Practicing with Your Child - based on the ideas of Edmund Sprunger in his book Helping Parent Practice
January 2, 2015
One of the things I love about Suzuki Method is that the lessons learned and applied in music have application to all areas of our lives. While this essay is on helping your child practice it is easy to see how the principles apply to all areas of child rearing.
Practicing with your child is an important part of the Suzuki Method of music training. Just as children do not learn their native tongue in isolation, neither do they learn the language of music in isolation. Parents are an essential part of the Suzuki triangle (parent, student, teacher). As British pediatrician D.W. Sinnicott put it, “every child needs an ‘ordinary devoted’ parent.”
“I like to think of daily practicing – and much of parenting in general – as a journey in which you come upon one yellow light after another. While red and green lights are pretty clear-cut – red means stop, green means go – a yellow light means that the diver has to check out the traffic conditions and make a decision in a split second…As the driver, you’re the one who must decide.” (p. 9) There is no other parent in the world like you. There is no one who is able to care about your child the way you do. And there has never been a relationship just like the relationship between you and your child. If you have more than one child you have more than one unique relationship. No one can tell you exactly what to do at those yellow lights.
When you started lessons with your child you may have envisioned the child happily practicing and progressing while you enjoyed the progress and beautiful music. Conflict was not envisioned or desired. You just wanted to be a good parent and help your child learn a skill that will enhance his or her enjoyment of life. Somewhere (probably not too far) into the journey you realize that there is tension in this unique relationship that you have with this child you love.
Let’s use a gardening analogy for the relationship with your child. When you bite into a piece of lettuce you really don’t like it when you get a piece of dirt in your mouth, but let’s face it, lettuce grows in dirt. “The dirt doesn’t make the lettuce bad. Similarly, relationships often grow in conflict. The presence of conflict doesn’t necessarily indicate that the relationship is bad. Any close relationship is likely to have its share of conflict. “ (p. 10)
“You can’t tug on a plant to make it grow. You have to trust the process.” (p. 11) What gardeners and parents do is provide the correct environment for growth. Water, fertilize, and tend to the plant. You will encounter weeds and pests and dirt. Do what you can to remove the weeds and pests and remember that the dirt doesn’t make the plant bad.
In the end, remember that not everything is under your control, no matter how loving or caring you are. You have a great responsibility as a parent in daily practice, and in every area of your child’s life, to give your best to your child (knowing that your best will fluctuate from day to day), but you alone do not have total responsibility for the way your child plays. You do, however, have totally responsibility for how you, yourself, behave during practice. Remember that the Suzuki philosophy is one of love and joy. Be Positive. Acknowledge the effort. Praise the achievement. Appreciate each step no matter how small. In the words of Sinichi Suzuki, “Where love is deep, much can be accomplished”