I’d like to sit behind my computer screen and present a perfect image of myself as a Suzuki teacher and parent. But I have to be honest – the reason I’m so passionate about writing on the topic of Suzuki parenting and trying to be help parents be successful is that I was far from perfect as a Suzuki parent.
I have read and learned everything I can on the subject to help the families I work with, because I could have really used that help myself.
I had my kids while I was in college so I was a younger mom. In fact, I was just starting out as a Suzuki teacher myself, when my oldest was four years old and we started the violin together . . . the same instrument I happened to teach . Some people do this beautifully and if this is you, you have much respect from me – I know it works really well for some people. But, it did not work well for us.
I’m not sure there is a way to accurately describe the struggle between a very opinionated and headstrong four your old and a very inexperienced and idealistic mom/teacher.
There were some epic showdowns where you could practically see the standoff happening like in an old Western movie, with the tumbleweed rolling by, as we sat in suspense about who would win the battle of wills this time. I so wanted to do it “just right” and she so wanted to avoid how hard it felt and most likely the pressure she felt from me.
Its a funny story now, because that daughter is now a 20 year old and she puts her (self admitted) head-strong ways into working towards productive goals, like graduating college a year early which she is scheduled to do after this year. I as a parent, have learned how to pick battles and how to focus on the long term outcomes I want as a parent vs. focusing on the little things being done just so. Our days of practice showdowns are far behind us & her musical story turned out well in the end too.
This daughter spent her school years a musician: after a not too successful attempt at Suzuki violin with me, she studied cello for a while with a member of the Oregon symphony and then the flute, which she played in the band through most of high school. And then mid-high school she found her real musical love… Singing. Specifically musical theater and she spent all of high school singing and dancing on the high school stage.
Really our story is one of success – I raised a musician: one that understands hard work, discipline, working in cooperation with others, and loves music. But, still I often wish I could go back to those early days of practicing together, knowing what I know now. I think we would have an easier time of it, we would understand each other more, and I know I would feel so much more confident that I knew what I was doing. I often wonder if she would have stayed with the violin if I could have done it differently.
And while I do wish it was different for us, through our struggles I have developed a passion to help other parents avoid our mistakes and be more successful. I have made it my passion to help Suzuki families really focus on working well together and not giving up.
If you are struggling through practice with your child – you are not alone.
If I could go back and say something to that young, idealistic and frustrated parent that I was I would say: talk to other parents so you know you’re not alone , read everything you can on the subject, look online for practice games and ideas (if pinterest had existed back then, it would have been an amazing resource), and remember to focus on the kind of human being you are raising rather than getting bogged down in doing everything perfect during every practice.
It will be ok!
Here are a few resources I would recommend:
Life Lens: Seeing your Children in Color A great resource for understanding the personality of your child and how to work with them successfully in practice. You can read my interview with Author Michele Monahan Horner Here
I also love this post about being a more patient Suzuki Parent by Alan Duncan on his great blog The Suzuki Experience How to be a more Patient Suzuki Parent
A book that I read often as a parent that really helped me (and that I recommend to parents in my studio a lot) is Kids, Parents & Power Struggles by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Have you found any resources that really help you or the families you work with who are struggling with practice? Please share them below!