Is practice time a challenge for you and your child these days? Looking for a few ways to keep the joy in the work? Try these great ideas from The Practice Shoppe Blog! They also have a really fun collection of practice items to help make practice more joyful. Check out the shop here.
Sometimes you just need to add some spice to practicing. Here are what some of my teacher friends did with their practicing this week:
Katie Mattox from Mattix Music Studio: Having trouble getting back into practice? Make work into a game! Here’s our “train station game” from today with small tasks written on each station. Once you complete the practice goal or task, drive your train to the next station. We had to have a chocolate at the end, of course!
Asheley Watabe with The Gifted Music School, Sotto Voce Strings and Rocky Mountain Strings: It’s a super hero matching game– every time Jack does a task he gets to turn over one cup to see if he finds a match…. There are 20 cups! It’s awesome!
Kelly Stewart with The Gifted Music School: A few years back Koen Rens gave a silent masterclass. I loved how he used his violin to speak to the kids and communicate what he wanted them to do. We tried it at home. Genius! Suddenly she couldn’t sass, and more importantly, I couldn’t YELL.
Stacy Smith with the Gifted Music School and President-Elect of the Suzuki Association of Utah: Today’s practice game: Uno cards. Grab a bunch of uno cards. Get a bunch of different numbers, limit the word cards. Line them up on the stand. The kid picks the card, you pick what they do. For example: 5. “Ok, now you’re going to play 5 A major scales.” 3: “3 review pieces with a perfect wrist.” Big numbers are great for now exercises. Word cards are something you do- I usually demonstrated something but have awful posture. They always fix it! I forgot about this game until today, it worked wonders with my 5 year old. We got 45 min in without complaint.
The following was reprinted from this New York Times article written by SCOTT SONENSHEIN about saying NO, or rather, not saying yes (or worse–no, then yes!) to everything your child asks for. Enjoy!
Despite the temptation for parents to say yes to their children’s wishes, research shows there’s an insidious side to chasing after the newest thing others have. It fosters a sense of deficiency that can never be fully satisfied. First they want the doll, then all of the accessories — and of course the four-story Barbie mansion.
And so I’ve taken on the work of saying no sometimes. At first, not surprisingly, my daughters, aged 4 and 9, revolted. They called me a bad father and I got plenty of mean looks. But over time, they realized the fun that comes from a no. Now my daughters pretend that their Elsa doll plays with a package of Shopkins, giving both toys a second, and better, life.
It turns out that saying no pays off far beyond avoiding raising spoiled kids. When we always yield to our children’s wants, we rob them of the opportunity to find solutions by adapting what they already have. Kids who learn from denial realize at an early age that they won’t always have the perfect tool for every job. They might not know something, have something, or be something. But that’s not the end of pursuing goals — it’s the beginning of activating their resourcefulness to find another way.
Youngsters are naturally resourceful. Give toddlers a frying pan and all sorts of uses come to their minds. As adults, we’re stuck using it to make a stir-fry. Many years of chasing after things we don’t need erodes our own ability to make more out of what we already have. It also sets a bad example for our kids.
In one study, researchers asked elementary school children to help Bobo the Bear, a stuffed animal, reach his toy lion using some materials: building blocks, a pencil, an eraser, a ball, a magnet, a toy car and a wooden box.
As children grow older, their brains develop in ways that should make it easier for them to solve this type of problem. Indeed, the oldest children in the study (6- and 7-year-olds) reached the correct solution (i.e., using the wooden box to prop up the building blocks) faster, on average, than the younger participants, who were 5.
But there was one condition in the experiment when the younger children ended up outperforming the older kids. And it had nothing to do with innate talents or artistic tendencies.
The researchers made a subtle change in how they displayed the materials. Instead of laying them all out on the table, the researchers used the wooden box as a container to store everything else, such as the magnet and pencil. Upon seeing the box acting like a container, the older children struggled to expand it to anything beyond a container. For the younger children, the box remained just as flexible a resource as it was before.
Each time we acquiesce to our kids’ latest request to buy something, we subtly condition them that their resources have limited uses. An occasional veto will compel them, in this case literally, to think outside the box.
In American culture, abundance tends to be seen as a symbol of success, prompting some parents to say yes to things they can’t really afford. Witness the elaborate coming of age parties people across cultures and income levels throw for their children, even if it means going into debt.
Many people who grow up without much recognize resourcefulness as an essential skill to get by. Those of us fortunate to live in relative abundance can benefit from occasionally experiencing scarcity. To be sure, I’m not suggesting denying children a generous supply of things they actually need like healthy meals, warm clothes and love. But plenty of wishes we cater to teach the wrong message. By having children occasionally experience scarcity, we can help them solve problems more effectively.
In one study, a set of participants wrote a brief essay about a time in childhood when they didn’t have much, while a second set wrote about growing up having a lot. Afterward, the researchers presented both groups with a problem that required using Bubble Wrap in different ways. People assigned to the scarcity group had better solutions compared to the abundance group.
Why might thinking about scarcity lead people to view their resources more expansively? With abundance, people treat resources as what they appear to be on the surface, utilizing them in traditional ways. But when embracing scarcity, they give themselves freedom to use resources in new ways. Imagine the upside of a weekend full of “nos” — it’s likely to be one occupied with new experiences: invented games, a family dance party or time spent outdoors.
This strategy has worked wonders for our family, and I received the ultimate compliment after my older daughter’s most recent birthday party. It was “the best day of my life,” she gleefully told me. Instead of paying for a party, we had a scavenger hunt in a nearby park where we asked the kids to scour the area to find things they could use to solve challenges, like making containers to protect an egg from a 10-foot fall. There were three teams of kids, each with their unique combination from a variety of materials, including newspaper, cups, leftover Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, dirt, cotton and Bubble Wrap. The kids, naturally resourceful when we let them be, had a blast. And no eggs were broken.
All was good until we got home. “Can I open my presents now?” my daughter asked. “Yes,” I hesitantly replied. I’ll have plenty of other chances down the road for my next no.
The following is a repost of this article by Stephen M. Demorest, Professor of Music Education at Northwestern University. It sheds light on the common misconception of “being talented” or not. Enjoy!
A Hungarian film titled “Sing” recently won the Oscar for best short film. “Sing” tells the story of young Zsófi, who joins a renowned children’s choir at her elementary school where “everyone is welcome.” Soon after joining, Zsófi is told by her teacher Erika not to sing, but only mouth the words. On the face of it, she accepts her teacher’s request stoically. But later in the movie, her anguish and pain become obvious, when she reluctantly tells her best friend what happened. The movie goes on to reveal that Zsófi isn’t the only choir member who has been given these hurtful instructions. The choir teacher’s defense is, “If everybody sings we can’t be the best.”
I have been a professor of music education for the past 28 years, and I wish I could say that the story of a music teacher asking a student not to sing is unusual. Unfortunately, I have heard the story many times. In fact, research shows that many adults who think of themselves as “unmusical” were told as children that they couldn’t or shouldn’t sing by teachers and family members.
All children are musical
Children are natural musicians, as they readily sing, dance and play music from the time they are infants. People ask me all the time how they can tell if their child has musical talent. I assure them that their child – indeed every child – has musical ability that can be developed into a satisfying and lifelong relationship with music.
However, as they get older, some children begin to get messages from peers, family members, the media and (unfortunately) music teachers that they may not be very musical – that they don’t have “talent.”
The ‘talent’ mindset
Shows like “American Idol” have promoted the notion that singing is a rare ability reserved for the talented few, and that those without such talent entertain us only by being ridiculed and weeded out.
This “talent mindset” of music runs counter to what psychologist Carol Dweck calls the “growth mindset” that is considered critical for learning: Students who view their success as a result of hard work will persevere through challenges, while students who believe their success lies with some innate ability – like “talent” – are more likely to give up. My own research found that if children have a negative view of themselves as singers, they are much less likely to participate in music of any kind.
These self-perceptions of a lack of musical talent can then become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Research shows that adults who dropped out of music as children may lose their singing skills through lack of use and opportunity. Kids who love music but do not think of themselves as musical could miss out on many of the social and cognitive benefits of music participation, on the experience of feeling connected to others through song. These benefits have nothing to do with talent.
Get children singing
How can we send children the message that singing is for everyone? I argue that change could begin both at home and at school.
For example, if you are a parent, you could sing the music you loved growing up and not worry about how good you sound. Having an adult in the home committed to music and singing without shame may be the most powerful influence on a child. You could sing with your kids from the time they are little, sing with the radio, sing in the car or sing at the dinner table.
As for my fellow music teachers, I ask that you encourage all of the children in your classrooms, schools and communities to sing whenever and wherever they get a chance. The sad truth is, when we, the musical experts, discourage a child from singing, it can deliver a fatal blow to the child’s musical self-image.
Music teachers need to teach in a climate of collaboration and participation where all voices are heard and valued – not one of audition and competition where only the best can sing.
The movie “Sing” is actually titled “Mindenki” in Hungarian, which means “Everybody.” That’s the uplifting message that Zsófi and her choir mates teach Miss Erika in the end. Singing is not reserved for the few: Either everybody sings or nobody should.
The following article about punishment and rewards is by Bridget McNamara. Visit the source here. The full article is also below. Hope you find it helpful!
Why I Stopped Punishing My Kids: Replacing Punishment with Connection
By Bridget McNamara
“… To punish kids, very simply, is to make something unpleasant happen to them — or prevent them from experiencing something pleasant – usually with the goal of changing their future behavior. The punisher makes them suffer, in other words, to teach them a lesson”Alfi Kohn
Definition of revenge: To inflict punishment in return for (injury or insult)
So punishment and revenge… are the same thing?
When this idea was first presented to me, I was floored. I had to take a long hard look at the way I was teaching my children. Time outs, losing privileges, having to leave the park, were all my ways of being a gentle parent because I wasn’t spanking them or screaming at them (very often). But I was still inflicting harm. They felt sad and hurt by my consequences which actually led me to believe I was getting through to them although, truthfully, the misbehaviors weren’t stopping.
The illusion of choice.
At the same time I was ruminating over this whole idea of punishments being harmful at worst and ineffective at best, my then six year old daughter said to me, “Grown-ups get their kids to do what they want the same way people train dogs. The treats are just different.” It hit me like a ton of bricks—my six year old was hip to my jive. She understood that the consequences were just a form of manipulation and control that, more often than not, was meant to give the child the illusion of choice. “You can either get into the car right now or you won’t have a cookie when we get home.”
That’s not a choice at all. That’s do what I say, or lose. Either way, you do what I want you to do.
Then I got the biggest gut punch of all. My youngest was two years old and he knocked over his five year old brother’s block tower. My five year old yelled at his two year old brother, picked him up and carried him into another room, causing him to cry. I came over and scolded my five year old. I said, “He’s so much littler than you and you scared him by yelling at him and putting him in there all alone!”
He responded, “But I’m so much littler than you and you scare me when you put me in a room all alone.”
I quit cold turkey. I started by apologizing to my kids and told them I wasn’t going to punish them anymore—that we were going to work through everything together. No more timeouts and no more losing things that belong to you as punishment. If it sounds too radical, think about how many times you have put your child in time out and ask yourself, “Is this effective?” And what is the lesson? If you act out of sorts, you need to be isolated. You are unlovable and unwanted.
It is always interesting to me how the parents that are shocked we don’t use punishments are the same parents that seem to struggle with unending battles with their children. Timeout after timeout and still the behavior continues. I am not claiming, by any stretch, that empathy and calm discussions will stop undesirable behaviors in their tracks. However, neither do the punitive methods. At the root of punishment is the underlying and glaring message of you hurt me, I hurt you.
The difference between responding with punishment and responding with connection is that with the latter, you stay connected. You foster a deep and unconditional love that will carry into a lifelong relationship with your child. You say to your child every day, in the way you respond to their behavior, I love you no matter what. You always have a voice. You are safe.
My new mantra became:
Every undesirable behavior is a cry for an unmet need.
Every undesirable behavior is a cry for an unmet need.
Every undesirable behavior is a cry for an unmet need.
Almost every single time, that unmet need is connection.
When you really get into the nitty gritty of it, what we’re actually doing when we send our kids to their room and into timeouts, or away from the dinner table, is withholding affection and connection. In order for that to truly modify the behavior, they must crave that connection enough to do whatever it takes to have it back. They have to be deprived of it. It’s a bit heartbreaking when you think of it that way.
On the days when my kids are fighting and crying the most, I can almost always look in the mirror and realize I haven’t stopped and sat down and looked them in the face while they talk to me. I haven’t put my arm around them and sniffed their heads while they tell me their dream from the night before in every detail from start to finish. All day I’ve been saying, “Just a minute” or only half listening to what they’re saying while I’m checking Facebook, answering emails, or loading the dishwasher without even looking at them.
In those most difficult, blood-pressure raising, infuriating moments when I want to yell and send them to their rooms, showing empathy is the most difficult thing to do. I know in my heart I can make it all go away if I just walk across the room and wrap my arms around them and say, “I’m sorry you are having a hard time right now.”
You have to try it. It really, really works.
If they did something after you asked them not to, it’s because they lack impulse control. If they jump on the couch, they need to get outside and run. If they spread mashed potato all over the wall, they need sensory play. If they throw a tantrum, they most likely need a snack or a nap or they are overstimulated. If they’re hitting, they need practice with conflict resolution which they will not get sitting in the corner. If you have no idea what they need, a hug is almost always the right answer. If they won’t leave the park, they need a race to the car or 3 more times down the slide or, heck, a trip to the ice cream shop on the way home.
Before you say I’m rewarding them for their bad behavior, I counter that with the awareness that bad behavior is a symptom of an underlying issue. It is because they literally, developmentally do not have control of their emotions or healthy coping skills to deal with big feelings. Shoot, I’m forty one years old and I’m still learning healthy coping skills when I’m dealing with big emotions. I hope so much better for my kids, that they won’t still be struggling at my age.
These are all developmentally appropriate behaviors of a child whose brain functions are not fully developed. These are all opportunities for the adults to model good coping skills like communication, empathy, kindness, connection. Show them; this is how it’s done. This is how we take care of each other. This is real life.
The trouble with punishment is that it speaks to the selfish nature of humans. If I am stopping myself from a behavior just to avoid getting in trouble, this is a self-serving action. There is no intrinsic motivation to be a good person and do the right thing. If a child stops a tantrum by threat of losing their iPad, this doesn’t teach the child healthy ways to express themselves. There is no motivation for the child to think of how their behavior affects others. When we muddle a child’s brain with fear of punishment and feelings of shame, we take away from them the opportunity to truly understand how their actions impact others. Punishment makes children feel angry, ashamed, and out of control. They aren’t thinking about how the other person feels, I promise you that. Punishment hurts. What do hurt people do? They hurt people.
Studies show that punishment actually increases aggression in children:
“Decades’ worth of research shows that punishment—even when it doesn’t include physical force—promotes aggression. But studies conducted in the United States and in Sweden revealed another layer to that reality: Bullies in particular are more likely to have been raised by authoritarian parents who rely on punishment.”
(Alfie Kohn: September 7, 2016, Bullying the Bully: Why Punishment Doesn’t Work http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2016/09/07/why-punishment-wont-stop-a-bully.html)
We should be sitting with our child and quietly connecting, teaching, and empathizing. Help them to put words onto their feelings and the feelings of the people around them. When your child takes a toy from a friend or sibling, “I know you want that toy. It is hard to wait when something looks so fun! Right now we have to find something different to play with.” Remember that it’s perfectly normal child development for a young child to see something and assume that because they want it, they should have it. “Look at Zoe’s face. She is sad that you took her toy.”
How about for an older child?
Can we follow these same guidelines? Let’s say your child is caught watching something on YouTube that you do not approve of. The first instinct is to ban YouTube and lock away every electronic in the house. The harsh truth is that the most likely result of this type of reaction is that your child figures out how to watch YouTube behind closed doors and erase their internet history. I can tell you from my real life experience as an adolescent that my feelings from being punished ranged from complete shame to rampant lying to avoid the reaction that brought me that shame.
So what if you don’t ban YouTube? What if instead, you watched the content with your child and explained why it’s problematic? What if you approached it from a place of love and said, “As your mom/dad, it is my job to keep you safe and protect you from things that you might not be ready for.” Ask them questions about what it is they like about the channel they are viewing and how they personally feel about the points you find offensive. I would be willing to bet that if it’s content you don’t approve of, there are probably things happening that your child doesn’t fully understand and wish they could ask you about without having the ax fall. You can set limits without shaming them. You can assure them that they won’t have their privileges ripped away from them if they ask you what “douchebag” means. In this way, you are keeping them safer than you could when they start hiding things from you.
Speaking of hiding things from you, what if you catch your child lying to you? Isn’t a lie most often a way to avoid punishment? If you remove the threat of punishment, you also remove the need to lie.
For clarification, it’s important to have very clear expectations and set limits to protect everyone in the house. It’s okay to tell your child you are angry and hurt by what they’ve said or done. We have rules. We don’t hurt each other, not physically or emotionally. We ask before using something that doesn’t belong to us. We clean up our own messes. One of the most important rules of all; no revenge. “You hurt me so I hurt you” doesn’t fly around here and my 6 year old will tell you that—adults and children alike. We are firm on these rules. We all screw up and break these rules sometimes. We cry. We stomp. We yell. We forgive. That’s real life.
If you would like more information on how to parent without punishments, I highly recommend the book, Unconditional Parenting, by Alfi Kohn. Reading this book changed my life and my relationship with my children.
Bridget is a homeschooling mother of three energetic, curious, freethinking children. She has earned her Early Childhood Development Associate Credential, with over a decade of professional experience in the field. Above all, she considers herself a devoted advocate for the rights of children.
The following is from a recent article in The Guardian written by Wendy Berliner. We found it particularly interesting and relevant to families involved in Suzuki training. One gem from the article,
“Einstein, the epitome of a genius, clearly had curiosity, character, and determination. He struggled against rejection in early life but was undeterred. Did he think he was a genius or even gifted? No. He once wrote: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.” For the full article, click here. Enjoy!
When Maryam Mirzakhani died at the tragically early age of 40 this month, the news stories talked of her as a genius. The only woman to win the Fields Medal – the mathematical equivalent of a Nobel prize – and a Stanford professor since the age of 31, this Iranian-born academic had been on a roll since she started winning gold medals at maths Olympiads in her teens.
But look closer and a different story emerges. Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, one of three siblings in a middle-class family whose father was an engineer. The only part of her childhood that was out of the ordinary was the Iran-Iraq war, which made life hard for the family in her early years. Thankfully it ended around the time she went to secondary school.
Mirzakhani, did go to a highly selective girls’ school but maths wasn’t her interest – reading was. She loved novels and would read anything she could lay her hands on; together with her best friend she would prowl the book stores on the way home from school for works to buy and consume.
As for maths, she did rather poorly at it for the first couple of years in her middle school but became interested when her elder brother told her about what he’d learned. He shared a famous maths problem from a magazine that fascinated her – and she was hooked. The rest is mathematical history.
Is her background unusual? Apparently not. Most Nobel laureates were unexceptional in childhood. Einstein was slow to talk and was dubbed the dopey one by the family maid. He failed the general part of the entry test to Zurich Polytechnic – though they let him in because of high physics and maths scores. He struggled at work initially, failing to get academic post and being passed over for promotion at the Swiss Patent Office because he wasn’t good enough at machine technology. But he kept plugging away and eventually rewrote the laws of Newtonian mechanics with his theory of relativity.
Lewis Terman, a pioneering American educational psychologist, set up a study in 1921 following 1,470 Californians, who excelled in the newly available IQ tests, throughout their lives. None ended up as the great thinkers of their age that Terman expected they would. But he did miss two future Nobel prize winners – Luis Alvarez and William Shockley, both physicists – whom he dismissed from the study as their test scores were not high enough.
There is a canon of research on high performance, built over the last century, that suggests it goes way beyond tested intelligence. On top of that, research is clear that brains are malleable, new neural pathways can be forged, and IQ isn’t fixed. Just because you can read Harry Potter at five doesn’t mean you will still be ahead of your contemporaries in your teens.
According to my colleague, Prof Deborah Eyre, with whom I’ve collaborated on the book Great Minds and How to Grow Them, the latest neuroscience and psychological research suggests most people, unless they are cognitively impaired, can reach standards of performance associated in school with the gifted and talented. However, they must be taught the right attitudes and approaches to their learning and develop the attributes of high performers – curiosity, persistence and hard work, for example – an approach Eyre calls “high performance learning”. Critically, they need the right support in developing those approaches at home as well as at school.
So, is there even such a thing as a gifted child? It is a highly contested area. Prof Anders Ericsson, an eminent education psychologist at Florida State University, is the co-author of Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. After research going back to 1980 into diverse achievements, from music to memory to sport, he doesn’t think unique and innate talents are at the heart of performance. Deliberate practice, that stretches you every step of the way, and around 10,000 hours of it, is what produces the expert. It’s not a magic number – the highest performers move on to doing a whole lot more, of course, and, like Mirzakhani, often find their own unique perspective along the way.
Ericsson’s memory research is particularly interesting because random students, trained in memory techniques for the study, went on to outperform others thought to have innately superior memories – those you might call gifted.
He got into the idea of researching the effects of deliberate practice because of an incident at school, in which he was beaten at chess by someone who used to lose to him. His opponent had clearly practiced.
But it is perhaps the work of Benjamin Bloom, another distinguished American educationist working in the 1980s, that gives the most pause for thought and underscores the idea that family is intrinsically important to the concept of high performance.
Bloom’s team looked at a group of extraordinarily high achieving people in disciplines as varied as ballet, swimming, piano, tennis, maths, sculpture and neurology, and interviewed not only the individuals but their parents, too.
While the jury is out on giftedness being innate and other factors potentially making the difference, what is certain is that the behaviours associated with high levels of performance are replicable and most can be taught – even traits such as curiosity.
Eyre says we know how high performers learn. From that she has developed a high performing learning approach that brings together in one package what she calls the advanced cognitive characteristics, and the values, attitudes, and attributes of high performance. She is working on the package with a group of pioneer schools, both in Britain and abroad.
But the system needs to be adopted by families, too, to ensure widespread success across classes and cultures. Research in Britain shows the difference parents make if they take part in simple activities pre-school in the home, supporting reading for example. That support shows through years later in better A-level results, according to the Effective Pre-School, Primary and Secondary study, conducted over 15 years by a team from Oxford and London universities.
Eye-opening spin-off research, which looked in detail at 24 of the 3,000 individuals being studied who were succeeding against the odds, found something remarkable about what was going on at home. Half were on free school meals because of poverty, more than half were living with a single parent, and four in five were living in deprived areas.
The interviews uncovered strong evidence of an adult or adults in the child’s life who valued and supported education, either in the immediate or extended family or in the child’s wider community. Children talked about the need to work hard at school and to listen in class and keep trying. They referenced key adults who had encouraged those attitudes.
Einstein, the epitome of a genius, clearly had curiosity, character, and determination. He struggled against rejection in early life but was undeterred. Did he think he was a genius or even gifted? No. He once wrote: “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer. Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.”
And what about Mirzakhani? Her published quotations show someone who was curious and excited by what she did and resilient. One comment sums it up. “Of course, the most rewarding part is the ‘Aha’ moment, the excitement of discovery and enjoyment of understanding something new – the feeling of being on top of a hill and having a clear view. But most of the time, doing mathematics for me is like being on a long hike with no trail and no end in sight.”
The trail took her to the heights of original research into mathematics in a cruelly short life. That sounds like unassailable character. Perhaps that was her gift.
Great Minds and How to Grow Them, by Wendy Berliner & Deborah Eyre.