Practising with stroppy children!
by Jenny Macmillan
Ability Development, Summer 2000
Of course, none of my pupils is normally stroppy when practising at home with a parent(!) However, interestingly enough, I did have a rather fine turn-out of parents for a discussion evening on this topic. In the unlikely event that any other Suzuki families occasionally find themselves with awkward, argumentative children, here are the notes I prepared for the discussion.
- It is essential to have a set time each day to practise together.
- Plan what will be practised - both the order of technical exercises, scales, sight reading, pieces, etc, and which part of each exercise, scale, reading, piece - but then be flexible.
- Stroppy children are trying to assert themselves. Within reason, let them take part in decision-making. (A prime example is Elizabeth I who let her ministers get their way in small matters, but got her own way in important matters.)
- Donít move goalposts. If working on something and it improves, praise it - donít then go on by saying ďBut can this be better?Ē(for instance, if working on rhythm, donít then switch to balance).
- Children get frustrated when asked to stop in the middle of a piece. Either practise assigned sections, or let them play straight through the piece (or one followed by the other).
- Use the Twinkles and the step-by-step mastery approach. Talk to your teacher, read widely about Suzuki and about education in general, and talk to other Suzuki parents.
- Youíll find you have more patience if you set your expectations at a reasonable level.
- Make each practice session a pleasant, cosy time together.
- Perhaps your child would like to do some part of his practise on his own. Initially review or note learning is better for this than is technique. Discuss it with your child, and then inform your teacher.
- Tape-record your practice and play it back to your child, or to your teacher.
- Swap children with another parent for a practice.