Someone shared a Four-Fold Way which she's used as a touchstone for many years. I was thrilled to discover it, because it encapsulates in a few simple words the core of what I've gradually come to believe over the years I've been a Suzuki parent.
The Four-Fold Way in Suzuki Parenting:
- Show up
- Pay attention to what is good, true and beautiful
- Speak the truth in love
- Do not become attached to outcome
From my in-the-trenches perspective as a Suzuki teacher and Suzuki parent to a 4-year-old, here's what the four-fold way means to me:
1. Show up. If you're teaching your own, that means something a little different than cheerfully going to lessons. It means including your child in your community of students. It means making the time each day for practicing to happen. It doesn't mean anything about your child doing anything at all. It just creates the possibility and helps nurture the interest. You just keep creating that nurturing environment. Time works magic.
2. Pay attention to what is good, true and beautiful. One way of putting this into practice is to make it a habit of reflecting on every single practice session with the question "what is one thing that worked well here today?" Become conscious of those things -- you may have to dig deep to find them at first -- and do what you can to allow them to grow. At first the "good, true and beautiful" might just be your child's strong will, or boundless energy ... something in the "mixed blessing" category. But if you can become more aware of it as a potentially positive force, and look for ways to enjoy it and turn it to advantage, you'll gradually get more and more stuff that is true and beautiful. Eventually you'll find more complex stuff that's working well, things like "when I let her choose a legato piece to play after each left hand exercise, she remains happy and focused, and her tone stays good."
3. Speak the truth in love. For me this means relating verbally to my child in ways that are less about instruction and control and more in the style of positive yet honest observations and facilitations ... always spoken in an unaffected, genuine, loving tone. So rather than saying "please try to keep your eyes on your bow" I'd say "Your sound is much more beautiful when you watch and keep your bow on the highway." I would stay clear of praise and positive judgements designed to manipulate my child, because that stuff doesn't feel "true" to me. Encouragement rather than praise. Encouragement rather than criticism, nagging or instruction.
4. Do not become attached to outcome. Oh my, this is the toughest one for parents who are also teachers. We know what children are capable of in an optimal environment. We think we've got a pretty rich environment happening for our own child, so we expect pretty impressive results. We may not have shallow expectations like "Perpetual Motion by age 5" but we have many less tangible ones. We expect our child will become focused, will be motivated and will get some goal-oriented work accomplished, learning at a brisk pace that is right for her. If you figure out how to really let go of your attachment to these outcomes, you'll be three kids further ahead of the game than I am. I am only just beginning to get this down with my fourth child ... and perhaps only because she's making it easy by having a natural affinity for the sorts of outcomes I'm trying to let go of.
When things have gone off track with my young kids, I've always found it helpful to set myself a little Suzuki parenting challenge: that of doing whatever is necessary to end each practice session with my child being happy, for two weeks. And I truly mean "whatever is necessary." Extremely short, extremely silly, unexpected turns of events, doing only things which breed a sense of delight and success. If that means playing a joke on my child where she thinks we are starting practicing, and I help her get into rest position and say "Thank you, we are all done ... isn't that funny? Let's have a bow. Yes, we really are all done. No more for today. Violin needs to be fun, so I decided to surprise you with a crazy nothing-practicing." Two whole weeks of easy fun short sessions that end with a feeling of happiness and delight.
Whenever I've tried this I've found my kids' interest in the instrument bubbles to the surface again -- usually long before the two weeks is up. Young children are so forgiving. By day nine or even sometimes day four I'll hear my child saying "No, I want to do more! Let's do it again!"
It's a detour that turns out to be a short-cut.