Sometimes I have students who are so hard on themselves that it is difficult to teach them. They take every correction to mean that they are incapable, stupid, untalented – whatever negatives they can apply to themselves. I have tried to build up their self-confidence with encouragement and by pointing out their successes, but it wasn’t effective as such children don’t see or accept anything positive about themselves. Why? Because anything they do well is, by their definition, easy and therefore, by the same definition, doesn’t count. They notice only what they do wrong and never what they do right. If you compliment them on something, they don’t believe it even though they graciously accept the compliment.
I was trying to help these students learn better and wasn’t satisfied with the results. Their parents were paying me to teach them to play the violin, but their attitude was blocking their progress. I had to come up with something else. But what DO you do when you have a student who is far more critical of himself than you, his teacher, could ever be?
1. Blame the parents. They must be too hard on this poor child.
Not a good approach. The problem may or may not be the parents, and it’s the easy way out to assume that it is. Besides, in my experience, children whose parents are really hard on them are rarely so hard on themselves. So throw that theory out right away. Also I have seen cases of highly self-critical children who have brothers and sisters who are the complete opposite. So you can then……..
2. Blame the birth order.
Nonsense. Or better, it may be that the older children in a family tend more to be self-critical, but this isn’t anyone’s fault and you certainly can’t change their birth order, so blaming the problem on this is just another easy out.
3. Decide that some kids are born with certain tendencies and parents and teachers can only try to help them as best they can.
This is a pretty good choice for two reasons: first, I am not a therapist and don’t pretend to be and second, I can then deal with what is happening in the moment instead of trying to psychoanalyze the child.
The more effective choice, however, may be………
4. Read about Marlon Brando. Continue reading