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My daughter has been practising the violin with the Suzuki method since she was 3.5 years old and she is now 6 (so 2.5 years practising). However she's never really wanted to.

She has struggled severely to learn the instrument. It took her 18 months to learn the first song - Twinkle twinkle little star. We effectively let her drop a year after the first year because she was so far behind the other children. We have effectively practised every single day during that period.

She now can play until the 8th song but again is falling behind.

Problems:

  • Verbally wants to stop, says that she never wanted to start
  • Never wants to practice, we have tried different times of the day, giving stars where she gets a gift after getting 10 stars
  • The violin school is a great place, it's a very friendly community that does everything together on a Saturday morning - there's nothing like it anywhere near us
  • She is ingraining bad habits - holding the bow, holding the violin, posture
  • She will do the absolute minimum in group lessons by just pretending to play with her fingers
  • We've been considering quitting for over a year
  • There does seem to be more of a problem than just motivation, she gets very confused with similar song structures and seems to forget what she has learned very quickly

Going well:

  • She can learn to sing the songs - and sing them very nicely
  • She has made it to song 8 and is slower than the other current students but not as bad as with the first year

Clearly we are pressuring our child into doing something she doesn't want to do. But what will be the consequences of giving up?

Similar to this comment:

Pressuring is really a balance I think; I felt some pressure with continuing my instrument, but I am happy that my parents were persistent. Learning to give up at the first hurdle is not a good lesson.

Do we persist but somehow relieve the pressure? Give up and leave it until she shows some interest (but I'm not sure that will ever happen)?

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    Have you asked her why she doesn't like violin, or investigated if there is another activity that she would prefer? (Maybe piano, or a children's chorus, since it sounds like her problem is dislike or disinterest in violin, and not lack of musicality..) – Meg Feb 1 at 20:58
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    I think a better question is: "Why is it so important to you that she plays the violin?" – elbrant Feb 2 at 0:23
  • @elbrant The benefits of learning an instrument and learning it early are fairly well documented. It needs to be the violin as it is the one instrument that is trained with the Suzuki method that allows children to start young and is available to us localy. The group that she goes to is also the only place within more than an hour's drive that teaches the violin to children whilst also surrounding them with other kids learning the violin. It's an awesome and inspiring environment. – icc97 Feb 2 at 15:19
  • @Meg piano is probably what we will do, but then it's just regular classes I've no idea if she'll keep trying once that also inevitably gets hard too. The chorus is an interesting idea - thank you. The benefit of the violin is that there is this amazing group that provides inspiration and friendship from other kids learning the violin. So if she's struggling in an environment that should be as good as possible, then it's hard to believe she will do better somewhere else. Neither my partner nor I are particularly musical so we struggle to inspire her outside a musical group. – icc97 Feb 2 at 15:29
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    There are some great questions here that you should ask yourself in regards to whether your daughter should be continuing lessons: elitemusic.ca/age-child-start-violin – Derek Feb 2 at 18:30
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The Elite Music Academy in Toronto has an excellent Q&A page discussing many of your concerns. While, as the title of the page suggests, it's aimed at parents considering starting lessons for their child, it does cover some of the issues that appear to have come up for your kid:

Children as young as three years old can start studying with a professional violin teacher, thanks to the Suzuki method and scaled-down instruments. However, there is more to consider than size and age. For other children, five and six turn out to be the best age. Here are some questions to consider when deciding if your child is ready for violin lessons.

Is Your Child Interested in Violin?

One critical element of this development is keeping the child interested and engaged in their violin lessons. If a child is not at all interested in violin, then they will not be able to tap into their fullest potential. They might be more comfortable with piano or guitar, which are both also great instruments for developing a great foundation in music.

Will your tyke enthusiastically practice for 20-30 minutes every day? Have they named an instrument they are interested in? Will your child stay engaged with their violin teacher?

How is Your Child’s Attention-Span?

Attention-spans develop over time, with some children able to sustain focus by the age of three, while others have the appropriate attention-span by age five. Others still will struggle with attention for many years. If the interest is there, that is half the battle – but many kids do not have the ability to sustain a half-hour lesson until around age five. On the other hand, if your child is a late-bloomer in the attention department, music is a fantastic tool to help them reign in their wandering minds.

Does Your Child Have Patience?

Learning violin does not come with instant gratification. to learn how to handle the bow properly and how to hold the violin and finger the notes on the strings. They then need to learn how to draw the bow across the strings without making a screeching noise (or at least enough to tease the note out of the string). During this time, they are also learning how to read music and the fundamentals of violin theory.

All of this can take a month or longer. Younger violin students do not have the same dexterity as older children do, so it is more difficult for them to grasp these fundamentals. Some youngsters get frustrated because they want to get to the music right away. You know your child best – can they persevere through the early learning until it gets “fun”?

Are They Too Old?

You don’t have to enroll your child in music at three, four, or even five years old to unleash their inner prodigy. Up until nine years old, children have an extraordinary capacity for learning violin or any other musical instrument. They will gain all of the same benefits that younger children gained. Even children who are in their preteens and teen years can blossom into professional musicians if the interest, talent, and stamina is there.

Lastly, I'll add my own input to your situation. While I understand your desire to take advantage of the fact that kids are learning sponges at that age and may have the greatest ease of picking up skills like instruments, other languages, etc., it sounds like you're pushing her really hard. And when that happens, they usually rebel and want to do the exact opposite of what you want.

You may be better suited to exposing your kid to a wide variety of activities instead (other arts, the sciences, sports, etc.), and see which one(s) she takes a liking to. If she naturally gravitates towards one over all others, then use your energy to get her to explore that further. There will be a lot less aggravation for all the parties involved!

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    I'll add that this article from The Music Parents' Guide is also enlightening. The issues they point out aren't ones you highlighted in your original question, but you might find it helpful too. – Derek Feb 3 at 15:24
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I really feel like you are not looking at the situation objectively. You list 7 issues that present obstacles to your daughters success. You realize that it took a year and a half for her to learn the basic starter song, Twinkle, Twinkle. And you recognize that her classmates are more advanced in their accomplishments. But you think that (somehow) continuing will be better than stopping?

... what will be the consequences of giving up?

Why look at the negatives?
Why not consider the positives?

If you let go of your expectations that she become a concert violinist:

  • There will be less stress in your home.
  • She will be a happier child.
  • She will be able to explore activities that she enjoys.
  • She will learn that she doesn't have to be perfect.
  • She will learn that she can try new things.
  • She will even learn that you love her because you love her, not because she can rosin a bow.

Every parent wants their child to be successful. But your daughters success isn't going to be because of one thing, it will be a result of many things. Not playing the violin isn't going to make her a failure unless you tell her she's a failure because she doesn't play the violin. At the end of your life, you aren't going to look at her and tell her that she "should have learned the violin". You're going to be proud of her for being who she is. Give her a chance to find something she does enjoy... that's how she'll find success.

  • Thank you for your answer. My fear is that it will be replaced by watching TV and then 20 years down the line she asks me why I didn't keep her playing the violin. – icc97 Feb 3 at 13:27
  • I don't expect her to be a concert violinist though, absolutely not. I am simply aware of the benefits of learning an instrument. – icc97 Feb 3 at 14:08
  • I think you saw this as an amazing opportunity for her. But children don't comprehend life that way. I hope she finds something she can embrace with all the passion you wanted her to have for the violin. – elbrant Feb 3 at 15:35
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    @icc97 : It's not violin or nothing ... if you want to make sure she has an extra-curricular activity, there are plenty of others -- but let her have a say in what it is. (and she might decide after a while that she's decided it's not for her ... and that's perfectly okay so long as she's giving it a fair chance before deciding). If she has ADD, pushing her like you are could set her up for a life of misery and resentment ... that's something to fear, not that she might ask why you didn't push harder at making her miserable – Joe Feb 21 at 4:03
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    I was a nerdling SF geek and fully expected my kid would follow me into fandom, but as well as reading to her a lot, I also put her into every type of lesson I could think of as early as I could -- swimming, dance, pottery, chess, sports, guitar (when she was eight -- I had never heard of Suzuki violin). Now I have a kid who's planning to play Division I ice hockey in college (!!!). So you never know. And, hey, she's started taking guitar lessons again. – Ossum's Mom Feb 21 at 21:47
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Although the benefit of learning an instrument is an amazing skill to have if your young child wants to enjoy this hobby she may want to try other instruments and if she doesn't want that there are many other hobbies for young children to expand there education and creativity telling her to quit should be quite simple as it seems she doesn't like the instrument much x

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    Can you add an actual answer to the OP's question "Do we persist but somehow relieve the pressure? Give up and leave it until she shows some interest (but I not sure that will ever happen)?"? – Anne Daunted Feb 3 at 18:58
  • @AnneDaunted The other two answers didn't answer that question so I don't see why a new contributor should have to instead. – icc97 Feb 3 at 22:33
  • Switching instruments is one of the valid answers that I'd considered, but hadn't said that explicitly in my question. – icc97 Feb 3 at 22:40

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