THE TAPE, LISTEN TO THE TAPE, LISTEN TO THE TAPE!
If you are not playing the Suzuki recording every day, you are not participating in the Suzuki method. Listening to the tape is vital.

HOW MUCH PRACTICE?
Dr Suzuki often said, ‘You don’t have to practice every day. Only on the days you eat.’ No parent has ever said to me, ‘We’ve had such a busy week that I just didn’t have time to feed Judy this week. I’m going to feed her double next week to make up for it.’ For the well being of your child, so that he can realise his potential and have a positive self image, please don’t embark on this if you are not fully committed.

Dr Suzuki also said, ‘Never rush. Never rest.’
Daily practice is what generates ability.
Ability generates enthusiasm for the lesson and for practice.

This is the cycle that moves you forward. If it is broken, momentum is lost.
How much practice you should be doing depends on age and level.
Ask your teacher.

NOTHING WORKS?
You’ve tried everything. The child still wastes time. Won’t pay attention. Argues. When you arrive at the lesson you feel frustrated. You have made an enormous effort and have nothing to show for it.

You feel angry. Here is what NOT to do. DON’T BELITTLE THE CHILD IN FRONT OF THE TEACHER (or anyone else). You are his best friend, remember? It isn’t a friendly thing to do. A humiliated child can scarcely be expected to enjoy learning the violin. Talk to the teacher privately. One mother had a very difficult child. Practice was a nightmare. This went on for a year. I finally thought to ask them to keep a record of their practice and report to me any GOOD practice sessions they had. The next week I asked mother for their report. She made a great show of looking through her notes and then said cheerfully, ‘We had a really good practice on Tuesday.’ Tears came to my eyes. She didn’t need to tell me what she had been through the other six days.

How difficult it must have been for her to suppress her frustration and say something positive. That was seven years ago. Her son is still playing the violin.

It is possible to be firm without being destructive. Sometimes we assume too much. Although we may think it is obvious, a child doesn’t always realise that certain behaviour is unacceptable. A gentle, ‘Darling, it’s wrong to speak to your mummy that way,’ is sometimes enough. We cannot be rude to a child and expect polite behaviour in return, One can send a child to his room, withhold treats, etc. without humiliating the child. Insist on good behaviour. One isn’t fully human without it.

Some parents, who wouldn’t hesitate to insist that their child clean his teeth or learn his multiplication table, feel guilty when taking the same positive line about music practice. Why?

Would your adult child thank you if he were not numerate, or literate? Many, many people express regret that they were allowed to stop music lessons. Many, including my own often obdurate children, are grateful that they were made to persevere.

Keep a note book of every positive comment you make to the child during practice. (No back-handed compliments please: ‘You didn’t fool around as much as usual today,’ is not a compliment!) A better response would be, ‘I was impressed with your concentration today. It’s really getting good!’

Give the child treats: Dr Suzuki believed in them and so do I. Some parents say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to have to bribe my child. I want him to enjoy music for its own sake.’ First of all, a bribe is something one is offered for doing something immoral or illegal. A treat is a reward for a job well done. Secondly, how can a beginner enjoy making music? There is so much to learn: bow hold, posture, finger placement, tone, rhythm, string crossing and more—and we still can’t even play Twinkle yet!

Please parents, give the kid a break. Praise him. Reward him. When he looks your way, smile.

 

sharronSharron Beamer was introduced to the Suzuki Method through her four children who started Suzuki violin lessons at their school. In 1978 she became a Suzuki teacher and was among the first intake of students to do the Suzuki teacher training offered by the BSI. In 1987-1988 she spent 6 months in Matsumoto, Japan studying with Dr.Suzuki himself. Dr.Suzuki called his method “Ability Development” and Sharron has always been inspired by his message that ability is not something one must be born with, but that it is something that everyone can develop. Her primary concern is to help her students to realize that they can develop ability, and to demonstrate how to go about it.

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