The Power and Pride of Working For Something of Value…
Have you ever seen a child swing their bow wildly through the air? Or dig their bow tip in the carpet? Have you seen a child set their violin down precariously close to the edge of a table or chair? Drop their violin? Or WORSE? Why do children treat their instruments so carelessly when we’ve begged and pleaded for them to be careful? Why don’t they respect their instruments?
A few weeks ago, my two and a half year old took a dvd out of its case and promptly broke it in half. I was so upset. It wasn’t even ours! I tried to explain to him why we can’t do that. I took it away. I hid all of our dvds. I’m not sure the message got through. He doesn’t appreciate the value of the dvd, because he didn’t earn it.
(It was Monster’s Inc. if you are curious.)
I’m sure you’ve had the experience of working very hard to purchase something of value. A car. A home. A nice instrument? Likelihood is that you take great care in protecting that item and keeping it nice. You get your car serviced. You keep up on your home maintenance. Because you know the work and sweat that was invested in that purchase.
Obviously, a young child is not going to be able to earn the money to purchase their instrument. That’s just silly.
So how can you help them understand its value?
You find another way to help your child earn the instrument for himself.
If you let your child “earn” their instrument, it becomes theirs. They take ownership. They want to take care of it, and they are fiercely proud of the instrument that they “earned” themselves.
You can set this up however you want. My first teacher requires her students to perfect a myriad of exercises (away from the fiddle) before they can even touch their first violin. You can bet that those kids are chomping at the bit by the time they get their hands on their instrument. They are so excited. And they have shown (with a cardboard violin) that they can treat their instrument with respect.
If your teacher does not do this, you can do it on your own before beginning lessons. Set up an extra chore system to help them “pay” for their new instrument.
If your child already has a violin that they are mistreating, it gets trickier. Maybe you need to take it away for awhile until they can show you that they know how to handle such a fragile item. Maybe they can only play with very close supervision until that time. You know your child best. Keep your teacher informed, as they may have insights that can help with your situation. They may have a series of exercises they would like your child to learn to earn back their instrument.
When you see your child being careful, praise that behavior. And make a huge deal when they “earn” their instrument. Have a party. Go to dinner. Something special. If you want your child to appreciate their fine instrument, show them that you think it is a big deal. (In a positive way.) “Wow, look at this beautiful violin.” “Do you see those cool flames on the back?” “Look how the bridge stands up without any glue or anything! We have to be very careful not to knock it down.”
In my studio, I have a requirement that children who break their bows or violins because of mistreatment must pay their parents back for any repairs. It would take years of chores or allowance to do that. I tell my students this at their very first lesson. They get very serious about it. So far, it hasn’t ever happened that a child had to pay for a repair, and I hope it never does.
Do you make your children or students “earn” their instruments? What does that look like for you?
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