Like most parents, I began Suzuki violin lessons with my child imagining all the fun we’d have together. I was excited to see him learn new things and make progress towards a goal. I was also looking forward to spending meaningful one-on-one time with my son while we practiced.
I knew it was going to be work, I’ve been a Suzuki teacher for over ten years, so I had some exposure with the struggles parents face when practicing with their kids.
I mistakenly imagined that I would be able to avoid some of these difficulties due to my experience as a teacher.
I was very wrong.
Practicing with your own child is tricky!
I felt so much pressure to perfect what he was doing.
I was frustrated when he wasn’t listening to me.
I was annoyed when he wouldn’t come practice when I asked.
I’d roll my eyes every time he interrupted practice to go to the bathroom.
But these reactions made our practice experience worse.
He could tell I was frustrated and he’d shut down.
It wasn’t working.
I needed to manage my own emotions so we could have effective practice sessions.
After almost a year of practicing with my son, I’ve discovered what I need to do to keep my cool during practice time with my Suzuki violin student. I still feel those feelings, and react in negative ways sometimes, but when I’m mindful, I show up better for myself and my son during our practice sessions.
- Prepare myself for the practice session. I take three minutes to answer some journal prompts I created to get myself in the best frame of mind for working with my son.
- Let go of any unrealistic expectations or comparisons. Comparing my child to other students never helps me.
- Make a plan for a fun practice. If I have something prepared I don’t have to come up with fun ideas on the spot.
- Start with connection. Children are much more responsive to our influence if they feel connected to us. Anytime you can start with smiling or laughing is a win. It doesn’t have to be violin related. Sometimes we’ll start with a silly dance party, a pillow fight, a snuggle, whatever we need that day.
- Repeat a calming mantra during rough moments in the practice session. I have a few in my back pocket ready for such occasions. They don’t always spring to mind very first, but the more I practice them the easier it gets.
- Ignore inconsequential behaviors. Children continue behaviors that get them attention (positive or negative). If your child is exhibiting annoying or silly behavior during practice, don’t feed it. Focus on the behaviors you want to continue.
- Fake it. Do whatever you need to do to act like the parent you want to be. Just faking a smile will eventually help you feel happier.
Practicing these principles and tools have made practicing so much easier and more fun for my child and for myself.
What do you do to keep your cool during practice? Please share in the comments!