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Practicing with our Child

Teacher’s Corner:   By Christopher Barham

One of the beautiful opportunities in practicing with one’s child in a regular way is 1:1 time together. Naturally during these sessions there can be less than stellar behaviour, but there can also be moments of great beauty and connectedness. A wonderful possibility during this together time is getting to understand our children at a much deeper level, including what their fears may be. Some simple questions can usually help to clarify this in less than 5 minutes. For example, let’s say there is resistance to trying or doing something in a lesson, and I sense there is some sort of discomfort involved. I might ask the child some questions as follows below. As a teacher, I am interested in the student’s wholeness and helping them to identify and move beyond their fears, particularly around performance and making mistakes. We need to generate a positive growth mindset. This following sequence might take 5 minutes or less or more. Sometimes it takes a number of discussions, and sometime only one.

What’s up? Are you a little nervous or scared about something? YES

What’s that about? I WILL MAKE A MISTAKE

O.k., and what does that feel like? NOT GOOD

I see, and are you going to melt, or fall into pieces? NO

Something else? I AM NOT SURE

mmm….o.k., so what does it mean if you make a mistake? THAT I MAKE A MISTAKE

Got it, so what’s under that ? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

Well, you believe that it is no big deal to make a mistake and underneath there is a different feeling or message. What does it mean about you if you make a mistake? THAT I AM NOT GOOD ENOUGH/I AM A BAD BOY OR GIRL/I WILL NOT BE LOVED/I WILL BE BANISHED/ ETC.- there are many possible simple child-level responses, and it may take a number of times or re-asking the question to drop down to this point, but this process can be fairly quick. At this moment, the parent may need to give their child a hug or cuddle. Some do not need it and can continue chatting.

O.k., and do you notice a feeling in your body when that thought comes up? YES

Can you describe it to me…does it have a colour, or shape? IT IS A SQUARE AND RED Where do you feel it? IN MY STOMACH What else can you tell me about it? WELL IT KIND OF MOVES ABOUT A LITTLE AND IS PRICKLY, I HAVE FELT IT BEFORE

O.K., Now is it true that you are going to be banished? NO- BUT IT FEELS LIKE IT

Yes, it does feel like it’s true, and we know it is not going to happen. This is just an untrue story and the best part is you can re-write the story. So if you notice this feeling, you can simply tell yourself, “Thanks for sharing, I know this is not true, and I am writing another story”

So, what might be something else you could tell yourself when that feeling comes up? THAT I CAN ENJOY PLAYING IN THIS CONCERT

Great.

It is important that you are ready to give your child a big hug and loving support anytime throughout this simple question and answer process. There is no perfect set of questions to help a child/student understand what stops them. The youngest I have asked these questions to successfully is five years old, and the older the students get, typically the more coached they become in their answers.

Once we (parents and teacher) are more clear about the underlying fears the child may harbor, we have a new perspective in how to better support the child/student in their life’s journey, including musically. I usually share with the child that we all have these issues, it is just we do not talk about them too often, or do not even know they exist. I also find that this kind of conversation is very bonding for the parent and child. At least in a lesson, I keep everything very light and easy and gentle…and don’t push. It is so useful understanding what is underneath percolating along within our young people, and it is so easy to forget or not recognize the richness of their inner lives and how when they separate from unity they can stop, and when they find that inner connection to the whole, they are able keep moving along enjoying the adventure.

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