Printer-friendly version
Jodi B

The smell of Frustration

November 29, 2008 at 3:57 PM

We once owned a dog, Gareth. He was a beautiful, huge Chesapeake Bay Retriever that could lap from the bowl in 7/8 time and eat from a fork on command. However, he could also detect my husbands moods, one of which was frustration, long before my husband showed any signs.

As you know, in the previous blog, I have decided to "let go" and have my daughter be in total control of practicing her violin. This worked out really great, the first week and a half. But, like my dog Gareth, I can also detect frustruation long before my daughter shows any signs.

Take, for example, yesterday the day after Thanksgiving. Of course, she didn't practice over the holiday; which is okay with me :)   I had offered (just a suggestion) that she should practice whatever she wanted to practice. What did she choose? A Mazas Etude with double stops.

My daughter's violin has need new strings for the last week and I will not let my husband put them on until we can get her violin adjusted. So, the string situation added to the frustration with the doulbe stop etude.

After hearing the third attempt at the etude, I called to her "Move on, if you're frustrated." Of course, her response was "I'm not getting frustrated." But after hearing the re-tuning of double stops and plucking of the open strings (a true sign of her frustration) and having the same conversation three more times; I decided to break my promise of interference. I had to go into her room and make her stop practicing that etude.

After she got done with all her practicing, I talked to her about why I came into her room. I told her that I know when she is frustrated long before she does and she will just have to trust me. I told her that she would understand more when she has a few children of her own :)

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted via on November 29, 2008 at 11:06 PM

How old is your daughter now?  I'm impressed that she's been able to take direction this long.  My 9-yo daughter has always been difficult to give direction to, even back to when she was 6. 

And she's just like that when I say she's frustrated or even that she's tired or hungry:  I'll know before she does, but she not only doesn't believe me, she gets really mad about it if I say anything.  So I have to keep quiet and let her figure it out for herself.

From Jodi B
Posted via on November 29, 2008 at 11:34 PM


My daughter just turned 13 a couple of months ago. I have slowly over the last 3 years turning the reins over to her. A couple of months ago, I thought it was time to lose the last 5 pounds so to speak and let her have full responsiblity for her lessons.

I know what you mean by just not saying anything... I think it's best too.



From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted via on November 29, 2008 at 11:47 PM

Maybe your daugter is stuburn in the good sense of the word.  When I practice something that is not at my taste, I often get angry but I calm myself down and check what is going on. Thus, I can also start over many times (but at each time, trying to do something new to make it better). If she starts over the study, maybe it is just because she wants to have it close to perfect.  It's maybe annoying for the listenners (the reat of the family) but she maybe has good reasons to do it. But, I do not know her and you know her usual behaviour much better and can judge of what's happening!


From Pauline Lerner
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 9:12 AM

I have a fifth grade student to whom I give some choice in what she practices.  For homework, I write down what we've been working on, and if the list is short, I tell her to practice one of her old pieces which she really likes just for fun.  She surprised me recently by choosing a very difficult piece as her fun piece.  When I asked her why, she said that the hardest pieces were generally the prettiest.  I suppose that your daughter had her own reasons for practicing what she chose.

I suggest that you stick to your noninterference policy whenever possible.  In time she will learn how to get in touch with her own feelings.  After the incident you've described, she will probably be angry, depressed, frustrated, or whatever.  I think  the time to discuss her feelings and give her positive feedback is after the practice session.  When you broke your rule and interfered with her while she practised, she may have been PO'd with you and not taken what you said to heart.  She might pay more attention to what you say if you wait until after her practice session to say it..

From Rosalind Porter
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 11:05 AM

I'm in total agreement with Pauline here - having the explanatory chat over a nice consoling mug of hot chocolate and her favourite biscuit would seem to be a good solution for both sides.

From Jodi B
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 2:31 PM

Thank you for all your suggestions, I really do find them useful.

I try really hard not to interfere, but when the session usually ends in her crying over her frustration, it makes me think that every time she practices she will get the same feeling making practicing a bad thing. And then she won't want to practice at all.... I don't know maybe this is something I have to get over :)


From al ku
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 2:48 PM

jodi,,,this happens with me and my 12 yo with golf.  perhaps her talent gets into her head and that she thinks if she tries her way then outcome that she desires should come her way instantly.  not so.  for one, the better she gets, the more challenges await her. but, at that age,,with so many things in flux, ie, psychological, physical, hormonal, social, personal, esteem wise, etc,  it is easy to give in to emotional outbursts with tiny triggers.  it is actually natural and as expected.   we may have to take into consideration that sometimes they just don't feel like practicing to our standard because they just don't feel right.  nothing specific, just don't feel right.  everything is ok, just don't bother me.

fundamentally, deep inside,,both of our kids want to take things seriously but may not constantly have that frame of mind, or the patience to sit through the process of change like a saint, or to confront the daily grinds, which, since your kid is very taleneted, may not be that fun!   doing something very well under time constraint is stressful.

you are probably the best judge whether you should totally sit out during her practice. imo, a very tough call if she aims to be very very good:)  with my 12 yo's piano, since everyone, including herself, has happily given up on her,,she practices on her own.  yippeee!   but with her golf which she takes seriously,  my kid has asked me that during competition that i stay away so that she can focus better, not to mention that in her eyes the dad looks goofy and embarassing:).  but during practice,  both of us have agreed that she needs me to be there as a mirror,  to reflect to her what i have seen.   it is simply more efficient, nothing to do with trust. 

our kids are probably not short on techniques, but may benefit from continued emphasis on attitude and patience.  mine probably doesn't care to hear those words one more time,,,but i never let up:)    i just try to nag more creatively.  as long as they see and feel that we try to help out of love and care,,,as long as the channel of communication remains open, that things are negotiable,,things will be fine.

take it easy jodi!

From Paul G.
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 3:51 PM

I agree with Pauline... A 13 year-old is so much more grown up than you may want to believe. Arguing with you over practice is just the start! Your in for it with a teenage daughter:)

But if you give her more space to do her own thing, she's going to rebel less in the future and she won't be urging to push boundaries.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 7:54 PM

Why do you think that if she is frustated, she will quit? Some of the greatest artists have very frustrative personnalities. Take for example Beethoven, he was very frustrated and angry about the fact that he was deaph and he turned this anger in a very stong and creative way to do such works of art...  I go to the extreme with this example but their is as many personnalities and ways to react to a specific emotion as there are violinists.  Your daughter will probably end up a good player with an incredible will if her frustration shows how much she cares to the violin and how much she wants to succeed.  She will understand alone that she has to turn this frustration (which tense the muscles and is not good for violin) in a creative and special artistery!

Good luck!


From Barry Nelson
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 8:27 PM

Personally, I think you should leave her alone, I had an overbearing parent and rebelled.

From Paul G.
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 9:15 PM

I agree with Barry...

Kids whose parents control them too much can run into trouble later. Give her more freedom... These things have to happen!

I would hate it if my parents were trying to ever control my practice or what I practice. The only time this has ever happened was last year when it was 10:30 on a school night and I was still practicing and she told me to stop and go to bed!

If you try to control her so much she is going to hate you eventually... But I don't know why you would need to control her practice. If she doesnt want to, she shouldn't have to... If she wants to be a serious musician, then she should be able to...

From al ku
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 11:01 PM

paul, are your parents musicians who can offer you help?

if not, it may not be that easy for us to relate.  there are a lot of things out there that you and i HATE, but others may love, or vice versa!  i am not very sure if  jodi is really "controlling" her kid by tending to her kid's practice, and that letting her child to totally practice alone is therefore THE solution.   i venture to say this: had jodi not helped her kid to practice all these years,,,there is a good chance that her kid does not play at the level that she plays.   everything has 2 sides to it.

the transition into the next phase is not that simple or straight foward.  just because a kid is growing, talking more mature, behaving more mature does not mean the kid is ready for a total hands- off approach.  you are a boy and her kid is a girl.  psychologically speaking, at that age the two sexes can be very different.  boys tend to be more confident, more aggressive, more sure  when they are clueless.  girls in that age are more apprehensive and less confident and may require more careful and gentle guidance. 


From Paul G.
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 11:07 PM

Nope! I have literally no music help or influence in my family. My mom did choir in high school, but she was a gymnist. My dad's whole life was football and he was high school and college champion "back then..." My brother played the sax last year but didn't stick with it.... His focus is sports; football, basketball and baseball...

And my half brother and sister who are much older aren't musical influences either. So me learning my instruments was out of the blue... And my mom's sister and brother play instruments like trumpet and sax, harmonica, guitar, dulcimer etc but that's about it. So my mom's side of the family play instruments and stuff but my life and theirs don't really mix enough.

But I can see where your coming from Al. And I can't change the situation I"m in so...

From al ku
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 11:23 PM

paul, you are the outlier of the bloodline :)

just make sure you hand in your 10k hrs on time, though. :)

From Jodi B
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 11:31 PM

Let me first clear some things up, because there seems to be a misunderstanding.

I have never had full control of my daughter's practicing. I mean, sure, come on; I did suggest when she should practice and she has always come up to me wanting suggestions of what to practice. I have a degree in music education (focus on band). I admit that I know SOME things about violin, but when it comes to bowings, fingerings etc...heck that is why I come to this site. :)

As explained in earlier blogs, I have just recently handed over the reins to her. She gets to decide when and what to practice. I am basically her cheering section and reference section for wrong notes and rythmn... anything else she will have to ask her teacher.

It wasn't until recently, when frustration is starting to show. I know I should leave her alone. To me, as a parent, I simply cannot stand to listen to the sobs, come into my daughter's room only to find that she is "a heaping ball of mess on the floor." I think that it is wrong to leave it that way. I think that there should be a level of communication of what is frustrating her etc. So, I will, from time to time, come in and say "I think it is time to take a break, quit for now" etc.

I have always kept the lines of communications open along with being very compromising. Come on, life happens. :)

I just want to make sure that violin is something that she will want to do all her life; no, she doesn't have to become a pro; I just want her to appreciate it.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted via on November 30, 2008 at 11:57 PM

Interesting, I'm too the only "weird" one in my family who does music and everyone referes to me as the "artist" of the family. I see myself as half way between artistic and rationnality which is after all the two major components in music (so, it is maybe not a pure hasard if I have been attracted by music).  It is true that we don't know exactly what it is to have a mom or dad controlling us in music (In fact, we rely on ourselves and thus develop autonomy and self discipline) but believe me (and Paul would maybe say the same thing) that they have tried to control us in other things.  And Al, for what you said about the sexes difference, it is true but parents must be careful with this. Parents who detect the "fragile self-esteem side" of their adolescent daughter and take it to their advantage to control her even more can ruin for ever the confidence of their daughter because they reinforce that negative image that she is weak, have to be protect and that everyone will try to rape her if she dares going out at night...  I put it to the extremes but you know what I mean.  If I take my example, I have a sister and a brother. Inocently, our parents have always permited more things to our brother because he is a boy, driving further when he was younger, having more frinds at home, saying more slam words and fooling more around (when I did the same they would call me immature childish and delinquent and they felt very bad when they realize that they were inocently applying the stereotypes to their own children!) + they have always take for guranted that me and my sister were more reasonable.  They are families where the situation is much worst in terms of sexe differences Me and my sister have always had strong ennough personalities to not have been that influenced by what our parents said to us.(I reapeat that it was innocently and not intentionally)  But at school, and all around me, I see much girls who lack confidence and are easy to manipulate and boss around by others + put all their energy in what they look because they think it is the only valuable thing in them.  So, just my two cents to say to all parents to be careful to what you say and how you act with your daugter!  Violin is really an excellent thing for girls (for boys too of course!) to overcome their shyness and gain confidence and self esteem in everything.  Many things in my own personnality have improve since I begin violin and it is also linked with the fact that I have grown up too.


From al ku
Posted via on December 1, 2008 at 12:42 AM

anne-marie,,appreciate some of the points you have made.

again, i hate to generalize too much girls vs boys, but imo, the two most precious aspects to develop for young girls is

1. confidence

2. self awareness.

not violin and golf.:)

my wife and i encourage our kids to participate in activities with these 2 things in mind.  i think  girls with high degree of confidence and self awareness, nurtured since childhood, are more likely to excel in life, less dependent on others (males) and serve as better role models for the next generation.    since my 2 girls have very different personalities, requiring different types of guidance, i can imagine other young ladies may also need their parents to devote a lot of time and care, step by step, sometimes one step forward 2 steps back, to help them transition from dependence to independence successfully.

again, i am talking about quality, not rhetoric.  if someone comes up with an easy answer to quality care,,,i say,,,thanks but no thanks.  we want to go up, not down:)

From J Kingston
Posted via on December 1, 2008 at 2:13 AM

I guess we are strict around here. II think about this a lot as the kids get older. In my opinion, it is important for parents to control things when they get out of hand as a child has a dose of foolishness built into them at certain ages. We all did dumb things as children. It was dumb then and it is dumb now. So to in practice and homework and all the rest. How many of us know that at some core level, our parents were right most of the time and we just didn't want to listen and did things the hard way to prove some point.  In my opinion, the dog analogy is a good one. Usually music practice seems to be the area where rebellion is played out but it is not a very smart thing to do. The child's temperment is a big factor in how involved a parent needs to be, but around hear we have some very creative and tempermental types so we can't really debate everything or that is all we would do all day.

I think the parent's job is to help children be smart about the time they spend. While there is value I guess to hitting your head on the wall for some people, it is not a smart thing to do and children need to learn that it is not smart and they are not impressing anyone with that stuff. It is a bad idea and will always probably be a bad idea, now and in the future. This takes a child having a conscious approach to practice I suppose. Also, if you want to waste your time, it is best to waste  it on things that don't waste other people's time and money as well. That sounds harsh, but it is sadly true. It is disrespectful to all the people, who work to provide the opportunity by driving, saving money, teaching, and adapting to the schedule etc.. Eventually, they get it. This of course requires some self reflection and maturity for a child but you only need to screw up once to stop overconfidence in music or any other endevour you care about. They can rebel about something else at their own expense and the discussion is over. At a certain level you can't really make a child play music well you can only encourage a high standard. If they have goal, which I guess they should once they are an intermediate player, then all you need to do is remind them about their goal and make them be who they say they are.

From Paul G.
Posted via on December 1, 2008 at 3:36 AM

I can see where Anne-Marie is coming from.

Let me give an example. Well first of all, my dad has four kids, The oldest, my sister Keri, then Matt, then I, and then my brother. Keri and Matt are from my dads first marriage, they don't live with us, they both have their own houses and kids.

With my little brother and I, we're very different. His talents are sports and drawing... I'm much better at doing things with language than him, and he's better at math than me. So the list goes on and on. I would say that my little brother, and my bigger brother, Matt, are very much like my dad, and I'm like my sister Keri, and my mom.

With my brother, he has quite the temper...He's a red head:) He likes hunting, sports etc. My parents have to use much more discipline with him than me, he has a curfue (because he was out at 2:30 a.m. in the summer! Needless to say.. .My parent's were pissed) and they trust him with less responsibility.

With me, my parent's don't need to discipline me. They haven't for a very long time because I don't do bad things or act out.... I have memories from when I was a child, my brother would be outside having a squirt gun fight with the neighborhood kids, and I would be sitting by my window reading books, and aquiring a large vocabulary, and I still know words that more than half the people at my age could barely guess what they mean... So I think the things you do as a young child will influence you incredibly. He was always active and outside, and now he is the "sports star" of our city and all the directors know his name etc. I was sitting reading books, and could memorize them (small ones, 20 pages or less) and repeat them five minutes later. I also spent my days going through animal encyclopedias, and if a picture of an animal is shown to me, I could most likely tell you what it is... Except for reptiles and amphibians! I am pretty confident, but not arrogant. I wont let people label me and I'll stand up for myself. I also have much more responsibility and trust from my parents than my sibling. I keep to myself for the most part, and who you see is who I am. I am not two-sided like my brother, he is a different person at home (mean and arrogant) than he is with friends or other people outside the home (he is nice, and acts like he doesn't let things get to him). I take his acts of anger and rudeness when calling people names, as signs of insecurity within himself.

And now I have the freakin' chicken pox! I think... I have a fever, (Have for days), burning rashes and yeah...

And see, as I'm laying in bed typing this, my brother is just getting home and my dad is yelling at him for not answering calls or being home when he was supposed to do because we have school tomorrow... So I gotta go! I feel like crap.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted via on December 1, 2008 at 2:54 PM

 Hey, nice violin picture . . .

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted via on December 2, 2008 at 12:26 AM

 Paul, interesting comment! Just a few little off topic words, I have always heard that musicians were people who were very talented in mathematics, physics, chess etc. But, I am the same as you with my brother and sister. My brother and sister have a by far less good memory (but are much better in maths) than me and are less calm (I could recite books and songs by heart when I was kid or invent some imaginairy language and they weren't able). I was the best in my spanish classes and write in german (in an awful way with a dictionairy) to some german friends.  On the other hand, even with hard work, I am disastrous in advance science or maths, really average...  However, I study sciences now at college but I hope to do something in health care (It's another story!)

I have notice that a lot of violinists, as well amongs serious amateurs and great soloists are really skilled in language skills and memory.  They often love litterature, books and some of the violinist of the elder generation (when didnt exist...:) were really talented letter writers!  I have notice that the purely mathematic or "numbers" abilities were more frequent in pianists (I have a personnal theory that it is because pianist have to read 3-4 lines at the same time and count very very well and on the other hand violin people need to have a high memory to learn all the positions, remember the bowing, have a high sense of artistery since everything in the sound has to be created. So, it is close to poetry even if it is a logical art) Sadly, the people or often either on the more mathematic and logical side or either on the language, memory, creativity side.  (I mean the dominance of one of these two options)

Have you notice the same thing? Am I completely wrong even if I have seen many examples?

If it is too much off topic, I or someone else could start a discussion on this if someone finds it interesting ennough.

Have a nice day,


From Jodi B
Posted via on December 2, 2008 at 1:25 AM

Anne-Marie... you are ahead of me. My next blog is going to be about language and music. I have often wondered myself.


From Paul G.
Posted via on December 2, 2008 at 2:36 AM


Yes, I think starting a discussion on this would be great. I do know what you mean! And it's amazing to me because it's like your coming from exactly where I am. I am in no means good at math... I'm only in an algebra class and the average for my grade is something like geometry. But I've always excelled in language. English is an easy subject for me, and so is reading. In reading, I've always been ahead. In ninth grade, the average reading score would be about 900; mine would be 1450-1510. And it's still the same today... Like in english class, if we're reading a novel, I'll be 8 or 10 pages ahead of the rest of the class.

That's interesting what you say about memory. If I look at a picture from a very young age, without someone telling me what I was doing, I can tell you the details and why I did it, and when etc, if you know what I mean!  And at Thanksgiving, the decorations on the table were from 6 years ago. Made by my grandma, brother and myself. I could deliver all the details of the making and point out which were made by who. Like on one of the napkin holders that we made from a kit, I knew that the one with a melted left eye was made by my little brother because he got hot glue on it. I recalled on the day that we made the decorations everything that happened.

Just so you know though, I know where your coming from.

From Elizabeth Musil
Posted via on December 2, 2008 at 9:28 AM

what, paul, you are only 8-10 pages ahead of your class while reading?  Tsk tsk, In highschool I was always several books ahead :)

To go back on topic from the original blog post, Jodi, have you sat down and talked with your daughter and asked her straight out how and to what extent she would like you to be involved in her violin practice?  ie. If it is ok for you to interupt and give advice, or if it is better for you to wait til she is finished, or if she would rather you not give her advice at all and wait for feedback from her teacher each week.  Then as long as she is handling the responsibility of practicing/playing, ie. not leaving off practice for days in a row, respect her wishes, even if it means you have to sit and listen to her get frustrated or struggle.  Frustration is all part of growing up, and part of every day life, and your daughter will have to learn some time to get through it on her own.  Why not now?  Course, if she is frustrated and comes to you for advice or help with practice, don't ignore her :)

From Paul G.
Posted via on December 2, 2008 at 3:16 PM

I got in trouble when I was 3 and a half chapters ahead:)

I'm not supposed to jump ahead that much...

From Elizabeth Musil
Posted via on December 2, 2008 at 4:09 PM

lol  I'll give you a're not actually supposed to let on that you're that far ahead!  play dumb :)

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted via on December 2, 2008 at 6:33 PM

Jodi, funny coincidence! However I will wait until you post a blog about it because I think it is more interesting for the readers if the comments about a specific topic are all on the same page. At least that you think a discussion is best because it lasts longer.

What do you think?

Paul, it is interesting to see that our brains seem to work in a very similar way and I would be curious about knowing if it is the same for other v.commers!  As I said, if I think about my teachers, my idols, (probably many v.commers :), they all seem to have very good language skills or language learning abilities.  How funny for the maths.  Until high school 5, nothing showed in maths or sciences but, now, at college, we have to demonstrate and prove things and have to have the mathematical or scientific "born instinct" to succed very well. Me and unfourtunately many others in my program, fall very average because we lack a bit of this when it becomes to complex (even with hard work). Of course, it is possible to try to innitiate a kid to chess or puzzles but I think you cannot see his or her real "brain working" pattern until end of high school-first college years even if when we get older, we see that certain things were announcing this (recite books, memerize places, details, events etc) for some people like Paul or me and (having fun breaking a tv in pieces to learn how it works, making robots as hobbies, don't express their feelings verbally but more impulsivly) like my brother and sister. 

Have a nice day and the holidays are comming soon!


This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music: Check out our selection of Celtic music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Summer Music Programs Directory
Find a Summer Music Program Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

The Wallis Presents

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine