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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Help! My Child Has Lost Interest! | Solving Practice Problems

During all my years' teaching, my most often asked question is: what should I do if my child loses interest? Then I usually hear a story about how things were exciting in the beginning, but now that time has passed, the child shows little interest in practicing or playing or learning. How can a parent get things back on track?

This issue is an outgrowth of a larger issue in my opinion. When a child loses interest, that tells me that there may be something else going on here, and as with all problems in life, there are some steps that a parent (or teacher) can follow that will lead to viable solutions.

First, I think it is important to figure out: what is going on? There are several possible explanations, and maybe the answer lies in a combination of things:
  • Practice has become routine or drudgery ("This isn't fun anymore!")
  • Practice has introduced things that are harder rather than easy ("I can't do this!")
  • Parent or teacher expectations have increased but the child's rewards from learning have decreased ("Practice, practice, practice!")
  • A relationship has deteriorated (Parent-child, parent-parent, child-child)
  • The child is going through a phase ("I'm five years old!")
  • The parent is going through a phase ("I'm too busy! The child needs to take more responsibility for practicing alone")
  • Something has happened in the home or the child's life (Death, separation, moving)
It is important for parents (and teachers) to spend some time reflecting about the possible causes or reasons for a change in behavior or performance. If a parent or teacher is able to sit down and do some reflection alone, that is terrific. I find that many times a parent or teacher needs to interact with another person to really travel deep into the heart of the issue. I encourage emails because the act of writing leads parents and teachers to journey to the center of a problem, and the exchange of questions and information often sparks ideas or solutions as well as reveals what may actually be at the core of the problem.

Second, I ask parents to go through a series of questions to help frame the problem or issue into a usable format to begin working out a plan to solve the problem. The following questions are part of a worksheet that I developed and included in my book The Twinkle Project, which is my written guidebook for teachers and parents of how I start a young violin beginner from zero through the Twinkle Variations. I include many helpful tips, checklists, and worksheets to guide teachers and parents through the Suzuki philosophy and the practice process, to strengthen concentration and focus, and to explain numerous activities (including for use in group classes) for learning to play the violin.

Here are some helpful questions to spark the problem-solving conversation:
  1. What is the problem you are having with your child?
  2. What is your attitude about the problem?
  3. What are the contributing factors to the problem that the teacher should know about in order to get a clear picture of the problem and help you decide what to do? Has there been any extra stress in the home or the child's life recently? Has there been an event that has upset the child, such as something at school, or involving friends or other family members?
  4. How long has the problem been going on?
  5. How have you dealt with the problem to date? What things have you tried and how successful were they, even if they were partially successful?
  6. What do you think is the answer to the problem? What do you need to do, if anything, to fix this problem? List as many things as you think may apply.
Each one of the questions above will help guide a parent (or teacher) through a reflection process that may help to lift the fog surrounding a problem and offer a possible resolution. These questions help a parent (or teacher) frame an issue in a way that may shed light on the causes of the problem. The questions will certainly yield ideas about possible solutions.

The good news is that when we name the situation a problem, we imply that there is a solution. So let us figure out what is going on and come up with a plan. Our plan may consist of many possible things to try, which may include waiting through a growth phase, but when we have a plan, it will reassure us that we have some control. And indeed, we will have some control. We will have altered our attitude and expectations, and that step alone may go a long way toward resolving the problem.

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2018 by Paula E. Bird

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