I was a little peeved to say the least. First, he had just told me that he doesn't enjoy my valiant efforts at making music to soothe his soul. Apparently, my music doesn't soothe him at all. Second, The Husband still doesn't seem to understand the nature of what it is I do for a living these days. I was feeling decidedly UNsoothed myself. With all the cold dignity I could muster, I said "I don't know how to teach piano but I can get the boy to WANT to learn piano." Wisely, The Husband changed the subject and began to talk about HIS job, not mine.
So Small a Child With So Strong a Will
The little family arrived this morning at 10am. After 10 minutes with the little one, Petunia started to sweat. I was faced with a child no higher than the middle of my thigh with the strength of will to equal the mightiest river rushing towards the sea in the fullness of summer. I knew that the child had a strong will. I just didn't know how strong. This one was a Little Force Majeure.
The session started well. I had known beforehand that this child was somewhat strong-willed. I was ready. I started by diverting this force of nature. No one in his right mind stands in the way of a river... nor confronts it head on, even if it isn't a very big and powerful river. To master a river, you channel it. Open an avenue for that power to flow... but an avenue in the direction that suits you. In this way, the river roars not at you... but towards an end that you want. Many parents are blind to the raw power of a child's strength of will. We underestimate it because the children look so puny and small. Then parents get very surprised when their kids outsmart... outlast and outwill them.
But really... I learnt my first lesson in motivation on the streets of Paris watching dogs face off. It's not the size of the dog in a fight. It's the size of the fight in a dog. I've seen Alsatians hop nimbly across the road to get out of a Poodle's way. Petunia the Alsatian looked deep into The Poodle's eyes this morning and decided that she had not enough fight in her to face off and win.
Petunia Failed to Motivate
This little child came expecting that I would teach him piano. He expected a confrontation. He was completely ready for a showdown. I could see it in his eyes. Wisely, I created an alternative channel for that strong will to flow... away from me, but in the direction I wanted.
I asked him to teach me piano instead. This was so unexpected that with all the exuberance of a mighty river, he immediately began to bubble forth instructions and advice. Where is the Middle C.... where should your thumb be... no, no, no.... that is not the Middle C Auntie Petunia. As he taught me and advised me, he practised his piece twice in 10 minutes. Quite enthousiastically too.
Then I made a terrible mistake. I said, "Wow! That's beautifully played! Play it again!"
The Little Force Majeure squinted suspiciously at me, "Why again?" and that was when I felt the force of this mighty river hit me in the face. Silently, I pitied the boy's parents for having to live with so much latent power in a small body. With all the cold dignity he could muster, the boy declared "I am now going to take a break."
And that was that.
The mighty river had burst the banks of the canal I had devised to contain and channel its power towards my ends. It was now merrily going its own way. I stepped back to recover the shreds of my professional dignity. I left the child to play and took refuge in my study with his hapless parents, looking still hopefully at me. There in the sanctity of my study, I confessed to the child's parents, "Your child is challenging. He has so much emotional baggage vis-a-vis piano that I am not sure that I can do anything. I will try again. If I fail again, this session is free. You will get a full refund. "
An Angel in Dog Fur
I had to quickly devise a new motivation recipe for my new attempt.
At the same time, I had to help the parents plan a 3-phase Master Plan (with time frame 6 - 12 months) to get their child from hating piano to liking piano. Each phase needed multiple motivation strategies. I had to explain each one. I also had to read the 2 separate people's personalities and devise ways to best get them fully familiar with all the strategies they needed to implement the Master Plan. We chatted for an hour before I made my second attempt at the child.
I wasn't even sure that it would work at all!
In fact, I am quite sure I would have failed except that God sent a dog. For no reason that I can fathom, a Golden Retriever appeared from nowhere and sat right in front of our main gate. It sat in the middle of the driveway just outside the gate - a stunning Golden Retriever. It appeared at the exact moment when I needed it in my motivation strategy... and afterwards, it disappeared. Completely disappeared. The children and I have been out in the neighborhood. The dog is nowhere to be seen.
Do angels dress up in dog fur?
Anyhow, with the help of this mysterious Golden Retriever, my 2nd attempt went swimmingly well. The session ended with the Little Force Majeure willingly playing 3 different piano pieces, and beaming at his Mother once done.
If the Little Force Majeure's Mommy and Daddy are reading this, here is one last word of advice - if you don't hurry your child, he will progress much faster than you would ever expect him to. That is in the nature of strong willed children. If they have decided to do something, they will conquer every obstacle simply because they want to. So... don't stand in the way of your mighty river. Channel it instead.