As I journey along the path of motherhood (and “teacherhood”), I learn many new strategies for having pupils make musical progress. Sometimes the biggest hurdle is attitude, and this is often the case with my youngest students (5 years old and under).
Case in point: my son. He’s stubborn, willful, active, adventurous, and in many ways precocious, while also being self-conscious and failure adverse. I’ve mentioned how this self-consciousness often ends up with him refusing to sing. This is especially true in my music class or if I ask him to sing something in particular. In general, though, it is not true. He sings SO MUCH throughout the day, mostly because he never seems to stop making noise of some sort. I’ve been mulling over why he could possibly be self-conscious about singing, because I always applaud and encourage his singing and he is very outgoing otherwise. (My conclusion (although not scientific)- I think he inherited his failure aversion from me and I remember being very self-conscious about my singing as well, despite the fact that I was always doing it and turned it into my career!
Onto the breakthrough! My son has expressed interest in instruments (especially percussion) off and on throughout his four-and-a-half-year life. While he has friends who take Suzuki violin lessons, I could never persuade him to sit and even attempt to learn piano or recorder… until today. What changed everything? PEER PRESSURE. My son’s friend from school, who is the same age, started taking lessons with me recently. In order to get my pupil to get interested in going to the music room for his lesson, I said he could have his turn at the piano first, and my son could go second. It worked, and when my pupil was finished, my son rushed into the music room for his turn! There were still some power struggles, which define our mother-son relationship and of course bleed over into the teacher-student relationship, but he listened, tried playing, accepted corrections, and eventually practiced and performed his first piece for his father.
WOAH. That was a proud moment. I was proud of him, and I was proud of myself. Peer pressure works- in a good way. This wasn’t goading him into doing something because all the cool kids do it, this was getting him enough courage to do something he has wanted to do anyway, something that I knew he would be good at, but he was lacking the confidence to believe that he could be good at it. It makes sense, now. He sees me play music, but the music I play is necessarily out of the reach of his aptitude at this point. My telling him that he can play music never sunk in, because the skills seemed so out of reach, but when he hears his friend, who is just beginning, play… now, that is obtainable.
Lesson: If you want your child to start lessons, but they’re balking, don’t think it’s that they are not interested. Seeing a symphony or an opera can get them interested in music. Seeing someone of their own age and level play, that gets them to identify with making music. They could be that person! Getting them to that first step and committing to practicing and instrument, that is what finally gets them invested.
Now I can go to bed one happy, proud mama (and teacher!).