I’ve heard many times that a child resisting practice is perfectly normal. However, it wasn’t until I listened to violinist Zacahry Ebin in a Suzuki Association Parents as Partners video that I heard someone state that resisting practice was not only normal, but was in fact, “Great News!” Ebin, a violinist and Suzuki teacher, shared three reasons why it is fantastic news when your kid starts yelling “I don’t want to do this” and “I hate this!” His words encourage me to keep going even when the going gets tough, and they give me a new, positive perspective when it comes to these difficult moments in practice. If you are signed up for Parents as Partners then be sure to watch his video, Nurtured by What?! When You are Not Feeling the Love During Practicing!
Reason #1 – Development of Self-Discipline
How many times in your life have you had to do something that you just don’t want to do? As adults, we know we can’t throw a fit and ignore what must be done. We’d lose our job, we’d have unpaid bills, the grass would never get mowed and the dishes would never get washed. Basically, our lives would be a mess. As adults, we have learned self-disciple and it’s up to us to teach our children the same. By practicing their violin every day, whether or not they want to, and whether or not it is easy or difficult, our children are developing self-discipline. They are learning how to work through struggles and delay instant gratification in exchange for long-term success and achievement.
Reason #2 – Development of Loving Relationships
Ebin brings up the point that we are social beings and as a social being, we must know how to deal with and resolve conflict. Resolving conflict is what helps us grow closer together and foster loving relationships. This point was a big “ah ha moment” for me. It just makes sense. When I think about my own life, those relationships which faced, and ultimately overcame, strife and conflict, have become some of my strongest and most important relationships. If we don’t have conflict, we can’t have resolution and without the two our relationships wouldn’t grow. In the heat of the moment, your child may only think you are trying to be mean and torture them, but in reality…what a powerful demonstration of love when your child gets frustrated during practice, throws a fit and you look them in the eye and say, “Hey, I know this is hard and doesn’t seem fun, but together we can do this.” Not only are you sending your child a message of love, you are letting them know that you aren’t giving up on them and that you believe in them!
A parent of a student in lesson once told me that part of the reason she had her 4 year old daughter taking violin lessons was to help teach her that she can do hard things. I love this! Our children CAN do hard things and, in fact, that is the driving force of the Suzuki Method – Every Child Can! Remember conflict + resolution = stronger bond. I am so thankful for the bond that Delaney and I have created through violin and look forward to strengthening that bond through the upcoming years even if it means times of conflict.
Reason #3 – Development of Artistry
Most children do not like to be told what to do and can, therefore, throw some pretty big fits when it comes to practice or lesson. Independence is great, and it is important to encourage our children to be independent, but when it comes to learning a musical instrument our children are not the experts and they must learn to listen and do what is being asked of them. According to Ebin, the resistance that comes from telling your child what to do during practice can actually be a great sign. Ivan Galamian, one of the most influential violin teachers of the 20th century, said that students who have the greatest potential to become incredible musicians are also the students who can be the most challenging. These challenging students are the students who are trying to be unique and creative. They want to express their individuality, and while they must do what you ask during practice, remembering the amazing artistic potential your child has can make the, “I hate this” or the “this is stupid” a lot easier to take.
Challenging practice sessions are never fun, but I hope by realizing the self-discipline your child is developing, the loving relationship that is growing and the potential your child has to be a wonderful artist helps you view these tough moments in a new way. I’ll leave with you a few practical ideas to help you through the difficult times. Please share any ideas you may have in the comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say!
- This idea comes from one of the moms in the studio: Put on your armor and let the “I hate this” and “this is stupid” just bounce off. It’s not personal.
- Make practice as fun as possible through the use of games and rewards (read the blog post 21 Days of Fun and Games for ideas).
- Write down the great moments in practice or the times when your child says something positive about the violin or shows excitement about practicing or coming to a lesson. Revisit those moments when practice feels hard.
- Give your child opportunities to exercise his independence during practice by letting him choose the order in which he practices things or let him pick a card or roll a dice to decide how many times he needs to correctly perform a task. Anything that allows your child to feel like he has some say in what he does can help minimize the power struggles during practice.