Monday morning, fall 2002. After breakfast, the twins began their chores. I wrote a list of about three things for each boy on little yellow post-it notes a with a black marker—things like: Take out the trash; Fold laundry; Windex the sliding back door...
In the pre- school years, we had a chore chart on the fridge, but once the boys were in the elementary grades, I switched to post-it notes. I blog about my attempt to maintain a smooth-running household in Order In The House.
After chores came music practice. Usually, the boys chose different rooms of the house, and practiced at the same time. As I tucked the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher that morning, I could hear the violin in the other room.
I thought back to Austin's violin lesson last week, and how the teacher gave specific reminders. "Let's go for a nice, full motion," she said, exaggerating the move with her bow.
I went into the living room and sank into one of the chairs. Closing my eyes, I listened to the beginner musician work his way through that new song...
"Well," I started, "Don't forget to keep your elbow up!...And remember what Mrs. P said about that full motion. Oh―and stand up tall." Almost immediately, I could tell that not only had I interrupted the practice, but that my timing was way off―these words weren't what my son needed to hear at that moment.
"Yes Mommy, I remember."
Just then, I realized how incredibly hard it is to learn a song, and how I hadn't been very encouraging at all!
Maybe it's easy for us adults to forget how hard it is for kids to work at something, and to see it through to completion. Whether it's writing one good sentence, playing one measure of a song, or working through a difficult math problem―kids need lots of encouragement along the way.
Over time, I learned that the way to motivate and inspire the twins was to build them up. Then, they seemed to soar to new heights.
What's you child working on this year? Reading? A new physical skill? Playing an instrument? Whatever it is―academics, music, athletics, or spiritual lessons, I encourage you to offer praise throughout the process.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't give reminders or admonitions to our kids―I'm just saying that we need to balance those things out with healthy doses of encouragement.
In other words―don't just remind, but reinforce and highlight the good things that your child does.
Back to music practice―I learned to back off a little, and to give positive feedback when appropriate. I also learned never to interrupt a budding musician's morning music practice! Please see Music I and Music II.
Keep building up your kids―even in the seemingly little things.