Success Breeds Success

“Success Breeds Success” is a well know Suzuki concept that many people have heard before. On the surface it makes logical sense, but what does it look like in practice?

It’s easy to nod our heads, say: “yes that is so true” and totally forget about it when we are teaching our students or practicing with our children.

I see this concept in action in the most obvious of ways when I teach Suzuki Early Childhood classes (SECE). New students who are old enough to play an instrument with the teacher’s help, may not want to at first. Instead they often choose (and need) to observe for a number of classes.

Eventually the come up for a turn, sometimes bringing a parent up with them for reassurance.

After a time (which varies depending on the child) they start to come up for a turn, maybe quite tentatively at first.

Lots of praise is given at each of these stages. Success with observing closely leads to success on being able to do the task with help. Success at this step leads to success with independent turns.

An instrumental student goes through a similar process but sometimes it happens more slowly, and is harder to see as clearly.

success breeds success

I may have a young violin student who is learning to hold the bow. At first their fingers struggle to form the shape of a bow hold at all and we just notice the effort they put into trying it.

Over time they make a bow hold with parent help and then eventually independently (sometimes with varied success at first).

Again we praise each level of development.

Success at the effort to make a bow hold leads to success of making bow holds with the parents help. All the repetitions of that process equal success at independent bow holds down the line.

“Wow your muscles are more relaxed today!” is much more motivating for future effort and future success than pointing out the 5 things that (in fact) may still need work.

Criticism breeds insecurity and fear of failure.

Success (and celebration of that success) breeds more success.

How have you noticed this concept at work when working with your own children or students?

Have you purchased your copy of Beyond the Music Lesson: Habits of Successful Suzuki Families? Purchase and email your receipt before August 1st 2017 to Christine@Suzukitriangle.com to get bonuses including parent discussion questions, a printable PDF, and access to a facebook community where we’ll discuss topics from the book and go through a book club this coming fall. 

Attitude is Everything

I’ve finished most of the parent teacher conferences in my studio for the year (If you want to read more about my process you can read more HERE & HERE). The most common issue I heard (besides learning to practice well as students start to become more independent in practice – a theme that kept coming up for the middle school students) was that in a number of families the parents felt like it was a daily battle to get practice started.

Let’s be honest – it is not very motivating to keep taking your child to music lessons if you know it means daily squabbles with your kids over the practice. Many working parents have just a few quality time hours a day with their kids and spending part of that time fighting about something is not a fun idea.

This is why parent teacher conferences are so important – I don’t know what practice is like for families at home without these honest conversations and sometimes these situations can be turned around quite easily, as long as parents are willing to put in a little effort to change the tone for practice.

In each of the cases where this issue was brought up we decided that the number one priority for this student and family was not moving forward on the instrument – it was developing a positive attitude about practice.

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What Every Parent Should Know About The Power of Words

It’s easy to point out mistakes and what is wrong. It’s easy to see when things aren’t good. It’s easy to talk about what is hard or get frustrated because we know our kids are capable of more.

But how do we turn things like this around and build on what is going well in order to make progress towards our goals  – especially when it seems there is a long way to go?

 

It’s important as parents (and teachers) to realize the powerful impact our words have.

We can point out the negative or we can look for the positive (no matter how small) and point that out instead.

It takes effort, it takes paying careful attention and it can be the thing that spurs our children on to try hard, see that they have the ability within them to work hard on something, and to keep from giving up. It’s human nature to do more of the thing we get compliments or praise for.
I have found that it is very powerful to say “I see this thing about you that is great – do that more!”
Instead of “That’s out of tune” you might say say
“You have a great ear – let’s use it to work on getting right in tune.”
Instead of “That doesn’t sound right” you might say
“You can make a beautiful sound, let’s work on doing that this time through.”
I have said such things to students and seen them stand a up little straighter and really work at something afterwards. Sometimes a single comment like this totally changes a student’s attitude.
Parenting can be hard, staying patient can be hard, waiting to see the payoff years from now from little things we are doing today can be hard. We so want what is best for our children and for them to work hard and to do well. The words we say when we’re coaching them through the hard spots or just the not-so-exciting day to day spots have a huge impact.
In my experience, what students and children need is less criticism and more adults pointing to the things they can do well, and encouraging them to strive for that.
I’m not talking about false and empty praise but someone saying “I see you – I see great things that you are capable of – let’s do this task with that in mind.”
When my oldest daughter was young I would get frustrated with her bossiness and her need to get her sister to do things her way. But, then she kept getting leadership awards in dance class and I started to look at it in a new light. She didn’t need me to point out when she was being bossy and tell her it was wrong, she needed me to teach her to consider the feelings of others and be a kind leader 🙂
We can look at many character qualities from two sides. We can point out the negative about certain qualities or we can see the potential in them when they are channeled productively.

I certainly don’t do this perfectly but I hope I choose the later most often and I hope my kids and students stand a little taller and feel a little more sense of purpose because of it. I hope you’ll join me in trying to do the same.

 

 

5 Ways to Help Your Child Enjoy The Process of Learning Music

This post is the last in a series about inspiring and motivating students through lessons and practice. You can read the other posts here: Overview, Seeing Progress & Feeling Capable.

Learning to enjoy the process is a critical part of helping our children and students stay motivated and inspired. Of any of the aspects of motivation we have discussed in this series, it has the most long-lasting effects on them as people and musicians. It is easy to get too focused on outcomes and results and kill the joy of learning in the process. Let’s find ways to help both students and ourselves (as teachers and parents) enjoy this process together!

 

If learning something new is a daunting and dreaded task then why would anyone want to keep doing it?

I often tell parents that games and rewards can be very useful for very young students until they start to see learning music (and enjoying that process) as the reward. How do we develop this in our children and students?

Below are 5 great ways to help students develop the ability to enjoy the process of learning music. I was inspired for this post by a great article on the website Parents.com (click here to read) . The points in the article really echo what I see in my teaching and I expanded on some of them to fit our experiences as Suzuki parents and teachers.

  1. Understand how your child learns  – Young students learn very differently from teens (or how we learn as adults). Within each age group there are variations in the style of learning that works best for each individual student as well.

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Motivation: The Importance of Feeling Capable

This Post is third in a series on keeping students inspired and motivated. You can read the first two posts here: Overview, Why Students Need Help Seeing Progress. 

 

“I can’t do this!” “It’s too hard!” “I’ll never get it!”

Comments like these (or trying to avoid practicing a specific practice task) are strong indications that a student does not feel they are capable of something we are asking them to do.

Some students may not even be able to verbalize these thoughts and simply act out or seem to lose interest in studying their instrument.

To keep our students motivated it’s important to to address these feelings. Feeling capable and seeing that it is possible to accomplish something plays a huge role in staying motivated.

I’d like to suggest 4 ways to help students feel capable & would love to hear what you think works the best for your children or students.

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3 Ways to Keep Students Motivated & Inspired

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

-William Butler Yeats

Happy New Year! I love the feeling of a fresh start that the new year brings. I am coming back from a couple weeks off feeling refreshed and with a renewed commitment to help keep my students motivated and inspired this year.

 As a teacher I feel strongly that my job goes beyond teaching the mechanics of playing the violin or viola. If all my students get from me is some technical knowledge about their instrument then I don’t think I’ve really done my job.

One of my first jobs as a teacher is to instill a love of music in my students, once that has been established it is much easier to expect them to work hard. Working hard at something we love is a totally different feeling than working hard on something someone else loves. How do we get this to happen?

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Why Short-Term Commitments to Music Don’t Work

why-short-term-comittments-to-music-dont-workI get many calls for prospective violin & viola students from parents requesting more information. I always explain my program and direct them to my website for more information.

A phrase I hear some parents use when they describe why they want to start lessons is: my child seems interested in music (or the violin) and we want to try it out to see if they will like it.

As a parent I completely understand that this is the approach we take for many things we sign our children up for. We often sign them up for many different types of activities in order to expose them to a wide variety of things and to see what they enjoy.

A word of caution though.

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3 Ways Students Can Learn To Give Through Music

3 Ways Students Can Learn to Give Through Music

 

It’s the time of year when many people are focused on the holidays and on giving. When this season is at it’s best, there is a big focus on acts of service and spreading joy. It is also a great time to teach our children and students about giving. Music can be a great way to do this!

Sharing music with family, friends and the community can be a great way to learn the power of giving. It’s an important value I want my own children and my students to adopt, this time of year, and all year long.

Here are some ways you can think about helping your students or children give the gift of music this season:

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3 Ways to Focus on the Big Picture in Practice

 

3 ways to focus on the Big Picture

 

One thing I’ve noticed about students and families that are successful in the Suzuki Method, is their ability to stay focused on the big picture.

There are endless details to keep in mind when learning a musical instrument, and it’s easy to get over focused on some of them and forget what is really important.

As a teacher I like to think of three basic ways for students and families to focus on the big picture: Tone, Technique, and Character.

 

Big Picture Focus: Tone

If you are working on a piece in practice and you are unsure of what to work on next, Tone is always a good answer.

Tone is defined (by the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary) as “the quality of sound produced by a musical instrument or singing voice.” It goes beyond playing in tune. How warm is the sound? Does it having a ringing quality or harsh quality to it?

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Confessions of a Suzuki Parent . . .

Confessions of a Suzuki parent

 

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.

We struggled!

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.

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