Before my own children started their journey with learning the violin, I had a pretty good bag of practice/motivational tricks. I have learnt a lot more since the challenge of practicing with my own girls began!
Here are some of the most important factors for me:
- I know this sounds a bit obvious, but it is often forgotten. As parents, we become anxious or agitated by our (sometimes) uncooperative child. We also get distracted by other things (ie. work, life, etc.). This means we forget to give our children the greatest reward that they could want – a smile from their parent!
- ‘If parents smile, children smile.’ – Dr Suzuki
Pick your moment –
- I’ve learnt this one by trial and error! 3 year olds very rarely want to pick up their violin to practice (unless they can use it to procrastinate!), but when they do, seize the moment! It might seem like the most inconvenient moment, but try to take advantage of their interest and desire to learn.
- Every child has prime times when they are at their very best – they’re focussed, and calm but energetic (this applies to most adults too!). You know your child best. Find that prime time when they’re awake and focussed. This should also be well before they start to get hungry – a hungry child is not going to be much fun to practice with!
Leave your ego and expectations outside the room –
- In my experience of positive vs. negative practices, in most cases, the ones that have been negative have been down to me and my expectations. If I have picked the right moment for our practice, and focus on enjoying the moment with my child, the practice is more likely to be positive. If an issue does come up (ie. a distracting sibling), I’m in a better frame of mind for dealing with it.
- Why is your child learning music? Is it because you regret not learning/practicing as a child? Or is it to encourage your child to be the best that they can be? In a lot of cases it’s a combination of both! Try to focus on the aim of nurturing their beautiful heart – this is the greatest motivation for me.
Live the Suzuki Philosophy as much as you can –
- The Suzuki Method is the way I teach violin etc. The Suzuki Philosophy is why I teach violin. Dr Suzuki’s life experiences lead him to develop his philosophy.
- Dr Suzuki’s life creed – “In order to create a beautiful world, or at least to make our living environment a beautiful paradise of the heart, we need to shake off our greed. When I use my heart with the utmost sincerity and only for the joy and happiness of others, a beautiful tone, a beautiful heart, and a world of sincerity will surely be created as by the violin bow and I believe others and I will all be able to live pleasantly.”
- Create an environment that nurtures your child and their spirit as much as possible. Not just in their violin, but in everyday life.
- I try to model the type of behaviour I want to see in my children. If I want my children to have beautiful hearts and joyful spirits, they can only learn this from the environment that they grow up in, and the people around them. I definitely don’t always succeed in this!
The Practical Side…
- Keep practices short and fun, and try to follow practice with a fun or favourite activity.
- Make the most of opportunity – if you have 5 minutes while dinner is cooking, encourage your child to pick up their violin and practice a piece, stand on their foot mat and recite a poem for the family, or practice bow exercises etc.
- Try a reward system – whilst this shouldn’t be used all the time, it can be useful to set up positive habits.
- eg. 4 different coloured stars, each worth different points (Blue = 1, Pink = 2, Silver = 3). Gold is worth 5 points and is the reward for doing a good violin practice including as many of the practice points from their lesson as possible.
- Getting dressed, doing homework, packing away toys, playing nicely with siblings, and many other activities are other things that can be rewarded with 1, 2, 3, and 5 points.
- They can then redeem their points for different rewards at any stage – having friends over to play might be 20 points, a day out on their own with Daddy might be 50 points, or something really special like a new bike might be 100 points. This sort of reward system encourages practicing and teaches the value of setting goals, saving up, and even maths skills!