Teachers sometimes ask me how I deal with children who break into tears during the lesson. Yes, I, too, have had students who suddenly burst into tears for no apparent reason. Sooner or later, I am happy to say, they either learn to control their emotions or realize there’s no reason to cry in the first place. So how do they get to this point?
There are various situations which may provoke tears in some students. Here are a few of them with the antidotes I use.
1. Frustration: playing the violin may be the first really difficult thing these children have ever attempted. I have had many musically, physically and intellectually talented students for whom everything is easy – until they try to play the violin. The first impact of difficulty is often a shock to them, and the more emotional ones will frequently turn on the waterworks.
Antidote: The problem is not about them, but about an obstacle which surely someone as clever as themselves will surmount with a bit of determination which abounds in their character (even if it doesn’t, you still encourage this aspect). You are glad that they care so much and this is a good sign.
2. Difficulty. Learning to play the violin is just plain difficult. For everyone. I don’t know if other teachers have ever had a student to whom you show how to hold the violin, move the fingers, hold and move the bow and here’s a Paganini caprice in the first lesson, but I haven’t. Students will often cry just because it’s hard.
Antidote: Yes, it’s difficult. That’s why you need a teacher and that’s why you have to practice, which by definition means to keep trying. If it were easy, then everyone would be a great virtuoso in one lesson and I would be out of work!
3. Anger: “What? I can’t do this?!” Stomp of the foot, three or four tries, and then, tears.
Antidote: I’m so glad you’re angry! Now just use that energy and apply it to your practice and you’ll master that problem in no time! Your reaction shows you care! That’s wonderful!!
4. Astonishment: “How can this be happening to me???? I can’t do this!”
Antidote: You are surprised that this is difficult? Do you think I was born this perfect being you see before you today? (Naturally, I’m kidding.) Do you think I never had a problem? Here let me help you find a way to practice this.
5. Desperation: “Woe is me, I will never be able to do this.”
Antidote: How you’re feeling right now is how EVERY violin student feels at some point. Yes, you will be able to do this. It’s just going to take some time and persistence. Given that you are very determined (again, encouraging a quality that may not always be so evident), you will be able to conquer this. The Twinkles were difficult for you a year ago, no? Look at all you are now able to do that even a six months ago seemed impossible!
6. Gotcha: “My teacher has put her finger on the wound of some self-perceived (imagined) defect and it hurts too much to think about it.” Continue reading