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  • Writer's pictureAmy Barten

Parent Ed Night Winter 2024 - Environment Nurtures Growth

"When a flower doesn’t bloom, you FIX THE ENVIRONMENT in which it grows. NOT THE FLOWER." - Alexander Den Heijer

Shinichi Suzuki used the analogy of teaching children, especially young children, as planting a seed and watching it grow. But not just watching it.

Nurturing its growth.

There is so much happening under the surface before we even see growth, but that doesn’t mean we stop nurturing the seed, pulling up the weeds, watering the ground and providing the best environment. This is true in nature, it is true for a child's growth and for growth in anyone's life, no matter our age or experience.

When we garden we must practice patience and be consistent. We must believe in our efforts and when something doesn’t go as planned, we don’t blame the plant or ourselves for that matter, we evaluate the environment in which it grows and try something different. Every plant, child and human being, need different things in order to thrive.

It is a parents and educator's job to figure out what each child needs. It also becomes important for every individual as they grow to determine what they need to do for themselves in their own environment to thrive and grow.

“Be patient with yourself. Nothing in nature blooms all year”

Be patient with our kids. Sometimes they want to practice. Sometimes they don't. A child that doesn't want to practice isn't disinterested in the instrument. As adults, we don't always want to eat healthy or exercise or practice our own hobbies or interests, or even work (even if we love our job)! We can procrastinate. We can have trouble getting a task started. We can get distracted and put things off. We can be tired and just want to do nothing!

Our kids are just like us. They need help to get started. They need encouragement on the days they don't feel like playing. They need compassion when they are struggling and be reminded that this is just a moment in time. They need us to model. They need our help to understand that we can be uncomfortable and still do one small thing that is good for us. They need our help to understand that it's okay to miss a day of practice and to get back on track the next day. We can ride the ups and downs of practice just as we learn to ride the ups and downs of life. Stay consistent and growth will appear when it is ready.

"WATER THE FLOWERS, not the weeds"

I have always tried to acknowledge what a child is doing right before picking something to improve on in the lesson. I find this is easier to do as a teacher than as a parent. In parenting, it is so easy to get lost in and give energy to the weeds. We can very easily miss all the flowers, all the amazing things our kids do on a regular basis and only see the misbehaviour. When we give energy to the misbehaviour, the misbehaviour grows. When we give energy to what they are already doing well and ignore or redirect the misbehaviour, the good grows and the misbehaviour diminishes.

In practice, try pointing out three things that are going well first (even if there is a whole list of things to fix). Point out what is going well, no matter how small. Then start with ONE THING to work on.

If you are struggling with this as the parent in the lesson, please speak to me about some specific things we can work towards with your child.

"NATURE DOES NOT HURRY, yet everything is accomplished" - Lao Tzu

When we practice we want progress. Progress comes with consistency. But even still, progress can come on slowly over time or in giant leaps and bounds. There is nothing wrong with either as we all learn things at different speeds. One skill may take us forever to learn while another we catch on quickly. It is easy to get used to the leaps and bounds and think something is wrong with us when we don't catch on quickly. However, this is all part of being human. Celebrate every step, no matter how small and celebrate your consistent effort. This consistency will pay off. Remember, we don't see the seed growing because all of its energy is being put into growing strong roots under the earth. Only when it is ready, will the seed or the skill bloom. Don't hurry, don't stop. Keep on trying.

"RAISE YOUR WORDS, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder" - Rumi

There is so much power in the words we choose when we speak to ourselves and to others. For example, "Don't touch the bow hairs," compared to, "Thank you for not touching the bow hairs", can be said even as they may still be in the act of the misbehaviour. Saying a "thank you for not" implies that you know they can accomplish the task even if they haven't already. Also, adding on what they can do instead of just what they can't can be powerful as well. "We can grab to bow at the frog!"

Changing our speech is so hard because it is hardwired in us from childhood. I have been trying to be present in what I say to my kids and my students and often I hear back what I've said and thought, there is a better what to say this, or this doesn't align with my values anymore but I know it's a habit. The first step to making any change is being aware.

Our kids in particular get used to our tone and the words we use. Thinking and researching different ways of directing and asking our children and students to do or not do things can make a world of difference in how we work together and how children will establish their inner voice.

More Examples on Environment Nurtures Growth...

These quotes in reference to the Suzuki Method and learning are something I have found impactful in my life as a Suzuki Parent & Teacher. Not to mention in relation to progress in skills I'm working on in my own life. However, these are broad topics on how environment nurtures growth. For more specific examples on how to schedule, set up and arrange the practice space and time, please visit this blog post HERE and continue reading...

  • Set up the practice area with everything you will need from the violin, rosin, tuner, stand, music books, games, and knicknacks you might use. I have created little boxes for my girls where we keep our flashcards, mini erasers, pencils, stickers, dice and our binder with our practice sheets and board games.

  • Have all practice materials out and ready and easily accessible. Once the violin and music books return home after lesson, unpack the violin so it is ready to play and open the practice book to the assignments. We are more likely to pick up our instrument if we don't have to unpack. We are more likely to play our practice spots if we don't have to look for what they are.

  • Try to be consistent in your practice time and bracket it with an activity you already do daily such as brushing teeth, eating dinner, coming home from school, etc.

  • The practice environment should be free from distractions from both parent and child. Keep screens and phones out of practice and set a boundary that this is time to be present with one another, even if just for a few minutes.

  • Be flexible with what happens during practice time. Just because something worked one day, doesn't mean it will work the next. Our moods and energy levels change. Meet your child where they are, and meet yourself where you are at! Your child may be ready for a long practice, but you as the parent may be drained! Be honest about this and work together with your child to have a positive experience based on both of your needs.

  • Sometimes a child (or anyone!) who is having trouble getting started with practice just needs a snack, or a drink, a bathroom trip or to move their body first. Check in with these basic needs first.

  • It is ok to experiment and to adjust the environment as needed based on age, ability, scheduling and lifestyle. Your teacher is always available for advice and sometimes having someone look at a situation from an outside perspective can make a big difference.

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