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<p>I'm looking for insight/strategies on how to approach piano with DD.  I think this post relates to the other active thread now regarding parenting messages and giftedness.</p>
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<p>DD is very intense, anxious and has a low threshold for frustration.  She tends toward perfectionism, but is of the belief that it's better not to try particularly then you can't be disappointed by the result.  She tends to be quite careless and I can't think of anything that she's really pursued or strived for.  She entirely disregards her skills and abilities as they're easy to her so apparently meaningless.</p>
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<p>Previously we've had a number of false starts with music lessons (see low threshold for frustration :)  ), but have found a great instructor.  She is progressing very rapidly and the instructor is expressing a certain wonder at how quickly she's moving through it.  I'm faced with the challenge of getting her to practice daily, but I think even she's starting to see that effort is yielding progress and that's motivating to her.</p>
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<p>So the question.  My inclination is to get overly pedantic about this - "see, effort = result" or to over-emphasize the instructor's praise.  I feel like I'm on a knife's edge: on one side lies her taking it for granted and not pursuing it with any diligence (this has happened before - she puts it in the "easy" box and loses interest), or expecting too much of herself and being overwhelmed by frustration and quitting.</p>
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<p>So, any wisdom or thoughts for me?</p>
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<p>I don't think the knife edge is quite as thin as you think. I've been walking it for years and am getting quite comfortable up here. I have four kids who are all musicians. Tomorrow, in fact, my eldest (16) is playing a full-length violin recital at a cathedral in a city 4 hours from here. I have no doubt there will be a lot of amazed listeners, myself included. Here are some ways I've learned to avoid the potential pitfalls of all that awe:</p>
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<p>Document her playing regularly via audio or video recordings. Keep the recordings easily accessible for her to review over the months and years. Letting her draw her own conclusions about her progress gets rid of the potential psychological minefield of attaching adult value judgments and praise to it.</p>
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<p>Encourage her to work hard. That way when people say "Holy cow, she's amazing!" you can truthfully reply "Yes, well, she works very hard!"</p>
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<p>When new skills come with clearly exceptional ease, point out that she is a thoughtful, engaged worker. (Since she's a gifted kid this is almost certainly true.) When someone says "I can't believe how fast she picked that up!" you can respond with "She takes her piano seriously and always practices very thoughtfully and intentionally." </p>
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<p>Avoid allowing her to be the subject of comparisons. If her teacher is saying things like "None of my students has ever progressed this quickly," take a private moment to ask that she express appreciation for her thoughtful and consistent work, rather than awe at her progress.</p>
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<p>Hope this helps!</p>
<p> </p>
<p>Miranda</p>
 

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<p>Miranda, thank you sooo much for that wonderful advice! We are just starting down the road of instument instruction with dd1 and that just sounds like it will work perfectly for her.</p>
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<p>Joensally, our dd1 started violin this fall and is also a perfectionist. I imagine things will be up and down for some time. The first few weeks were really tough for her, but now we're in an upswing and she enjoys practicing. I will follow this thread with interest in hopes of learning more from all you experienced mamas.</p>
 

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<p>Rather than saying "you're amazing" or "you sound great," say things like, "I like hearing you play,"  or "That sounds like a fun song."  Emphasize effort over ability, and that will lessen her perfectionism.  If she's complaining about mistakes, tell her that everyone makes mistakes, and that's ok.  I wouldn't push playing every day.  And make it a choice.  Say something like, "I'd love to hear what you are playing in piano this week.  Will you play for me, please?"  My mom made it such a chore and I hated it for that reason. </p>
<p> And take her to the sheet music store and let her pick out some fun music! </p>
 

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 </p>
<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>moominmamma</strong> <a href="/community/forum/thread/1279176/motivation-piano#post_16043234"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border-bottom:0px solid;border-left:0px solid;border-top:0px solid;border-right:0px solid;"></a><br><br><p>I don't think the knife edge is quite as thin as you think. I've been walking it for years and am getting quite comfortable up here. I have four kids who are all musicians. Tomorrow, in fact, my eldest (16) is playing a full-length violin recital at a cathedral in a city 4 hours from here. I have no doubt there will be a lot of amazed listeners, myself included. Here are some ways I've learned to avoid the potential pitfalls of all that awe:</p>
<p> </p>
<p>Document her playing regularly via audio or video recordings. Keep the recordings easily accessible for her to review over the months and years. Letting her draw her own conclusions about her progress gets rid of the potential psychological minefield of attaching adult value judgments and praise to it.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>Encourage her to work hard. That way when people say "Holy cow, she's amazing!" you can truthfully reply "Yes, well, she works very hard!"</p>
<p> </p>
<p>When new skills come with clearly exceptional ease, point out that she is a thoughtful, engaged worker. (Since she's a gifted kid this is almost certainly true.) When someone says "I can't believe how fast she picked that up!" you can respond with "She takes her piano seriously and always practices very thoughtfully and intentionally." </p>
<p> </p>
<p>Avoid allowing her to be the subject of comparisons. If her teacher is saying things like "None of my students has ever progressed this quickly," take a private moment to ask that she express appreciation for her thoughtful and consistent work, rather than awe at her progress.</p>
<p> </p>
<p>Hope this helps!</p>
<p> </p>
<p>Miranda</p>
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<p><br><br>
Thanks for your reply, Miranda, I was hoping you'd chime in.  I saw your blog post about ODD's concert and it's wonderful!</p>
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<p>I think there are some real differences in circumstances.  First off, DH and I are not musical so we can't model or share in the same way.  Another issue is that DD is schooled and she's had a bumpy, bumpy time of it.  Looking back, I think HSing would have been a good choice for her, to allow her to evaluate herself using internal measures rather than external measures to the degree she has.  DD is really emotionally complicated and extremely intense.  She's also highly social and I think has placed too much value on fitting in, comparing herself to others etc.</p>
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<p>I don't know if I'd describe her as a thoughtful and engaged worker.  She hasn't found her passion or niche, and she's always skating between tossing stuff out somewhat carelessly (and then believing that that is all the effort anything should require), and dramatically throwing her hands up and wailing that she can't do it.<br>
 </p>
<p>I have started taping her so that she was hear her progression.<br>
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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>A&A</strong> <a href="/community/forum/thread/1279176/motivation-piano#post_16044600"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border-bottom:0px solid;border-left:0px solid;border-top:0px solid;border-right:0px solid;"></a><br><br><p>Rather than saying "you're amazing" or "you sound great," say things like, "I like hearing you play,"  or "That sounds like a fun song."  Emphasize effort over ability, and that will lessen her perfectionism.  If she's complaining about mistakes, tell her that everyone makes mistakes, and that's ok.  I wouldn't push playing every day.  And make it a choice.  Say something like, "I'd love to hear what you are playing in piano this week.  Will you play for me, please?"  My mom made it such a chore and I hated it for that reason. </p>
<p> And take her to the sheet music store and let her pick out some fun music! </p>
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<p><br>
Thanks A&A!  I've read Dweck, Kohn etc and we do apply these strategies.  I say things like "I absolutely love to hear music in the house" or "'I really enjoy that piece - that bit in the middle sounds complicated."  The latter gives the child an opportunity to reflect on that either internally, or to say something like "yeah, my fingers don't want to follow my mind's direction in that part" to which I then would say something like "but it sounds to my ears like your fingers are starting to get it that last time."  I'm always helping them through their frustration threshold on lots of things, and I'm working on this notion of coming back to things after a break and with fresh eyes, not throwing up their hands and walking away for good.  DS is much better at this than DD who gets very rigid and defensive.</p>
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<p>DD intellectually understands that everyone makes mistakes.  She can't seem to process it in the moment with respect to herself however. Dabrowski's OEs describe her well, and when I last completed The Spirited Child inventory she almost maxed it.  She's extremely mature, intuitive, empathetic and socially capable when calm or out in the world, but in private moments her intensity is dramatic.</p>
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<p>The instructor is very good and will print sheet music for any song they want at their level.  He does expect daily practice though and I've really worked to not make it a battle of wills between us.  The kids like a structured week where they can check off what they've done so we have a weekly sheet we collaboratively devise each Sunday where they schedule their discretionary stuff and chores around scheduled and/or required tasks/events.  They also have checklists for the pieces they practice and they like that.  It's not really much getting them to practice as they like going to the next lesson prepared and the instructor's a great motivator.</p>
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<p>I have multiple concerns.  I would love for DD to find something that she's skilled at, that she finds personally meaningful and rewarding, that she can acknowledge and value to herself that she's good at it, and concretely see that her effort does yield result.  I have no expectation wrt music other than for their personal pleasure and that the process of learning teaches them important collateral skills.  It may help them if they decide to attend a Fine Arts high school.  I can also see DD writing music in the future as at 8 she was figuring out tunes on the piano by ear before she'd had any instruction and she's a great writer, so I can see this providing a great outlet for intensity and self-expression.  I just don't want it to explode, as she's dropped two other instruments due to intensity and perfectionism.<br>
 </p>
 

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<p>I have found a couple of things helpful for getting my daughter to practice:</p>
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<p>1.  Don't use the word "practice".  Have her "play" the piano for you.  Have her play through her current music.  Tell her you want a concert.  You want to unwind hearing her play music.</p>
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<p>2.  If you play any instrument, no matter how badly, see if you can play along with her.  If you make a mistake, tell her, "You see, this is how musicians play.  When they make a mistake, they keep playing, for the show must go on."  It's good practice for ensemble playing.  If you don't play an instrument, sing along or play the rhythm on a small drum.  It's more fun to play with someone.</p>
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<p>3.  An idea I got from various Suzuki books is not to let her practice past her endurance.  When she is <strong>starting</strong> to get frustrated, it's time to stop.  She can try a little bit later.  "Five minutes a day with love" is a Suzuki motto.</p>
 

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<p>I do point out progress to my children as well. I think giving them meta skills to reflect on their accomplishment is a good thing. Dd (age 6) is quite intense and easily frustrated. She started piano last year at 5, but is only getting to more 'difficult' (two handed pieces with some rhythm variation) this year. She tends not to want to practice when she's got a new song, but loves playing once she's gotten a song down (if I hear Ode to Joy one more time....). Since this is a repeated pattern, and she's younger than your dd, I find it helpful to point out to her "remember how hard this was for you when you started? And now what's it like? Remember, it's always harder when we first start out."</p>
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<p>I've done similar things for ds in the past. For my kids at least, it helps them see the bigger picture.</p>
 

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<p>Also sometime I have had to bribe my kids to practice (probably not the popular view or preferred method)--it works very well for motivation for the younger kids. I have used treats, little toys, computer time, etc. in exchange for a good practice.</p>
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<p>My DD sounds a lot like yours and we finally found a teacher who could motivate her to play violin with stickers and little prizes and total minutes practiced counting. She practices really hard these days!!</p>
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<p>Striving to be perfect can be a great tool in improving skill in music--you just need to teach her to let go and forgive herself.</p>
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>LynnS6</strong> <a href="/community/forum/thread/1279176/motivation-piano#post_16067332"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a><br><br><p>She tends not to want to practice when she's got a new song, but loves playing once she's gotten a song down (if I hear Ode to Joy one more time....). Since this is a repeated pattern, and she's younger than your dd, I find it helpful to point out to her "remember how hard this was for you when you started? And now what's it like? Remember, it's always harder when we first start out."</p>
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<p>I teach Suzuki violin and I have a bright 9-year-old student who is extremely resistent to new pieces. On the whiteboard in my teaching studio I currently have a row of smileys that he has drawn each week at his lesson to illustrate his feelings about the piece he's been working on recently that he swore he would never like in a million years. As of this morning's lesson the row looks like this:</p>
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<p><span><img alt="greensad.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/greensad.gif"> </span><img alt="greensad.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/greensad.gif"> <img alt="greensad.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/greensad.gif"> <img alt="shy.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/shy.gif"> <img alt="redface.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/redface.gif"></p>
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<p>I am pretty sure that next week he will add something like this one: <img alt="biggrinbounce.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/biggrinbounce.gif">, and it will likely be his favourite piece for at least a few weeks (until the next new piece supplants it). We will keep this on the whiteboard for a long time. </p>
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<p>No one likes doing things they're not much good at. Sometimes it's a real comfort to kids to hear "It's okay if you don't like this right now. It's normal to feel this way at this stage. I know it's not much fun, but it's always SO worth it!" </p>
<p> </p>
<p>Miranda</p>
 

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<br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>moominmamma</strong> <a href="/community/forum/thread/1279176/motivation-piano#post_16067581"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border-bottom:0px solid;border-left:0px solid;border-top:0px solid;border-right:0px solid;"></a>
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<p>I teach Suzuki violin and I have a bright 9-year-old student who is extremely resistent to new pieces. On the whiteboard in my teaching studio I currently have a row of smileys that he has drawn each week at his lesson to illustrate his feelings about the piece he's been working on recently that he swore he would never like in a million years. As of this morning's lesson the row looks like this:</p>
<p> </p>
<p><span><img alt="greensad.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/greensad.gif"> </span><img alt="greensad.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/greensad.gif"> <img alt="greensad.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/greensad.gif"> <img alt="shy.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/shy.gif"> <img alt="redface.gif" src="http://files.mothering.com/images/smilies/redface.gif"></p>
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<p> Miranda,</p>
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<p>I had to smile at this one... DS probably has them in opposite order--super happy when he starts learning a new piece, then progressively more frustrated he is not playing it the way he wants to... Sheet music flies across the room several times a week, but he always comes back to it. Smiley face at the end!!:)</p>
<p> </p>
<p>BTW, I really enjoyed your DD's recital videos!!</p>
 

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<p>When my daughter gets frustrated with something, it often helps if I offer to "chunk" it with her--break the task into more manageable steps. As her teacher says, "if it's too hard to play two notes, then just play one at a time." Also, we use an abacus to help practice repetitions, but any kind of counter (ten pennies, ten beads, ten marshmallows, whatever) can help with small target sections.</p>
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<p>In our household, music lessons are not an option. So when we hear, "I want to quit!" we just say, "In our house, everyone takes music lessons. You may stop when you've finished Book 10 or when you are 14 years old." I'm sure to some folks, that sounds horrid. But we as parents have foresight that our children sometimes lack, and so we determine which activities are non-negotiable. Also, "I quit" means "I hate this," "I'm frustrated with myself right now," or "This part stinks." All of those things can be addressed. We find that practicing goes through "honeymoon" stages when everything is wonderful, and plateaus, which can be frustrating. But knowing, during a plateau, that you've been through this before, that it ended, and that you've had fun musical experiences since then can help get you through.</p>
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<p>Honestly, I haven't found anything that's as character-building for gifted kids as music lessons. It gives them an opportunity to practice failing, to practice step-wise progress, and to produce something they can take real pride in. For most gifted kids, nothing in elementary school comes close.</p>
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Bird Girl</strong> <a href="/community/forum/thread/1279176/motivation-piano#post_16072628"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a><br><p> </p>
<p>Honestly, I haven't found anything that's as character-building for gifted kids as music lessons. It gives them an opportunity to practice failing, to practice step-wise progress, and to produce something they can take real pride in. For most gifted kids, nothing in elementary school comes close.</p>
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<p>(I do not let my kids quit either--same philosophy here: music is a good way to build character and skills.)<br>
I cannot agree more with Bird Girl, but would like to extend this statement to include middle school as well!! Even if your child is gifted in music and learns new music extremely quickly, there comes a point when things get impossibly hard, and detailed focused work is required.</p>
 

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<br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>Bird Girl</strong> <a href="/community/forum/thread/1279176/motivation-piano#post_16072628"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a><br><br><br><p> </p>
<p>In our household, music lessons are not an option. So when we hear, "I want to quit!" we just say, "In our house, everyone takes music lessons. You may stop when you've finished Book 10 or when you are 14 years old."</p>
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<br><br><p>I let my son quit the piano, and then he decided to take up the guitar later, and now he's loving the guitar.  I agree that music lessons are wonderfully character-building, but I also believe in letting them find the right instrument. </p>
 

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<p>Are there other people in her life who make music and enjoy it?  Or is this an isolated endeavor where she spends an hour or two a week with her teacher and the rest practicing alone?  Especially at age 11, if you can tie the music to a fun group of friends I think you have a much better shot at having her want to do it consistently rather than you having to 'motivate' her.  Can she join the school band or orchestra, or find a chamber group to work with?</p>
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<p>Also I second the suggestion about letting her choose her own instrument.</p>
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<p>I sort of sympathize with your daughter here.  I was required to take piano lessons as a child, and like your daughter I found the piano came relatively easily to me and I got lots of props for that - but I had zero interest in it.  I never practiced except under duress (mom standing over me), sight-read my way through ten years of lessons, and dropped piano like a hot potato as soon as I moved out of the house.  And I can't say I regret it.  Honestly I think the time would have been better spent allowing me to pursue something that actually interested me. </p>
 

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<p>My dd (almost 9) is also a perfectionist. She has been playing piano for 8 months, and we have just recently started having some real issues with practicing. I could go on and on about how this played out, but the take home is that her teacher made a very simple suggestion that has made all the difference. Designate a practice time. I know it sounds obvious, but we have a busy schedule that is not the same every day, and dd has limited time at home during the week (she goes to school and dh and I both wohm). So after dinner every night is practice time. DD knows this and after a great conversation with her teacher (they came up with this practice plan together), she seems relieved to know that nothing else is expected of her during that time. If she has homework to finish, she still plays piano first, even if it's just for 5 or 10 minutes. </p>
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<p>I guess my advice is that if it does become an issue, let your dd take ownership of it and encourage her to talk to the teacher about it. For a month, practicing was just a power struggle between me and dd, and it SUCKED! Only when I gave the power back to her did it get better. </p>
 
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