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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Expectations (cont'd)

I can never figure out if my expectations for my kids are too high or not high enough. 

In particular, I'm thinking maybe I'm being too "tiger mom" with my kid and the violin.  On the other hand, I don't expect perfection, (hell, that would be pretty hypocritical of me considering how awesomely I suck) I just expect her to work hard.  *Try* it before you start crying that you can't do it.  Sigh.  I instituted a new rule that hasn't worked *at all*: No crying during violin!  If she starts crying when she's playing violin, she has to put her violin away and just go to bed, so that she doesn't get to watch a TV show.  This meant going to bed at 7:30 twice in the past two weeks, including last night.  Obviously that didn't work, spectacularly. 

And this isn't every practice, most practices she works hard and is just awesome, but it is about once a week there's a bad practice.  Like, epic.  Maybe, it's just the age and I'm expecting too much maturity.  But I just can't get the message through to her that she isn't *supposed* to already know how to do it perfectly, so when I stop her and say, no, that wasn't right, you need to try it again, it becomes this huge deal.  We've come a long way with it, and in many ways it is so much easier than it was.  She never refuses to practice.  She likes to practice, loves to play her violin.  She doesn't even whine or cry because she has to practice.  She has even started to get the violin out herself to practice, instead of being prompted by me.  It's during the practice when we're working on a skill and it becomes "hard," that instead of working at it, she cries.

She's prepping two pieces for String Festival in March, and I want her to do her best.  *Her* best, not *perfect.*  But she has work to do.  When she plays the piece and she misses notes, I need to tell her that.  We need to go back and work on those measures.  I'd be doing her a huge disservice if I just clapped and said "good job," and didn't make her work at it, because then she wouldn't get better.  (It's like the teacher who reads a paper you wrote, and hands it back to you with "good job" at the top.  Well, that's not helpful.) But I also don't want to make her hate the instrument and feel bad about herself.  Maybe I need to be more the hugs-n-kisses squishy mom that is empathetic because kids need to express their feelings and cry, but I don't want to stop the practice and let her cry and have a cookie.  I don't want to send the message it's okay to just cry about your mistakes instead of continuing to work hard.  I tell her I understand she's frustrated, but that she needs to control her feelings, she needs to take a breath and focus and work through it, that when she's crying, she isn't working hard.  And she's very proud of herself when she knows she's worked hard and she *didn't* cry, even when she was on the brink of it.  She even brags about it to others: I worked really hard at my violin today, and I didn't even cry!  I just don't know how to get the percentages up, because at least 20% of practices result in waterworks instead of work.

What it comes down to, is I just don't want her to be *that kid.* *I* was that kid. I was the kid who cried every damn day at school. You couldn't correct me, it hurt my feelings. Everything hurt my feelings. I took everything personally, particularly things that didn't matter. I don't want her to be like that. It's miserable to be like that (and I probably overcompensate by being a cold, heartless bitch, but it's better than letting every single criticism, constructive or not, wreck you). Maybe I'm concerned for nothing; she's certainly much tougher than I was, she isn't anywhere near as sensitive, fortunately.  I just don't want her to start crying during math class because she gets the answer wrong, instead of paying attention to the teacher so she learns how to do the problem right.  How do you explain to a 5 year old that it doesn't matter if you get it wrong, that you're *supposed* to get it wrong, that's how you learn to get it *right*? That if she could already do everything perfectly, she wouldn't need a teacher or school or even practice? What matters is the effort you put in along the way, not some perfect end product? 

I don't know.  Maybe next time she starts crying during violin, we'll both just go eat a cookie and listen to Itzhak Perlman doin' it right.

(As an aside, I think even that kid played that piece better than I do.  Just sayin'.)


Kate Sherwood said...

Do you teach her violin or does someone else teach her? The reason I ask is because I wimped out on that one. I play piano. I have taught other people's children to play piano just fine. My daughter wanted to learn to play the piano. It made sense that I would teach her piano. Oh my goodness! I could never, ever correct her, no matter how nice I did it.

We finally tried another teacher, and it was night and day. Something about not being her mom to correct her on this skill she was learning made all the difference. If she asked me for help during practice, I helped her. Other than that, I just made sure she practiced (especially now that I was paying for it) and let her teacher handle the corrections. I know it is unbearable to let them practice wrong, but if it was terribly wrong, she usually knew it and broke down and asked me. If it was timing/counting issues, I let the teacher fix it.

Even when she asked me for help and I told her the way it was supposed to go, sometimes she would insist I was wrong. I would just let it go. When she would get done with her lesson with her teacher later, she would admit I had been right. But, did that change her receptiveness the next time she asked me for help? Absolutely not.

I don't know how parents who homeschool do it.

Good luck!

Proto Attorney said...

I think you're right, there's a point where I just need to let her play it wrong. There's a checklist of stuff she's supposed to do (like keeping tall fingers, not holding the violin up with her wrist, etc.) but maybe for the rest of it, I just need to send her to her room to practice by herself.

Yeah, we have a teacher... There was no way I was going to try to teach her violin myself, for this very reason. Just practicing is hard enough!