|Another one of my attempts to use up the leftover Halloween candy.|
One of the biggest issues a teacher can have in lessons with a new student is whining. They aren't used to sitting/standing there, paying attention for so long, and they inevitably will start asking - "When will this be over? I'm tiiiiired!" As a private teacher I can sidestep this, but as a mom, this one is tough. We can both start getting annoyed with each other and it goes downhill from there.
Except for this gem I am about to share with you. Pure magic, I tell you!
We sit down at the piano together, and I put 5 M&Ms next to her music. These are hers for AFTER the lesson. We go through our lesson, playing, practicing, etc. If at any time she complains or gets negative, I ignore her and calmly eat one of the candies. I continue on as nothing has happened. At the end of the lesson, whatever number of candies are left are for her. They are hers to lose - and I don't have to get grouchy at her for getting whiny, AMEN!
I explained this to her the first time, and now she is very cautious - I can see her get a little restless, and then she checks herself. I started with very short lessons - only a few minutes at the most, and now we can go up to 15-20 minutes with only losing maybe one M&M. It saves me because I can stay positive without nagging, and she leaves the lesson with a (literal) sweet taste in her mouth. Honestly, I didn't know it would work so well, and I thought I needed 5 candies so she'd at least have one left, but the most she's ever lost were two. In a while I'll start using less, because she's getting so excited about all the songs she knows that the candy is less of a draw for her. Which is AWESOME. It's also handy because I don't let her eat much of the candy she gets at holiday times so we have huge surpluses that we're sloooowly using up. Last week we broke into the pile of Smarties. I know people out there all have varying opinions on rewards, so I'm curious to see other ways this could be adopted. I'm just thrilled it has worked as well as it has!
UPDATE 2/20/14: Now that I teach two of my own kids, I have to say this is still the greatest bit of inspiration I've gotten, teaching-wise. I have even tried this with private students, and it works amazingly - especially wee 3 year-olds. We don't use M&Ms - sometimes it's fruit snacks, pretzels, marshmallows, chocolate chips or pennies, whatever the kid is motivated by. Eventually, they learn proper lesson habits, they forget about the treats and I quietly stop getting them out for lessons. Now and then they hit a grumpy phase where lessons become a battlefield again, so I quietly get out the treats and stop nagging/arguing/begging, and they magically stop whining.