Parents looking for lessons often ask me this question:
How do I know my child will like it?
Especially if your child isn’t sure which instrument they want to play
or are too young to really make that decision, you may struggle with this idea too.
You may know the research that having parents who are committed to their child playing an instrument long term is a huge factor in student success (you can read more about that HERE)
So, how do I know my child will like this?
Here is the honest answer . . .
There is no way to guarantee your child will like any activity you try long term.
Your child may become a professional musician, they may play through high school with music playing a huge role in their development, or they may study for a few years and develop other time-consuming interests.
So what do we do if we’re not sure our child will love this?
I would argue the best way to ensure they do love it later is to treat it as if they already do.
What would you do now if you knew this was something your child would love and still be serious about in their high school years and beyond?
Find the best teacher you can.
Get the best instrument you can afford.
Practice with them in a way that sets them up for success.
Keep them inspired by taking them to concerts and playing great music around the house and in the car.
Be an enthusiastic supporter of your child and provide them with the best instruction and equipment you can.
We wouldn’t give shoes that don’t fit and give callouses to a child trying out soccer for the first time. We wouldn’t let them skip going to practice when they didn’t feel like it. How will they love it if they never gain enough skills to make an educated decision about it?
Dr. Rebekah Hanson and I ran a parent talk at the Oregon Suzuki Institute last summer where we brought in a panel of teens to talk with parents. One of the questions we asked them was “at what point did you feel like you played your instrument well enough to really enjoy playing it?”
The panel of students was unanimous – it was around the book 4 or 5 level that they felt solid enough in their skills that they even knew if they liked playing. I think that’s fascinating!
So often students (and parents) give up before this point because it’s hard or they don’t like it. That would be like deciding you don’t like reading before you’re past the stage of haltingly sounding out words and before you can read a great story with ease.
The likelihood is that if you can get past the stages where everything feels challenging and start to make music with ease the love of playing will develop.
This is where you come in . . .
What would you do now if you knew your child would love this activity for the rest of their life?
Go ahead and do it.
It is never a waste to strive towards something and work towards developing our skills.
Those skills carry over into other things we will do in life and sometimes they carry us over from what we’re doing now as a beginner to a life long passion for something we love.
Act as if they will love it.
Put the time and resources into it as if it is something they love (or will love)
As a teacher I thank you for giving them that gift.
I use the Suzuki Method to teach the violin. Your child may be learning through a different style. They may be learning something completely different than music. You may be learning a new skill yourself. The following idea still applies.
I could fill a whole book with stories about students, teachers, and families who can attest to the fact that their lives have been changed for the better because of how learning music through the Suzuki method has impacted them in musical and non-musical ways alike.
Professional orchestra players and a number of well-known soloists got their start through the Suzuki Method — so there’s proof that it works for raising professional musicians and great adults who pursue other careers alike.
Parents: all the effort and hard work you put into helping your child learn is worth it.
There are a lot of must-dos in order to parent a Suzuki student: practice everyday, attend lessons and group classes, listen to recordings daily, and attend recitals and performances.
Teachers constantly ask you ” Did you listen this week?” “How many days did you practice?” “Are you able to come to X, Y, Z event/class/workshop?”
You feel like there is so much to do in an already busy life . . .
But it’s not really about all that — it’s not about what your child does today that is most important.
10 years from now the fact that your child practiced on a random Monday in September is not a life-changing event.
It’s about who we are raising our children to be.
10 years from now the fact that your child has both the self-discipline to get what they need to do but the grace for themselves to know not everyday is going to be exactly ideal . . . now that is life-changing.
10 years from now when your child encounters a big obstacle or goal in life and knows they can succeed if they just break it down in little pieces and work on one at a time — that is a skill that sets them apart.
When asked what they learned from studying the Suzuki Method — adult Suzuki students don’t usually answer with the names of pieces or by listing instrumental techniques . . . instead, they list character traits: discipline, love for music, ability to break big problems into small pieces and keep going, persistence . . .
This is the life-changing stuff we’re really doing when we practice bow holds, attend institutes and practice those review songs yet again.
As parents & teachers lets focus more on what’s important:
Practicing daily: Yes — because of who we become when we do it (not because everything was done perfectly everyday)
Listening to our music: Yes — because we learn that when we need to master a new skill we can immerse ourselves in the knowledge of those who have already learned it & get a clear picture of where we will go. (and we will gain an appreciation for beautiful music)
Attending Group events like group classes/workshops/institutes/camps
Yes — not because it’s required by the teacher or it’s the thing to do but because we learn about community, cooperation, and to go be with inspiring people and learn from them in every part of our lives
Don’t worry about doing it all perfectly — don’t worry that your child is going their own speed — don’t worry that today’s practice was short and you only got through part of what you should practice.
It’s not what you practice today that’s important — it’s what you do over time with the bigger picture in mind.
Pat yourself on the back and be proud that you got the instrument out, that you haven’t given up — that you’re showing up and making this a part of your life. You are raising a future adult who will benefit from all of this in ways you may not see for many years.
Having a “Growth Mindset” is something we help OPSA families develop as they work towards mastering a challenging skill such as making beautiful music on the violin or cello. Here are several books to help you grow this mindset with your child. To learn even more about this concept, be sure to attend our February Workshop to hear Stefanie Faye Frank speak about the brain and how developing a Growth Mindset can benefit you and your child.
Growth Mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, is the idea that when people change their beliefs about their own efforts, they can better adapt to create successful outcomes. In other words, when you believe that you will succeed after practice and effort, your odds of doing so improve. It’s a powerful theory that’s gained popularity and been adopted by schools across the country. So, how do you introduce the concepts associated with growth mindset to your class? One of the best ways is to incorporate children’s books about growth mindset. Here are 10 books to start a discussion and help your students change their perception about their abilities and efforts.
Growth Mindset Children’s Books
1. The Most Magnificent Thingby Ashley Spires
Perseverance and creativity are key to creating marvelous things, but what happens when things go awry?
2. Rosie Revere, Engineerby Andrea Beaty
Rosie learns a powerful lesson about success and failure in this adorable children’s book with a strong female lead character.
Dr. Shinichi Suzuki was a Japanese violinist and humanitarian. Witnessing the destruction of his homeland due to the second World War, he formed a vision to help nudge the world toward peace through its children. Through music, Dr. Suzuki hoped to build noble hearts in children all around the world.
With this in mind, we produce an event each year that connects our students from Oak Park and surrounding areas to the larger world they live in. Last year, our students helped to raise money for the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) through their music. This year, our music students are collaborating with Heartland Alliance and Giving Artfully to help immigrant children currently in limbo and being held in detention centers in Chicago. OPSA students will be making keepsakes for the children there, writing cards of encouragement and also performing several events to help raise awareness of and funds for immigration challenges, especially with regards to children. Heartland Alliance will be the recipient of the funds we raise.
For the benefit concert, we will be collaborating with other Oak Park area musicians to create a global concert featuring music from around the world. Last year, we performed music from Syria, Lebanon, China, Romania, and more. This year, the concert will include special faculty performances, global music, and even a holiday sing along. Local Suzuki students from neighboring studios will join to play music together and hopefully make the world just a little more peaceful and beautiful.
As parents, it feels good—great even —when our kids NEED us. When they turn to us for guidance, affection, even that peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Those are all good things.
We do have to remind ourselves, however, our long-term parenting goal is to guide our kids from being totally dependent on us to being independent thinkers and doers. That’s no overnight task.
It happens in all the little moments and lessons that occur in the day-to-day. From little steps like letting them pick out their own clothes to tying their own shoes, to helping them learn to weigh out what to spend their allowance on to choosing a college that suits them. Every little decision they make, right or wrong, along the way is a learning experience that will help lead them to be independent people we can be proud of.
Then, the thrill you get when you see them take on a task all by themselves and win at it? That’s awesome! If you’re eager to see more of that, let’s look at ways to help your kids embrace independence.
6 Tips for Raising Independent Children
Encourage effort: That perfection thing? It’s overrated and it causes a LOT of anxiety for kids. In fact, some kids are so locked into the fear of failure – they won’t even try. Instead, focus on the EFFORT. Encourage your kids to try new things, to go out of their comfort zones and be creative without the pressure to succeed or win or be perfect. When you do, they’ll be more willing to take on new tasks in the future.
Family contributions: Every member of a family plays an important role in a successfully running household. From setting out napkins to picking up toys – encouraging kids to contribute in age-appropriate ways teaches them that they are part of an indispensable team that needs them! This builds their confidence, and encourages them to want to do even more.
Promote problem solving. Curb your desire to jump in and fix. When a problem arises, wait. Give your child the opportunity to come up with solutions. Ask them “How?” questions. “How could you make your sister feel better after you took her action figure?” “How could you make sure you get up in time to make the bus?” If you want them to think for themselves, don’t provide all the answers.
Take Time for Training: Each week, work on learning something new in a fun and engaging way. As children learn new skills and tasks, they feel more confident in learning the next one. Who knows, they may even help YOU learn something new!
Turn over the reins: Every single day is filled with hundreds of choices. Apple or banana? Peanut butter or ham and cheese? Red shoes or blue? Allowing your children to make those small choices gives them a sense of control and dominion over their lives which leads to independent thinking. It also helps them take ownership of those choices – for some reason that peanut butter sandwich tastes SO much better since they picked it!
Structure as a safety net: Providing structured routines for mornings, afternoons and evenings gives your kids the safety net they need to try new things in a controlled environment. That helps keep them from feeling overwhelmed by the process, and helps you keep the peace!
Raising kids to be independent thinkers and to take a proactive role in their everyday lives is a little scary for some parents at first. Don’t worry, they’ll always NEED you. Teaching them to do things for themselves is just part of being an amazing parent. Think of it as a gift that keeps on giving!
For more ways to develop strong, independent children that listen more, behave better and are prepared for future success, join me for our next webinar, How to Get Kids to Listen Without Yelling, Nagging or Reminding.Find upcoming dates and times here. I promise you’ll come away with tools you can start using right away! See you online!
I was a Suzuki student, starting lessons at the age of two and a half. There are parts of being successful at the Suzuki method that I take for granted because I’ve never known anything else.
As a teacher, though, I am often reminded that there are many parts of what makes this method work that are new ideas to the families I work with.
Some of them require changing how a family plans their day, or how they interact when working with each other one-on-one.
It’s my job to explain how families can help their child be successful at studying their instrument through small, day-to-day changes and through shifting their mindset about their role in the process.
As a Suzuki parent, I struggled with all of this myself. So I want to do everything I can to make it easier for the families I work with.
That has caused me to spend the last eighteen years learning all that I can about what it is that makes families successful. The more I have learned about the topic, the more I am able to help the families in my studio. Learning an instrument is difficult. Without the right information and expectations, many people struggle or even give up, which is not the outcome I want as a teacher.
Why This Message Needs to Be Heard
I end up having a lot of conversations, both online and in person with other teachers. We often talk about what books we ask parents to read to learn more about the method. Of course, many teachers ask families to read Nurtured by Love by Dr. Suzuki,
but what next?
What resource gives a good picture of how the Suzuki method looks today, here and now, and in our own lives?
To that question, there are many varying opinions but no consensus that I’ve ever heard.
Certain books are good for technique, and others give some good insights into part of the process.
But what resource addresses the question, “How does the Suzuki method look in modern times, in our lives today?”
That’s what I’ve been looking for.
Since I haven’t found a resource that does this well for me, over the past few years, I have written my own set of parent education materials for the families in my studio. I try to answer questions before they come up about practice, the environment we create for our children to practice in, why playing in a group or with other people is important, why repetition and review is going to be a big part of our work together, and other such subjects.
Giving out more detailed materials like these, I have seen a dramatic change in how new families approach lessons and how successful they are at navigating the process from beginner and beyond.
This book [Beyond the Music Lesson] combines those materials with interviews and success stories to help answer the question, “How do we make the Suzuki method work for our family today?”
I hope teachers will find this book a useful resource for sharing with the families in their studios and most of all, I hope parents will find it encouraging and helpful to set up successful Suzuki habits in their homes.