El Practises The Piano

It is still early days, but I am seeing some changes in El’s attitude towards piano. After I had posted the post on how it is a struggle to get my child to practise piano on Facebook, many friends gave suggestions on how they get their children to practise.

I think after the concert, he finally saw the rationale. There were opportunities to perform and entertain. He had stated he wanted to perform at the next concert. With a purpose, there was meaning in the lessons. After telling his teacher, she said she might hold a mini concert at her other home to encourage her students to play more.

I guess he needs to see it as a social activity. Some friends have suggested letting him go for group music lessons, but I do not have the time to go for the lessons together, so I will just continue to have individual classes for him.

I encourage him to practise every day by asking him to play a song a day. That would take less than five minutes on a few occasions. This is a trick that I have learnt. When you want children to do something you want, you give them choices that both point to the same result. I ask him whether he wants to practise the first song, or the second song. Both options mean he will play the piano.

In the beginning, I had to coax him that I would only require 3 minutes of his time to practise a song. His attention span is still pretty short, so as long as he goes through one song relatively well, I let it go. The accuracy and precision can come later.

I am also making use of benefits. If he plays the piano, he can do something. Usually he gets to do almost everything he wants, so it was a little hard to implement at first. However, it worked when the reward was something he wanted to do.

Next, I make use of extrinsic rewards. I give him stickers on a few occasions when I feel that he has played well. He is very proud of them. However, I do not want him to ask for them as ultimately, intrinsic motivation is more important. Just recently, he discovered the type of stickers I had, and he asked for a crocodile and a gazelle for practising two songs. He immediately stuck them on his water bottle. I hope he will not demand them every time he practises.

I also praise him directly, and in front of others, when I discover he has managed to move on to new pieces. He came back with a big sticker on one of his pieces, and I pointed that out. He was very pleased.

He was reaching the end of the book, and there was a graduation song at the back. I went through that song with him, and told him that he was graduating from book 1, and going on to book 2, just like how he has graduated from nursery, and is moving on to k1. My mother told me that he played the song on his own during class, and did not want the teacher to help him. He was also able to move forward to new songs in a week, instead of taking many weeks because he did not practise.

Perhaps, I think it helps also that songs in the book became more tuneful towards the end, as they start playing more notes. He is currently able to play C-G with both hands.

I think the greatest joy when I see him rush to the piano when we go to my parents’ place. He would climb up to the seat, and play. Just two days ago, when I came home from work, I took out his book and expressed delight that he had moved on to the new book. He had learnt two new songs, so I asked him whether he would like to play them for me. To my surprise and joy, he played them on his own.

As a mother, I have to set routines for him. It is really hard because I only see him for a short period of time during dinner, but I cannot shirk my responsibilities. I am constantly learning and improving myself. I am glad for the December holidays because I got to accompany him to the lessons, and see for myself how exactly he was faring. Only then was I able to make changes.

Like I have said, it is still early days, but like what his teacher told my mother, he is like a budding flower. I only wish that I do not get any constant interference from other people that may hinder his progress.

Water and African Children Conversation

El was brushing his teeth when I filled up his cup with water. Immediately, he poured the water away, saying it was too little and wanted to fill up the cup himself. He rinsed one time, and wanted to pour the water away again. I told him off for wasting water. I told him how precious water is and we should save water.

cup and toothbrushHe did not seem to get the message. I said that he should be thankful we have clean water. I told him how we get water in our tap. We need the rain that goes to the reservoir, and the water gets filtered before coming to our taps through water pipes.

He still tried to pour the water away, so I told him that millions of African children did not have clean drinking water. Some of them have to walk a few kilometres to get water, and sometimes the water is muddy and they fall sick drinking them. Sometimes they might get diarrhoea, and sometimes they might get other diseases.

“Why do they have to drink muddy water?” he asked.

“There are no taps and clean drinking water,” I said.

It was time for another serious talk, just like the riots in Little India. We went in circles for a while, and I brought in weak governments, corrupt leaders, natural disasters and the works. They are poor because there are no jobs. There are no jobs because they are too poor to have factories, shops and offices. Why? Why? Why?

We then moved to the topic of starving children with bloated bellies. He put his green Ikea plastic cup down, wiped away the foam and ran off to get the iPad from the living room. He put it on my bed and typed in ‘african starving children’ into the search function, and clicked on images.

Taken aback by the pictures, he asked why they looked so scrawny. Their ribcages were showing, and they had sunken eyes. I explained the poor running of the countries, dictators who stole money from the country and continued living in the countries, and how the people were suffering.

He spotted a picture where a picture of a starving African child was superimposed over the African continent, and pointed out the connection. He was pretty used to identifying countries in this manner, as some of the iPad apps would combine the flags and the shape of the countries together.

Since he knew the African countries very well, he asked me which countries were poor. I tried to rattle off a few countries that I barely knew, and then remembered Ethiopia. Next, I searched for poorest countries, and out popped a list of 20 poorest countries in the world, with most of them in Africa, especially in the sub-Saharan areas. Zimbabwe, Liberia, Eritrea and Madagascar were some of the listed countries.

african child carrying water Photo by MarcLouwes

I wondered what he was thinking. He was probably making some lists in his head.  I hoped he had understood how lucky he was, and that he would not waste water. After that, he started drawing up a list again, of some African nations.

When I went to bathroom, I spotted a cup that was almost full. Guess it will take some time before the message sinks in.

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