Child's motivation/rivalry crisis?

November 6, 2006 at 06:29 AM · Help! Advice needed! A few months ago I started learning violin as an adult beginner (had 1 year of lessons as a child). Middle son (8) got inspired and nagged constantly for a violin. He began lessons enthusiastically, was keen to practice. His older sister (11) then got inspired, and 'taught' some basics by her brother got on quickly once her actual lessons started. Here the problems began. Middle son has cute baby brother who gets lots of attention. His chance to shine was now gone. Sister is getting on rather well, perhaps (due to age?) better than him. He can't 'show off' his skills any more. Mum can do more, and he's not better than older sister (he only had one or two lessons before she too, started.

Now he's totally unmotivated. If he does pick up the violin he does the bare minimum he can get away with. It's sad, because he was making progress. What would others suggest? Continue to encourage him so he doesn't give up too easily (like treading treacle) or suggest another instrument that no-one else plays so he can 'shine' in this one thing? Maybe the teachers or psychologists (Sander???) can suggest something.

I'm at a loss to know what to do.


Replies (5)

November 6, 2006 at 06:56 AM · Greetings,

part of the problem may not actually be anything to do with sibling rivalry. The violin is very appelaing to youngsters , but after the first excitement has worn off a child quickly learns what a hard discip,line it is, requiring regular practice. That is often the point where the child just gives up and the parent then feels in a dilemna. Personally I think that, assumign you have a good teacher, it is probably better for the child to learn that decisions to quit after making a comittment are best made after giving things a fair chance. He should be playing the violin for its own sake, not for reasons of family dynamics. If these are a problem then the undelrying problem is going to continue to exist whatever option is next considered and the child ha slost a chance to do something they really wanted to do . They may be grateful later.



November 6, 2006 at 02:17 PM · On the other hand, and speaking as someone who's btdt, it might make sense for him to try cello or viola (tiny violas tend to sound awful, but not always). Not only would he have his own "thing" to be special with, but years down the road it would be nice for the two of them to be able to play duets with a middle or lower voice (the Bach Double grows tired after 10,000 performances.)

November 6, 2006 at 02:34 PM · Both prior responses make a lot of sense to me. I am hoping there was some kind of pre-planning of an initial commitment to lessons and practicing, but if not, it is not too late to make such a plan. At the end of that period, then it would be OK to ask your boy if he wants to go on or wants to change instruments. I would wait to offer a change till an agreed-upon commitment is met; that seems to me too likely to encourage the feeling that "you always think she's better at things" mindset that 2nd kids can get it. There could be a lot of other dynamics going on here. He's younger, he's a boy (typically better large-motor than fine-motor coordination), he's the middle child. She's a girl, first-born (may be very eager to please adults), may be more instruction- focussed,have better fine coordination. None of those should really matter much; making and completing a commitment and striving for your personal best should. Do try to have separate lessons and practice time or space, and please don't ask them to learn the same pieces or practice/perform together at this time. Luck! Sue

November 6, 2006 at 04:38 PM · Kids are a wild ride..BTDT ...Your boy is probably starting to define himself as a man and eventually someday hopefully as an artist. Switching to a male teacher really helped my son at this age. He is an older, distinguished gentleman and a great role, model let alone a great violinist. My little guy now feels he is running with the big dogs...and he's right! The change in my son's motivation was like night and day. The new teacher's expectations are so very high that my son doesn't have time to mess around worrying about what Suzuki book his friends are on or anything like that. He regards that as 'Baby Stuff' these days. Your son needs help to define his own success and the right teacher will lead the way.

Reading "Raising Caine" really helped me at this point in parenting. It is all about how many parents, teachers and even some strangers see motivated little girls as a "gold standard" for behavior and learning. Little guys sometimes want to do things on their own terms vs. doing things to satisfy mom. His dad could take him to lessons. Maybe you could hire a sitter and you and your husband could go to his recitals and lessons without taking the cast of thousands along. If he can work to satisfy himself, he could connect to his work more deeply. After this phase my little guy really became more serious and as a results plays 100 x better. Hang in there. It gets better.

November 8, 2006 at 11:56 PM · I ended up quitting the piano because I could see that I could end up getting better than my older sister, and I didn't feel like that was going to be okay for family dynamics. I ended up switching to the violin.

In retrospect, I probably would've stuck with the piano if my parents had handled it better. And the situation still bothers me, even though I think the violin was/is a better choice of an instrument due to its flexibility. So, in a way, it ended up okay.

If you want to hear more, send me an email.

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