PPO 2016/Week 1: Suzuki Parenting/Leadership

This is a great talk about how Suzuki parents can exercise leadership.

Practice assistance

I’ve been fascinated for a while about the ways in which good parenting and good leadership in the business and political space are similar.

The speaker, Janis Wittrig, is a well-regarded teacher in the Chicago, IL area. She asks parents to think about what they hope for their young child - what kind of grownup you want your child to become. What are the character traits you hope to foster, the habits you want to instill, and the opportunities you want them to take advantage of.

Doing this requires parents to step into the leadership role. Some principles of leadership as they apply to the role of the Suzuki parent.

Have a clear and compelling vision

If parents have a vision of the beauty and power of music, it provides a source of inspiration they can draw on as they guide their children. The goals that flow from having a strong vision provides support for consistency in daily practice and the strength to overcome obstacles. “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing that makes you good.” Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers.

Make your expectations clear

Be intentional. Parents who lead don’t cajole, bargain, or debate. It is an expectation just like brushing one’s teeth. The goal is for it to be non-negotiable. Place the practice in the structure of the day - anchored to something else that is consistent (like a meal, for example.)

Be flexible

Set the child up for success by being observant of their naturally waxing and waning energy levels. Practice when the child is at her peak. Divide the practice into shorter segments as needed. Avoid practice after sports, when the child is hungry or just before bed.

Create a positive work environment

Be firm and consistent but be positive in voice, facial expression and actions. When the teacher gives clear instructions, then the parent can pass that on to the child as: “We must complete the work that the teacher has given you.” 1 For children who need a boost in their enthusiasm, some parents use a point system.2 The parent picks a goal number of points. During practice, points are given for focus, effort, repetitions, etc. It is all keyed to the child’s needs. Build in short breaks into the system. One of the benefits is that the parent can stress attention to detail while making the child feel good about her progress.

Use available resources

Good leaders are resourceful. They use all of the available resources at their disposal to achieve their goals. One of the major resources that parents have are the reference recordings. Your teacher is a resource. Ask questions at the beginning and end of the lesson. Be honest about how practice is going so that the teacher can be of the most help.

[Ed. This is a rich area to explore. There are so many ways that principles of leadership can be applied to parenting.]

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  1. I would just note that this reinforces confidence in the teacher in the eyes of the child and creates a more cohesive agreement about what to do. [return]
  2. We’ve used a point system. I have to write about our point system someday. It’s tricky to do with some personality types. [return]
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Alan is the main practice partner and accompanist for a young violinist.