Who's Your Worst Enemy? I am.

Edited: December 18, 2018, 8:22 AM ·

Is a student's worst enemy themselves, and how does one build confidence to change this? What techniques would strengthen their resilience?

Replies (7)

December 18, 2018, 8:47 AM · Trying to get in on the clickbait title game, eh? Alright...

Some people have grit, others don't. I'm not sure if you can teach someone else how to discipline themselves; it's something they have to find on their own.

Edited: December 18, 2018, 9:28 AM · Surely "grit" is more or less innate, while self discipline can be learned.

But "resilience" seems to rely on success, with just a touch of self importance.

December 18, 2018, 5:01 PM · Do you expect answer from the point of view of a student or of a teacher?
December 18, 2018, 5:21 PM · Cotton, neither of you will beat "buying human bones".
December 18, 2018, 5:35 PM · Success breeds confidence. Move the student along at a pace where they can have successful moments. A "lower level" piece played well in a recital, for example, is better than a "stretch" piece played poorly.

Resilience is harder to fathom than confidence. It's a product of so many things -- the student's own intrinsic personality (who knows where that comes from, really?) and of course parenting.

December 18, 2018, 6:38 PM · The sad reality is that grit is usually determined in a student before the teacher ever gets to them. This is because the entire supporting structure around the student's life is what shapes their perseverance, and that has to do mainly with the family/peers of the student, rather than the student themself.

No matter how much wisdom/inspiration you try to impart, you interact with the student maybe an hour a week, whereas their family and peers interact with them for 40+ hours per week.

The key is to modify the behavior of the closest family members, rather than only focusing on the student. However, this isn't always doable, mainly because the family members who are open minded to change are also the ones that already have a healthy relationship with the child. And the ones that are going to be stubborn about change are the ones who really need to change.

Of course, we should still try our best, because small changes can be made and over time they can accumulate to make a surprising impact. Just don't expect any particular idea to make a major impact. There is no "just add a cup of this to the recipe and grit will develop" to this situation. The reality is that for some students, the *most* we can offer them is a safe, comfortable environment for 30-60 minutes every week. But that still means something, even if it doesn't yield a braggably good-sounding violin student.

I feel you may be trying to simplify the formula so you have a flowchart of sorts to develop grit in students. Everyone is so different, in so many ways, that every time I've tried to make a "formula" that tells me the ideal way to develop each trait in each personality type, I realize that it's totally pointless. As soon as you make a rule for teaching, a new student will come in and make you break that rule. Rules, quotes, and mantras don't work.

December 19, 2018, 3:06 PM · As a psychologist who has co-authored 2 books on academic underachievement (see below, if you're interested), and having spent the better part of my career dealing with the issue of motivation, I can tell you the following.

Literally trillions of words have been written that provide the "answer" to dealing with how to increase motivation - books ranging from religion to economics to biology to politics to business to....well, you get the idea. Today we have endless books that claim to have the secret to motivation, and motivational speaking has become a big business.

Is there one single secret to guiding a person's motivation to do what they need to do to learn the violin (or anything else)? I don't think so.

But does that mean we should stop looking and just chalk it up to individual personality dynamics? I don't think so.

Therefore, keep looking. Try different things. Keep what works for you and forget the rest. And never give up.

If you're interested, my late colleague (Dr. Harvey P. Mandel) and I wrote The Psychology of Underachievement (1988) and Could Do Better (1995), both focusing on different personality styles and how they uniquely relate to academic (and general) underachievement and motivation.

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