Beep. You instantly grab for your phone to check for a notification. This is automatic, routine, and an instant reflex. You know you should be listening with undivided attention to the meeting. Your boss is describing the protocol for submitting files on newly acquired clients, but you find yourself distracted.
Beep….Beep. Beep. You are at a traffic stoplight. You quickly check your phone. It might be urgent you think. You’re stopped, so you’re not distracted while driving. But you are alerted the light changed when the angry motorist behind you is honking their horn.
You are sitting in a violin lesson with your 5-year-old child. Miss Vicki is reviewing the parts of Twinkle. She is describing the cookie part, then two ice cream parts, and then another cookie. Mmm…cookies. Your mind wanders. You are instantly reminded that you were supposed to send your order for Girl Scout cookies to your neighbor, and the deadline is tomorrow. You have your phone out. You are taking notes. You are taking videos, just as you have been instructed. But, you send a quick email to complete your order for cookies. No harm done. It only took a moment. It’s okay, it’s just review.
WE ARE ALL GUILTY! At some point, all of us have used our phones when our attention should be elsewhere. How can we avoid it? We are living in a society where information is being transmitted faster then ever before. It is expected that we respond to emails, texts, and phone calls within minutes that we receive them.
This demand for instant communication and information is raising new questions. How do we nurture our children and keep them engaged in the age of technology and social media? How do we keep ourselves, as parents, engaged when there is so much to do? There was a time when being at home meant our main contact was our family. Today, you and your children might be home, but the main contact could be the phone, computer, and tablet.
As a new mother I think a lot about these types of questions. How can I responsibly raise my child with technology, while it seeps into every facet of our lives? I understand that I need to be the first example for my child. Does he see me on my phone, attending to emails, scrolling through Facebook, sending a text? Right now baby Jack is only 7 months. I think to myself, he’s still too young to notice. But, we all know from the Suzuki philosophy that learning begins at the youngest age, and it is the environment that we create for our children that facilitates that learning. So maybe 7 months is not too young at all. Perhaps it is just the right age to be creating a loving and nurturing environment that has limits on screen time and unnecessary distractions. Right now the limits are for the parents, but soon enough the limits will be set for the child.
Limiting screen time around your child can be a daunting task. Many of us feel overwhelmed with work, children’s activities, and family commitments. The few moments we get at a stoplight might feel like the ONLY time there is to get that quick text off to let your husband know that you are picking up dinner. Managing a family, work, and everything else is HARD! But, we are amazing and we can do it! I think much of the way we can achieve this goal is to limit the type of screen time we are using, and when we use our phones around our children. Discipline yourself to limit time spent on social media and all non-essential tasks. If you must be on your phone around your child, make sure that you are getting those important items taken care of, and not getting sidetracked playing games or reading online media. I know how easy it can be to get sucked into an interesting Huffington Post article.
The Suzuki method philosophy requires a tremendous amount of dedication and energy from the parent. It can challenge a parent to help their child through the most amazing and toughest moments in their child’s young musical life. A parent must take on many different roles including cheerleader, motivator, disciplinarian, practice partner, problem solver, and observer. In my opinion, it is the last role that is often a bit neglected. To observe, by definition, is to notice and perceive something and register it as being significant, or to watch someone or something carefully and attentively. This is HUGE! It is the ability of the parent to observe their child that can have a significant impact on that child’s progress. The parent that is a great observer will have an easier time replicating the private lesson during home practice. The parent that is a great observer will notice small changes in progress, no matter how tiny the progress might be, and provide genuine praise and positive reinforcement. Praising at the right times and for the right reasons can be amazing for your child’s independent motivation. (That’s a whole other article though!) How can we ever be great observers, noticing and registering significance, if we are busy catching up on emails or reading articles during our music lesson? How can we watch carefully and attentively during practice if we are distracted with our phone? For these reasons, during music lesson and home practice, we should limit smartphone usage.
Not only do we want to be the best observers of our child, but we also want to be engaged in what our child is doing. Remember, you are the first example. If your child notices that you are 100% engrossed, then it will be more likely that the child will be connected to what they are doing. Sometimes it can be tough to actively engage, especially when you feel you are sitting on the sidelines. Many times during a lesson, the teacher is connecting with a child, sitting close and working on an important skill. During this teaching segment, the teacher might not look over to you or speak to you until the end to recap the idea and give a specific assignment. It’s easy to let our minds wander while the teacher is only speaking to the child. Don’t fall into this trap! This is the moment to observe, the teacher and your child, so you can be the best practice partner at home.
Think back to the last scenario I posed at the start of this article. “It’s just review.” JUST REVIEW?!?! But, isn’t that where all the magic happens? The review is where we develop skill and become wonderful players. It’s the place where everything comes together and we see our child playing at the highest level. It’s the times where we should be praising them for their amazing staccato bows, gorgeous tone, and beautiful posture. It’s also the times where we should be doing the most deliberate practice to improve our playing. That takes energy, focus, determination, and most of all presence!
Taking videos and notes on our phone can help support a productive practice. We can freeze moments of our lesson and replay them so that we a practicing correctly. This is totally awesome, and the ease that we can do this makes it a no-brainer. But, technology can also distract us from our main focus. We want our children to thrive and be successful. Let’s be the first example for our children. We want them to engage, not only while they are practicing or during lesson, but we should want them to engage in the world around them. Let’s make music lessons the starting point to limit our unnecessary distractions so we can show them what is means to truly listen and be present.