Ep. 106 Transcription

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors. 

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson, and this is Enhance Life with music, a holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. I am so excited to have my two guests with me today, especially since we just had quite a bit of technical difficulty. I’m extra thrilled to have them both on board here. Joanna Faber and Julie King are the co-authors of the brand new book. It’s released today, How to Talk When Kids Won’t Listen: Whining, Fighting, Meltdowns, Defiance and Other Challenges of Childhood. Joanna and Julie also co-authored the bestselling book How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7, which has been translated into 22 languages worldwide. These two books are the latest installments in the How to Talk series that began with the now cult classic book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, written by Joanna’s mother, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. In 1980, Joanna and Julie speak nationally and internationally to schools, businesses and parent groups. They lead how to talk workshops and support groups online and in person, and provide private consultations. Welcome to Enhance Life with Music. Joanna and Julie!

Joanna Faber: [00:01:21] Thank you for having us. It’s all the sweeter for the struggle.

Mindy Peterson: [00:01:26] I like that perspective. Well, I love, love, love the how to talk books. I think I’ve read all of them. They have been hugely helpful to me, both in parenting and as a teacher who works with kids. And I am so excited to have this brand new edition with your book that released today. Congratulations on the ads. Thank you so much. I’m really excited to talk with you about the concepts in your book and specifically how they relate to the inevitable conflicts that come up between children who are in music lessons and the parents and teachers who want them to practice their musical instruments. Julie, I was so fascinated to discover that you are both the daughter of a piano teacher and a former piano teacher yourself. Tell us a little bit about your background growing up with a music teacher, mother becoming a music teacher yourself and any role that musical background plays in the work that you do now?

Julie King: [00:02:23] Well, when you ask this question, it sends me to such a sweet place because my very earliest memory of music with my mother sitting at the piano was when she sat me on her lap and she would take my index finger when I was very little and she’d say, let’s play the piano. And she would use my finger to play a melody and she would accompany with her left hand. I just loved it. So that was like my first experience of quote unquote playing the piano. And it was really playing. It was really fun. My mom started teaching piano lessons when I was quite young and she needed a second piano. So she bought an upright and she told me that it was mine, but that I had let her use it for teaching. So. So then of course, I had I had to take piano lessons so I could learn how to play my piano. And so she became my first formal teacher. And I don’t know if this is something that you’ve heard, but I’ve always heard they say that you should never teach your own kid

Mindy Peterson: [00:03:26] Well, and I’ve heard that. And I’ve still done it.

Julie King: [00:03:31] Yeah, me too. But I was a really good example of why you shouldn’t go. Like, we played a lot of games in those classes. And like I remember announcing to the group that I hadn’t practiced all week and I would win at the e-signature flashcards game or I would cite read a piece that the others were struggling with. And so I’m afraid I was pretty obnoxious in those classes. So after two years, she decided to find me another teacher, which, you know, in hindsight was definitely the right thing to do. And my mom also was a teacher of teachers. She used to teach pedagogy and she taught this particular way to teach in groups as well as private lessons. And so when I was 12, there was a family with a little eight year old girl and they wanted lessons for her. But my mom was too expensive for them. So they hired me. And I remember my fee was a dollar fifty an hour nice. And so my mom taught me how to teach for that first lesson. We spent three hours preparing for a one hour lesson. Oh, and like every week she would we would sit down to plan for the next lesson. And I really loved it. So I started teaching other kids from the neighborhood and I had a thriving little piano studio all the way through high school.

Julie King: [00:04:49] And sometimes I would be playing in my room. At that point, we actually had moved my piano into my bedroom and I gave lessons in my bedroom and my mom was across the hall with her. New stuff, she bought a new Steinway grand, and so we had all these pianos going at the same time. What are the things I have to share with you? Because you asked about, you know, my memories of growing up with a piano teacher and the musician. One of the things that my mom and I did a lot together was to play duets. When I was very young, we had a book of teacher student duets. So my part was very simple. Like my I would have put my hand in one hand position. I wouldn’t have to move it and it would be the same notes. Left and right hand is really beautiful music. I still have that book and my mom would play the second part, which was a lot more complicated. And so we would just sit, read through a lot of duets. And as I got older, we played more challenging piece.

Mindy Peterson: [00:05:41] That is one of my favorite things to do with my kids, who I’ve shot piano lessons as playing duets, especially at Christmas time.

Julie King: [00:05:49] Oh yeah, yeah. We played a lot of duets and I became a really good site reader. And actually my mom died a few years ago and shortly before she died, she was in a rehab facility and I brought some music and we found an old really badly tuned piano and we played together. And it’s one of my fond memories of those last few months.

Mindy Peterson: [00:06:09] Oh, I

Joanna Faber: [00:06:10] Imagine. Yeah.

Mindy Peterson: [00:06:11] Well, Joanna, your mother is Adele Faber, one of the authors of the original How to Talk Books. So you grew up as a little bit of a guinea pig yourself. Sure.

Joanna Faber: [00:06:21] Ok, well, first I saw you wanted to ask about music in my background. I thought I’d start with music in my mom’s background. And that story is going to be less sweet than Julie’s story,

Mindy Peterson: [00:06:35] Because that’s all right. We still want to hear this story.

Joanna Faber: [00:06:38] My mom tells me about piano lessons. Is that when she was a little girl that she and her older sister, Lee, would get piano lessons in their home from a teacher named Mr. Musika, if you could believe it. And Mr. Musika did not care for my mom’s playing at all. And in fact, at one point he told her mother, this one pointing to her sister. Lee is the musician in the family. Oh. And then pointing to her, said, this one is my worst pupil.

Mindy Peterson: [00:07:13] Oh, my word. And no wonder she went on to write the book, How to Talk and How Not to Talk,

Joanna Faber: [00:07:22] But that that was the end of music lessons for my mom. Oh, wow. You know, her mom continued to to have happily take piano lessons, but with the end of it for my mom and my mom used to get really sad when she told this story because she really did like playing the piano. But she just felt like from then on, music was not for her. And she told me that sometimes she would go to the piano on her own and try to play a little bit, try to play her piece, but eventually she just gave up on it. Oh, and, you know, so needless to say, all three of her kids got all the music lessons they wanted from my older brother, who is a very talented musician to my younger brother, who can barely carry a tune to me, who is somewhere in the middle. And my mom was always very furious about the idea of not labeling kids like this. Once the musician this once the athlete, this one’s the writer because, you know, she deeply believe that all forms of human artistic endeavor should be open to all people. Sure. And I I really held on to that. There were times when I thought being the younger sister of a brother who was such an excellent, naturally talented musician that, you know, this is not really for me, like, I’m not good. I should be a musician, but I sort of held on to that, like, you know, that’s OK. You don’t have to be better than someone else to enjoy music. And I as an adult, I sing in a local choir and it gives me great pleasure, even though sometimes I really struggle with those difficult crunchy harmonies. And and I still enjoy playing music on the guitar. I started on the piano, which gave me my foundation. At one point I switched and all three of my own kids have far surpassed me in musicianship and ability. But I love to accompany them as best as I can. And when they come to visit, we all play music together. So. So it has been a joy in my life,

Mindy Peterson: [00:09:26] It sounds like. Well, one thing that we are really intentional about spotlighting and enhance life with music is the benefits that music has for all of us, whether we consider ourselves musicians or not, and for sure whether we’re mature professional musicians. Well, Joanne, I imagine there will be listeners like me who read your mother’s books and loved them and are thrilled that you and Julie are carrying the torch on to the next generation. On behalf of those who did read her books, I am aware that Elaine, her writing partner, passed away some. Two years ago, but tell us about your mom. How is she doing these days?

Joanna Faber: [00:10:04] My mom and my dad are both 93 years old and they live on Long Island in the house that I grew up in years ago. So they’re still going,

Mindy Peterson: [00:10:15] Oh, that’s great. Well, as adults, we know what a gift music is, especially the gift of being able to create our own music and express ourselves in that way. And we want that for our kids. But there’s this thing called practicing the piano or whatever the musical instrument is, and kids don’t always want to do this, so help us out. How should teachers and parents talk when kids won’t listen about practicing and practicing becomes the subtitle of your new book, Whining, Fighting Meltdown’s, Defiance and Other Challenges of Childhood. Help us out here.

Julie King: [00:10:54] Yeah, well, I think we all want kids. At least we want kids to have a love of music and we want them to have a love of learning music. And so one thing that I learned from my mom was how to make it fun. So I thought I would share with you a couple of things that I did as a teacher to make lessons fun. Great. And we talk a lot about in our book about being playful. So this is sort of a way to be playful in terms of learning. When I was teaching beginners beginning students how to read music and how to know which note goes with which key on the piano keyboard, I played a game with many flashcards I called them. These were really small flashcards that I made. My mom had created this idea and I made a set for myself, tiny little pieces of paper with one note on it with either treble or bass clef that fit perfectly on a wiki. And I made one for every key on the piano and I had a little group of three girls and they would come after school to my home for lessons. And one of them in particular was a real antsy kids, like she’d been sitting around all day. And I knew she needed to move if she really wanted to sit down and, you know, play the piano so we would play this game. I would sit as far away from the piano as I could in the in the room. And I and I would be holding this pack of flash cards and they would be standing next to me and I would say, ready, set. And what I would give each of them one flash card. And when I said go, they had we would start the timer and they would run to the keyboard and try to figure out which key does this little flashcard in this note belong on? And then they would run back to me to get another one and they would run back and forth until they had the whole keyboard covered.

Julie King: [00:12:44] And, you know, if somebody made a mistake, you’d have to say, oh, I think my one goes here, oh, this one goes over there. So they would self correct and we would timed them. So it wasn’t a race between them. It was a race against time. And they loved that game, I can imagine. So that was one of many games. We did all kinds of stuff like that. And then in terms of practice, kids need to learn how to practice and they need some help with practice to feel their progress. I had a student named Emily whose mother said, you know, she just doesn’t seem like that motivated to practice. She’s kind of interested. So we we talked at her lesson about when she was going to practice. My attitude when they were beginners was it’s so much more important just to sit down for a few minutes and play rather than to sit for a long time. I said, let’s see how many times you can find to sit down at the keyboard this week. And every time you do it, you’ll take this bunch of paper clips I’m giving you and you’ll make a paper clip and you’ll add another paper clip. Let’s just see how long it grows. Well, she was really interested. She loved this and she sat down a lot and grew a very long paper chain. A paper clip chain.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:51] That’s a great idea.

Julie King: [00:13:52] Yeah. One of the other things that my mom always did, which I’m forever grateful for, was that she gave a lot of choices to her students about what music we would play and when. I think I told you that after two years, she sent me out to another teacher. Mrs. Freundlich was my new teacher, and Mrs. Freundlich was very willing to go through her repertoire to find a piece that I wanted to learn. And I was very picky because I grew up with the sounds of students learning the piano, mangling all the classics. Yeah. And so I didn’t want to play them. And and of course, my mom’s repertoire that she knew about was the best, you know, the pieces that she gave her students. And so Mrs. Freundlich had the patience of a saint. We would sometimes spend an entire lesson going through the repertoire to find that one piece that I would fall in love with, because once that happened, I couldn’t stay away from the piano. I had to learn it. So, you know, I think that when you have choice, when you are motivated, because you really want to learn the music, for me, it just drew me in. And so I did that with my students, all the students that I worked with. I would have a lesson book, but I would always find a repertoire piece that they got to pick that they wanted to learn.

Mindy Peterson: [00:15:06] Yeah, I agree. I think that’s so helpful to tap into that intrinsic motivation that students have when not only is it something that they like, but they also have that ownership of they had the ability to choose it. So I think both of those things really are powerful. Joanna, you mentioned that you have kids who took piano lessons. Yeah. Any any experiences that you have from guiding your own children through practice time that you want to share and give us some insight on.

Joanna Faber: [00:15:34] I’m going to jump in from a parent’s perspective here. And I also want to highlight some of the tools that are in the book. Like Julie talked about playfulness and she talked about choices. So those are two really important concepts that we stress over and over again in the book. Yeah. And I’m going to throw in a few more, but I’m going to start with play. I’m still going to start with play. One of the things that I did that encouraged my kids to practice was to literally play along with them. And it just occurred to me that if parents want children to play music to be a joyful part of their lives, you know, maybe we should play music, too. And you don’t have to be that good at it. And I think one of the great things, one of the great qualities that I have is being very amateur on a guitar. And I would say, oh, can I play along with you? And then they would have to they would sort of help me. Now I’m talking about older kids, you know, figure out which chords would go along with their piece. And I would have to figure out the rhythm. And then, you know, we would have to smooth out the tempo together so that we could make music together. And it’s sort of like living. What you want to teach, which is playing music, is something that’s fun and that we do together. And, you know, I know not all parents play an instrument, but, hey, give it a try. Give it a whirl. Sit down and plink a little bit on the piano or get yourself an old seventy five dollar guitar.

Mindy Peterson: [00:16:58] Well, that really shows that you do value what they’re doing because you’re actually doing it yourself. And it is fun.

Joanna Faber: [00:17:06] It is fun, right? Yes. Another thing that I did and that we talk about in our book is putting the child in charge because I’m not so perfect. I used to get into these spirals of nagging. And I remember once with my youngest, Zak, who was taking trumpet lessons. And, you know, I was paying a lot of money for these lessons. I mean, they were worth it. The teacher was wonderful, but I was paying money and I was driving him to the lessons and sitting through and driving back. But he was a busy kid and he was involved in the theater and sports and all kinds of science classes. And sometimes he wouldn’t find time to practice during the week. And it frustrated me and I would nag him. So I had this sort of negative cycle and I always felt a little stressed about it. And at one point I said, Wait, I know what to do here. He should be in charge of this. And I sat down with him and I said, Zack, you know, I find myself nagging you about practice. You know, first I ask him, do you have a busy schedule? Do you want to keep taking trumpet lessons? And he was adamant that he did because he played in the jazz band and he really loved it. And then I said, can you come up with a schedule that will work for you and, like, really write it out and post it and, you know, make boxes that you can check off, you know, what would work for you four times to practice? Let’s think about it. And he did. He made a schedule and he wrote it out and and he made little checklist. I find checkboxes so delightful because it’s so satisfying when you’ve done something I’m with you.

Joanna Faber: [00:18:33] You know, that’s a lovely thing to do, is to make your kid in charge of themselves. And then one more thing I’ll throw in here is giving information instead of telling a kid what to do, giving them information. And here’s where it gets science. One of the best pieces of information that I came across that I could impart to my kids was something my husband explained to me. My husband teaches high school biology and he said that when you’re trying to learn something in practice, something new, which could be, say, memorizing passage in a Mozart concerto, your brain grows new connections between neurons. And then when you sleep, those connections grow thicker. They myelinated so that information passes more efficiently and more quickly. Which is why when you practice and practice something, you may keep on stumbling over it, no matter how many times you practice. And then you go to sleep in the next morning, you wake up and you can play it and it feels like magic. And I explain this to my kids. I said, you know, when you’re practicing this, it’s growing these new connections. And then when you sleep, the connections get thicker and see if it’s easier tomorrow. And they love that because it can be very discouraging and frustrating, as anyone knows, who practice an instrument. But they would. She said, I remember one of my kids saying, like, OK, I’m just going to play this line 10 more times so I’ll be able to play it better tomorrow. So that knowledge helped give them the idea that I’m putting in the work now and I’m going to reap the benefits tomorrow. And it’s really happening. It’s not just that, oh, I can’t do this. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the struggle.

Mindy Peterson: [00:20:19] Yeah, that’s great. One thing that you talk about quite a bit in your book is dealing with feelings. And one thing that you do so well, this is one thing that was one of the big takeaways for me from your book, is you do such a great job at helping the parent understand how the child is feeling and also really describe what the parent is feeling, too, because as parents, we want to try to calm our kids down when they get worked up and excited. And we just have this eternal question. Why is it the more we try to calm them down, the more worktop think ads and you do a great job of explaining the parents position. We desperately want to give our kids perspective. They can’t go through life falling apart over every little thing. I just made the same mistake again in the song. And why can’t I get it right or why do I have to sit in practice for 20 minutes instead of go play video games, which is what I want to do, you know? So we’re trying to get them to not fall apart over every little thing and understand it’s not perfect and help them realize it’s going to be OK. And the more we do that, the more worked up they get. And so as parents, we’re all sort of in the same situation. We understand that dilemma. But you do such a great job of explaining it from the kid’s perspective. And in the book, you used the example of the granola bar and they’re upset because they didn’t get the granola bar that they want. And I’m just going to read from your book. It’s true that for adults, a granola bar ranks way down on the scale of global disasters.

Mindy Peterson: [00:21:47] But for a disappointed kid, that missing tree is just as upsetting as any of the petty disasters that befall us grown ups during the day. Your annoying co-worker constantly uses your pens and doesn’t replace them. Stop complaining. It’s not a big deal. Your friend shared your personal health problems with the whole neighborhood. You’re overreacting. Don’t be so sensitive. The mechanic overcharged you to repair your transmission and it broke down again a week later and he wouldn’t give you a refund. Hey, that’s life. No use getting upset about it. Don’t get mad at us. We’re just trying to help you by explaining why you’re wrong to feel bad. And I’ve read that I was like, oh, my gosh, is this like like, oh, know. So, you know, it is it’s infuriating when what’s a huge disappointment to us? You know, someone just dismisses us and they’re trying to call this town by saying this isn’t a big deal and we just feel worse and our kids are the same. So what do you recommend to parents? How can they acknowledge these feelings that kids have and talk in a way that the kids are going to listen and it’s going to be effective when a kid says, for example, I always have to practice piano, I never get to play with my friends. All I want to do is go out and play with my friends are all I want to do is play video games or, you know, whatever the complaint is. Give us some advice on how we can acknowledge those feelings in a way that’s going to calm them down and bring some progress and not just make things spiral down.

Julie King: [00:23:17] I think it’s helpful to think about, like, what is it that we want to say first so that we can notice before we actually say that? Like, what we want to say is, oh, come on, honey, it’s not true that you never get to play with your friends. What did you do yesterday? You were at your house for hours. You know, we want to use logic and facts and explain to them why they’re wrong.

Mindy Peterson: [00:23:38] That’s not you know, that’s probably exactly what I would say.

Julie King: [00:23:42] Right. So that’s that’s that’s what we want to do. And what you just read from our book explains, like what it sounds like to a kid is you what you want, doesn’t matter what you want, isn’t even true. You know, it’s just, you know, I’m trying to discount it. So how can we let them know we get it? We can say, oh, it sounds like you’re not in the mood to practice. Sounds like you wish you could have hours and hours with your friend. You just you want to go there right now. It’s not where we end up because a lot of parents will say, well, but they need them to practice. If I let her go to a friend’s house, I’m never going to get her home again. We’re not saying, OK, then you can go. But that’s where we start, is to accept how this child is feeling in this moment and acknowledge it with words to say out loud what this kid is really telling us, which is you’re not in the mood to sit down right now. You’re thinking about your friend. You’d really like to be able to go over there right then. You know, once we have acknowledge what they want, which tends to settle them down, they’re like, OK, you get it. Yes, that’s what I want. It’s not that I don’t ever want to practice, but I really want to go over Jennifer’s house now.

Julie King: [00:24:51] She just got a new such and such. I really want to play with it. Oh, you want to play with it? That sounds cool. Yeah. The other girls are going to be there. Oh, you’re you know where to. Being you’re missing out on it, then we can move on to. Well, here’s the problem. If we go over there and we and let’s see what time is it and how we’re going to run up, it’s going to be dinner time and there’s not going be any time to practice. I know you’re supposed to be learning that piece for the next, whatever it is. What could we do now so I can we can move them on from you know, from they if we want to engage their cooperation, if we want to engage them and they’re like, what do we do when you really want to spend time with your friends? And yet there’s this thing that has to happen that I know you really want to do at some point now they’re more willing to think about it right now. They’re more willing to say, well, how about if I just play for ten minutes now and I play for ten minutes later or I don’t know what they’re going to say. Right. Yeah, but they’re much more willing to think about how to solve the problem when we first acknowledge what they want.

Mindy Peterson: [00:25:48] Yeah. It’s kind of like that phrase that is so powerful with us as adults. I hear you, you know, somebody says I hear you. They’re not necessarily saying I agree with you. They don’t need to. It’s just so comforting and powerful for somebody to acknowledge where you are and acknowledge your feelings. And that’s what you’re talking about.

Joanna Faber: [00:26:08] Yeah. And even on the most basic level, like, say, your kid is struggling with something and they say, you know, I hate this, I can’t do it. All of our instinct tells us to negate that and say, like, you know, no, it’s not that hard. You see, if you just do this, it’s really easy and you can do it. And and here’s a moment where our intuition is really leading us astray, because what’s going to help more is to say, like, oh, that part does look hard. It looks like it could really torture you. You know, you have to stretch your pinky out there and play all these notes on the right hand while you’re doing this in the left hand. Oh, my goodness. Like that. You know, we’re worried about making the negative feelings worse. We’re worried about amplifying them. But if we really go there, it’s just so satisfying. It helps a kid let go those negative feelings and and sort of gives them the courage to go on. You know, somebody else knows how tough the struggle is. And it’s not like, oh,

Julie King: [00:27:05] No, it’s not.

Joanna Faber: [00:27:06] No, it’s not. It’s easy. You just have to try.

Mindy Peterson: [00:27:08] Exactly. One of your other tools that I love, too, is give in fantasy what you cannot give in reality. And I can just picture up here and saying or a teacher saying, oh, I just wish I could wave a magic wand and you could go from sight reading this brand new piece to playing it perfectly and just the flick of a wand. And then you could run over to Jennifer’s house and spend the entire evening with her. You know, I wish I could do that.

Joanna Faber: [00:27:36] Yeah. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was just a, like a little chip you could plug into your brain and then all of a sudden your fingers would go back up, you know?

Mindy Peterson: [00:27:44] Right. Well, and then you talked about problem solving and you kind of touched on that just now. Here’s the problem. If you went over to Jennifer’s now, the whole evening would be gone. You wouldn’t be able to learn the song for this recital. So talk to us then about kind of that next step of coming up with solutions together with your child, writing things down, talk kind of walk us through a theoretical situation that a parent could do with this child who wants to go to Jennifer’s house instead of practice piano.

Joanna Faber: [00:28:15] Ok, well, I sort of touched on it when I was talking about putting the child in charge of Jack and his trumpet. One of the most important things about problem solving that people tend to forget is the first step of acknowledging the child’s feelings is so important. You know, people want to jump right in and say, OK, we have a problem. When you go to practice, what are your ideas? And then a kid tends to feel railroaded. So if you want to problem solve them with them, you have to start with how they’re feeling. You know, it sounds like you’re frustrated about this practice, like it’s cutting into your social life and you’d really like to be outdoors playing and then, you know, listen to them, you know, let them talk like, you know, and then reflect what they say. Oh, so you’re really when you come home from school and you’ve been sitting all day, you’re really not in the mood to go sit down at the piano again so that timing doesn’t work for you. And once they feel fully understood, that’s when you can briefly describe the problem because kids tune out long lectures. So my way of briefly describing the problem would be, you know, the problem for me is we leave it till the end of the day right before bedtime. Often it just doesn’t get done, you know, or maybe then your little brother is sleeping and practicing would wake him up. So what can we do at that point? You can say, what can we do? We need some ideas, something that would work, work for you and work for me. Let’s see what we can come up with. And if you can wait for the child to give the first idea, that’s always nice, because instead of fighting them, you’re inviting them to be your partner and you’re valuing their ideas and whatever your kid says. For his first idea, write it down,

Mindy Peterson: [00:30:02] Include it in those list of options included in the list, no matter how often

Joanna Faber: [00:30:07] They say, well, I’ll practice at midnight, you say, well, you know, that’s out of the question. Then you’re done, you know, just rejected the first idea. So you write down. OK, one practice at midnight. So you write down all the ideas and then then you would look back at your list and say, let’s see which one of these which ideas here do we want to circle? Which do we both like? And then you circle your ideas and you stick them up on the refrigerator with a magnet. And it’s just a lovely way to approach a conflict. And it’s not just for music lessons or for that moment. It’s a great life lesson, which is that when we’re butting heads and we’re mad at each other, we’re frustrated. What do we do? We don’t try to punish or force. We try to put our heads together and think of a solution that respects the needs of both of us.

Mindy Peterson: [00:30:57] Yeah, I mean, what great practice for when they’re living with a roommate in college or living with a spouse, for that matter. I mean, some of these how to talk, you know, recommendation’s. I’m like, man, these work well for other adults, too.

Joanna Faber: [00:31:14] And maybe your kid will say, well, I don’t want to play the piano, I want to play the guitar. Or maybe your people say, well, I hate all these songs that they give me. I want different songs. Who knows what direction it will go. And I mean, we’re trying to give them a positive experience. So we really are going to listen to their feedback.

Mindy Peterson: [00:31:30] Yeah. Julie, it sounded like you were going to jump in with something there.

Julie King: [00:31:33] Oh, I was just going to say that you have you’ve discovered our secret, which is these are these are tools and principles of all human relationships, not just with children. Yes.

Mindy Peterson: [00:31:42] And we’ll like Joanna said, this is training them so well for future relationships, work, relationships or whatever to approach conflict with curiosity. And instead of immediately trying to shoot down the other argument and prove that they’re right, it is a curious approach like why is this other person so against whatever this idea is or whatever the rule is or whatever is next on the schedule? And as you mentioned, sometimes you can get some really good information out of it. Maybe it is that they really want to play a different instrument and a different instrument may be a better fit. Or maybe it would be a really great fit a couple of years down the road when they’re able to start doing band in school. And once the parent understands how much the kid wants to play whatever instrument, maybe you’re playing the piano and you really want to play drums. Well, drums and bands start up in fifth grade. You’re in third grade. Let’s talk to your piano teacher about how you can use your music lessons to really prepare you for that drum audition, because not everybody gets to play drums, but the kids with, you know, you drummers. Yeah, yeah. Those kids with piano background, they really have an advantage. So let’s really have your teacher focus on rhythm and things that will help you get that drum position when you’re old enough to be in band. So, yeah, I agree. Some really great insights, really.

Joanna Faber: [00:33:06] Go ahead. Sorry I’m interrupting you because I just really love what you said. That little phrase you said approach conflict with curiosity. And now I feel kind of bad that we didn’t see that in our book.

Mindy Peterson: [00:33:17] Yeah, well, your

Joanna Faber: [00:33:20] Way of putting it

Mindy Peterson: [00:33:21] Well, you’ll probably have future editions. I know you recently did a brand new afterword for your the 30th anniversary, I think, edition of your one of your mom’s books that you were really involved. And that was another book that I loved, how to talk so kids can learn in school and at home. Is that did I get the title right?

Joanna Faber: [00:33:42] Oh yeah. Yeah. There’s a lot of stories from my West Harlem classroom.

Mindy Peterson: [00:33:46] Are there? So any teachers who are listening to that do yourself a favor and read that book, which again, Joanna’s mother was one of the co writers. Johanna was very influential. And I think writing the book and you recently did the new afterword. So you can include that approach, conflict with curiosity for your next edition.

Joanna Faber: [00:34:06] I’ll put it in somewhere.

Mindy Peterson: [00:34:07] Go for it. Well, I love these different tools. We’ve already talked about some of them. But you also talk about just the simple tool of acknowledging feelings with sympathetic sounds, sometimes just saying, oh, oh, oh, you know, just those sounds can really be validating to the feelings that kids are experiencing. We talked about describing the problem coming up with different solutions, writing things down. I don’t know what it is, but just writing things down can be really powerful. Have you figured out why that is

Joanna Faber: [00:34:42] Just lends an importance and permanence to it? I guess if I’m saying something to you and you write it down, I feel like you’re really taking me seriously.

Julie King: [00:34:51] And if we write something down, like we’re making a list of all the things that you need to do, I used to make a list of all the different. Pieces and things that I wanted my students to practice. Now it’s quiet is you can you can read it at your leisure. It’s not somebody who’s nagging you saying, come on, come on, you’ve got to practice that piece. Right. You know, what am I saying? You know, if it doesn’t it doesn’t shout at you. Yes. Well, before

Mindy Peterson: [00:35:15] I let you go, to give us a little bit more of this theoretical situational practice, because I think that is really helpful for us music teachers and also parents who have kids and music lessons to kind of see some of these tools put into practice and applied into some of these specific situations. Talk to us about describing effort, progress, what you’re hearing or feeling. Julie, can you talk to us a little bit about descriptive praise and kind of putting that into practice?

Julie King: [00:35:46] Sure. When the kids are when they are playing, we want to give them positive feedback, which we call praise. But the type of praise we give really makes a difference. So often we’re tempted to tell our child, oh, that was so beautiful, honey, or a nice job or that was great. But the problem is that that kind of praise can backfire. You know, a child who knows she’s struggling with the eighth notes in the second line or she missed the chord in a left hand, she’s not going to believe you. And if we’re always telling our kid, you’re such a talented musician, you’re so good at music, well, that can also backfire, because if that child then finds herself struggling with a difficult piece at some point now, she might tend to give up because now she might feel like, oh, I’m a fraud. I’m not really so talented. I’m not really so good at music, like, you know, I’ve got to give up. And it’s also possible that some kids will think, OK, I’m great, no need to practice anymore. So, so so that kind of praise, it’s just that useful feedback. In either case, we want to give kids feedback that it doesn’t just make them feel good about themselves, but that it’s realistic and that it’s useful. And the way that we can do that is by using description we can describe with appreciation.

Julie King: [00:37:06] We can describe how much effort they have put into practicing, or we can describe the progress that we hear. We can just describe what their music sounds like to us. So let me give you an example. Instead of saying, oh, that’s very nice, honey, it sounds great. You’re doing a good job. We can describe progress and effort. We might say, wow, you’re playing those eight notes at a much faster tempo than yesterday. You really dialed up on the metronome. That took a lot of repetitions. You can hear how that I just feel so much more appreciated for what I actually did. When somebody praises me like that. Definitely. Or I might describe as a parent, I might describe what I hear. Oh, I noticed you landed that jump in the right hand in the opening section where I might describe how the music makes me feel. That middle section with the arpeggios makes me think of water flowing over a waterfall or that jazzy beat makes me want to dance. So all this kind of praise can be much more helpful and motivating. Yes, although it does take more effort on our part because we really have to pay attention and listen and think about what we’re praising.

Mindy Peterson: [00:38:12] Yes, although I will say is as a teacher and a parent, it’s like anything. It does take so much more effort at the beginning. And you’re like, oh, this is so much work. But then you get used to it and it just becomes a new way of thinking. And then before you know it, you’re saying, oh, I can really tell you practice a lot in the song this week because your dynamics are so much better. And I know that’s what I asked you to work on. And I can totally hear those sounds when they’re getting louder and getting softer, you know, and so it just becomes a new way of thinking about giving that feedback in that praise.

Joanna Faber: [00:38:44] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yes. And you noticing that feeds it back and makes them want to do even more with the dynamics, right. Yes. But I have to talk about my brain, because when I listen to my kids play, a lot of times I don’t feel like praising them. I feel like critiquing them. I feel like they need to be told what they’re doing wrong because, you know, this is how I think, you know, I listen to them practice a piece on the piano and what do I focus on? What stands out is the mistakes. Oh, those are supposed to be dotted quarter and eighth notes, not just recorders. And you’re slowing way down. And those two measures here, that’s what I hear. It’s like when I edit something somebody wrote, my eye goes right to like, OK, this is out of order. This is an awkward sentence. You know, I don’t think of all the nice things you can say. First, it seems like it would be really super helpful to get right to the point and just tell them what needs to be fixed or improve. And even knowing what I know, I would do this. And as you can imagine, it would not work out well. It helped me to think about how I would feel if I was trying to do something new and difficult or really working at something, really giving it a go and then. Someone came up and told me every little thing that I was doing wrong, and the example I want to give is because I’ve been painting things this week, I was thinking, what if my husband had been complaining about the drab stained walls of the kitchen? And one weekend when he’s away, like I buy paint brushes, drop cloth tape, all the molding and the cabinet handles and paint the whole kitchen in a fresh coat of what would be nice for a kitchen table.

Joanna Faber: [00:40:25] And it’s exhausting, but it’s worth it. And really excited comes back and takes a look around and he says like, oh, you know, the paint bled into the molding right here. You didn’t keep it tight enough. And you’re going to need to redo that part. And you miss this spot in the microwave. And there’s some paint on the floor where you stepped on the paint and tried to put it would just be so demoralising and disheartening. I just wouldn’t want to go back to painting again. And so one thing I learned was that if I really wanted to point out an area that scream for improvement, that I’d better start with at least three things that I appreciated. I had this little formula in my head like, and it was sort of a discipline, a meditative discipline for me, like wait focused on what’s good. I remember once my middle son asking me how his new ragtime piece sounded and I had like just lined up in my head all the little criticism and I just threw them away.

Joanna Faber: [00:41:24] And I said, well, I wasn’t really thinking about it critically. I just enjoy listening to it while I did the dishes, you know, I did. I think about whether are going and I like really crunchy chord at the end. That sounds really difficult to do. What, you’re just nailing it. And I was thinking of my mind while I was saying this. Well, I’ll get around to pointing out the little criticisms, but he was so pleased and he went back to practicing it with such diligence and enthusiasm that I thought, oh, I don’t need to criticize at all here like you did the right thing. But, you know, if I felt like I had to criticize, like I said, I always do it after finding at least two or three things you appreciate. And then I put the criticism in a positive light, like it sounds like that last line with the triplets is the most difficult. Would it help to go over that part by itself a few times with a metronome? And notice how I said that part is really difficult or that part is tricky or that part is challenging instead of your playing that wrong or you are having trouble with it? Yes, it helps to make the task sound like it’s a worthy challenge rather than making it sound like you are an unworthy person like your messing up.

Mindy Peterson: [00:42:39] Yes, boy, just that slight change in verbiage makes all the difference.

Joanna Faber: [00:42:45] It does. It does. And it’s it takes work.

Mindy Peterson: [00:42:49] But yeah. Well, and when you’re describing the theoretical situation of you painting your kitchen in your husband coming home, what I’m thinking, too, is it’s relationships that we’re talking about here. And really, if the parent and child or the teacher and student have a healthy, enjoyable relationship, that’s really foundational to the end product that everyone wants, which is this polished piece that they can play really well. Well, I just love all the different tools that you include in this book and the helpful steps, starting with acknowledging those feelings and kind of working your way through describing the problem and asking for ideas and deciding which ones you both like and trying out some of those solutions. And one other thing I like to is just the very practical things to take a look at. If this isn’t working, take a look at basic needs. Is your child just not getting enough sleep, you know, that’s going to undermine all of this? Or do they just need a snack? You know, maybe they just got home from school. And if you could just have it take ten minutes and have a snack and then practice. The blood sugar is not going to be low. And just some of those things can make all the difference to. So love all of those practical things to consider, too. Well, I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical ending a coda by sharing a song or story about a moment that enhanced your life. Do one of you have a song or a story that you can share with us today as we close? And then I know listeners are going to want to jump to those show notes for the link to your book and all the other ways that I’ll have in there of of ways to connect with you and your work and all the other books in the How to Talk Serious. But give us a song or story to close things out for us today.

Julie King: [00:44:44] Ok, so I have a story that’s going to go along with a piece of music and to envision this is a true story, you have to know that I have a brother who’s a year and a half older and I have a sister who’s a year younger. So we’re all very close in age. And you can just imagine what our house would look like on a rainy afternoon, three little kids with too much energy stuck in the house. So my mom came up with this game. She called Here Comes the Train, which he played a lot when you were little. And as I mentioned to you, Joanne and I have been friends since we were babies. And she would come over, she remembers, play this game, too. Oh, great. So to understand how it worked, you have to know the layout of layout of my house. Like we had a circle sort of running past from the living room to the kitchen and back into the living room again. So we kids, we’d all start out as lumps on the floor in the living room where the piano was. And my mom would begin playing this piece that she made up that sounded like a train that was just starting to move. And she’d gradually get faster and faster.

Julie King: [00:45:48] And we gradually run faster and faster through the kitchen and through the living room until we never knew what it was going to come. But at some point, there would be a sudden loud crash on the piano and we’d all collapse on the floor giggling, you know, and then she’d slowly start the music up again and we’d run around again. And as you listen to the music, you will hear the rhythm of the words, here comes the train, here comes the train. And we think we actually would sometimes say that as we were running around and my grandmother said it. So I just want you to know my mom actually composed a piece called Here Comes the Train for Children. And it’s a simplified version of this game that we used to play. And it was actually published in, I think, 1970 or so. And when I went to make a recording of it, I discovered that I don’t have a copy of it in my house, so I’m going to have to get it. So for purposes of this recording, I had to play it from memory. So this is a little bit of an improvised version of Here Comes the Train by Patricia King.


Transcribed by Sonix.ai