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Behaviour Problems at Lessons

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Child Won't Behave at Their Weekly Lessons

Here is a conversation I had with a mom about her issues with her children’s behaviour in their lessons.

I was wondering what advice you can offer about children and extra curricular activities. We have a three year old who we enrolled in a half hour piano lesson and a half hour skating lesson each week. It is like pulling teeth to get him to perform or co-operate and listen to the instructors. I wonder if we are pushing him too hard, given that he is only three. He says he really enjoys both activities and is quite excited to go each week but once he begins the lesson he seems reluctant to try. The teachers at skating lessons say he is more than capable of skating he just chooses not to. During music class he acts silly, pretends he doesn’t know the keys on the piano or the songs when I’ve seen him play and heard him sing when not on demand. We don’t want to have more of a vested interest in these activities then he does and we are not sure why he is reluctant to take part or cooperate. Any thoughts?

You can read what I replied:

Thanks for your question.

My experience has been with my own kids, that activities that children truly like and show and interest in, all too often get ruined by the process of formal lessons that add a competitive element and children feel performance pressure. If your son likes to skate – take him skating with YOU! As family fun!  He’ll catch on….  Keep the joy in stimulating his interest. When we mandate ANYTHING it looses its joy.

The acting silly may be undue attention seeking or it may be a way of avoiding performing, were he feels judged.

Three seems really early to me for starting piano.  My daughter started at 7 and I was relieved we had not started at 6. Not sure what they learn at 3 myself, but I am not music expert by any means.

Keep the joy alive, and don’t feel like lessons are the only way to go. I did very few lessons with my girls, but the house was alive with activities, field trips, swimming dates, skating fun, music to dance to and instruments to play with.

Well – this mom replied back, and it seems we have more information to support this idea of "fun over formal" when it comes to activities:

Thanks for the feed back Alyson. I think all to often we get caught up in the organized activity or lesson rat race. It’s funny I put both my two year old and three year old in swimming lessons last year. Prior to lessons and even now they are great little fish with no fear of the water, will dive under and try new things. Once I put them in the lesson format either of them would swim and they would act as though they were afraid of the water. Take them out of lessons they are just fine.

I will try taking my son skating and pull back on the music lessons (accompanied by 5 days of homework that he has no interest in) and see how it goes. I really appreciate your insight. Please feel free to use any of this correspondence for your website. I will let you know how it works out.

If you have had similar experiences, or if you have a thought about lessons, please post a comment to chat with other mom’s who use this site as a resource.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

3 Responses to “Behaviour Problems at Lessons”

  1. Lisa

    Alyson
    I often have major problems getting my kids to go to their activities after school. I have a 7 yr old boy and a 5 yr old girl and they both will put up a big fight quite often when it’s time to go out for skating, gymmastics, hockey, etc…I found with my son (who has trouble with transitions) that if I give him enough advanced warning and talk about our plan for the day up front then this usually alleviates the battle. My daughter seems to develop a strong like or dislike for a particular activity and I’ve had to resort to prizes to get her to go to something she doesn’t want to go to. For example, she was selected for the competitive track in gymnastics and was doing great. After about a month, she started complaining and after two months, I had to start the prizes, and by the third month it was a full battle to get her dressed and ready to go. Finally I decided it wasn’t worth ruining our family life for and pulled her out. The coaches were disappointed but what can you do? I tell my kids that I sign them up for new activities that I think they will like and they should finish what they start. If they don’t like it, then I won’t sign them up again. The problem is that sometimes they want to quit half way through. Do you let them quit? Do you accept that you will lose the money you paid? Do you only sign up for things they want to do and trust that they know? How do they know if they will like piano, singing, karate, etc… if they have never tried? On any given day when they say “I’m not going!”, how do you handle that? So, do you let them stay home and watch TV and play Wii or do you get them in the car and go? I worry that they will think quitting is OK.
    Lisa

    Reply
  2. Lisa

    Alyson
    I often have major problems getting my kids to go to their activities after school. I have a 7 yr old boy and a 5 yr old girl and they both will put up a big fight quite often when it’s time to go out for skating, gymmastics, hockey, etc…I found with my son (who has trouble with transitions) that if I give him enough advanced warning and talk about our plan for the day up front then this usually alleviates the battle. My daughter seems to develop a strong like or dislike for a particular activity and I’ve had to resort to prizes to get her to go to something she doesn’t want to go to. For example, she was selected for the competitive track in gymnastics and was doing great. After about a month, she started complaining and after two months, I had to start the prizes, and by the third month it was a full battle to get her dressed and ready to go. Finally I decided it wasn’t worth ruining our family life for and pulled her out. The coaches were disappointed but what can you do? I tell my kids that I sign them up for new activities that I think they will like and they should finish what they start. If they don’t like it, then I won’t sign them up again. The problem is that sometimes they want to quit half way through. Do you let them quit? Do you accept that you will lose the money you paid? Do you only sign up for things they want to do and trust that they know? How do they know if they will like piano, singing, karate, etc… if they have never tried? On any given day when they say “I’m not going!”, how do you handle that? So, do you let them stay home and watch TV and play Wii or do you get them in the car and go? I worry that they will think quitting is OK.
    Thanks!
    Lisa

    Reply
  3. Alyson Schafer

    Hello Lisa,

    This is a BIG question for me to reply in the comment section, so I think I’ll do a separate post. You can find more info on this topic too in my latest book “Ain’t Misbehavin”. But here are a few quick ideas until then:

    1) BEFORE signing up – have your child sample a class. Often they can go with a friend or to an open house etc.. so they know what they are signing up for.
    2) WIGGLE ROOM – make an agreement that they can choose 2 or 3 times to “skip” a class, ( assuming it doesn’t impact the team) for those times when they really don’t feel up to it. This increases compliance over all. We all have days we’d rather relax and kids lead very stressful lives. Trust they to say “enough!”.
    3) Drop Out strategy – discuss when you will re-evaluate the program and decide if its worth continuing. Check the refund policies in advance.

    Hope that helps.

    Alyson

    Reply

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