I don’t know about you, but it seems like I say the same things over and over and over with my child in practice, and with my students in lesson.
“Watch your bow.”
“Eyes on your bow.”
“Watch your bow.”
“Bow on the highway.”
“Watch your bow!”
“Would you pease, please, please watch your bow?”
“For the love of all that is good, watch your bow!!!!!!!!!”
Ok, ok, I really try not to let it get that far, but I think it sometimes!
Sometimes it seems like my children are deaf to the sound of my voice. Partially because of their ages and attention spans, but mostly because they’ve been desensitized.
I have desensitized them to the sound of my voice by constantly repeating myself.
Here are the ways I am re-training my children, and my students, to listen to me more carefully so that I don’t have to repeat myself quite so much.
(Some repetition is necessary and good. Of course.)
1. Make sure they’re actually listen when you say it the first time. Did they even hear you? This is often the issue with my five year old.
“Listen carefully, …”
2. Ask them to repeat the instruction. Verify that they understood your direction.
3. Develop a secret code. This can be verbal, or silent. A light tap on the wrist, a hand signal, a silly noise, whatever works.
4. Reward prompt compliance. (Not necessarily a physical reward, a high five or a “WOW! Awesome listening!” is often enough reward to reinforce a behavior.)
5. Ask lots of questions to engage their thinking brain. It is much better for their retention when the child can come up with solutions himself. (Adult: How do you think you could make your tone even better? Child: Stay on the highway… Adult: How do we do that? Child: Watch the bow.)
There is nothing more frustrating for parents, teachers, or children than a constant drone of critical comments during practice. Constructive criticism is never received well by some students, especially when given by the parent. The more we encourage our children to remind themselves of technical points the more invested they will be in their own musical progress and development.
After all, our goals in practice should be laying a foundation for independent practice later on, and most important, protecting, preserving, and nurturing your relationship with your child.
How do you ride the line of helping your child improve in their technique without driving them nuts? Please share your ideas in the comments.