"I don't get so mad," one of my students said, "when I play in group."
I was surprised to hear this. This student has a history of drama and overreaction when making mistakes.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “I dunno,” he said, thoughtfully. “I guess it is because when I make a mistake in group, we just go on.”
When children give us drama - tantrums, anger, crying, rolling around on the floor, slap-happiness, physical silliness - it can make us feel like we want to tear our hair out.
In frustration we want to demand that they stop the ridiculous behavior. We want them to understand the rules, and have the will-power and self control to follow them. We try to reason with them and often find that only increases the silliness.
Why does drama happen, and how can we address it?
Children don't realize they are doing something irrational, and when they are doing it, often they are feeling something so physically in their bodies that they cannot hear or communicate in any other way than through a dramatic display of physicality or emotion.
Understand: when children become overdramatic, they are often not capable of rationally "deciding" to change and behave differently. They will not change until an outside stimulus prompts them to change.
We make it worse because we are trying to change the inner state of child, instead of changing their environment.
Enter Group Class
The magic of group class is that it supplies just the right environmental shift for students to be able to get past their own individual motivational walls. Playing with other students is a way to modulate the many moods and reactions that can come over a child when practicing.
The student who gets mad at her own mistakes is a perfectionist. She wants things to come out perfectly the first time, and reacts angrily when they don't. She fixates on mistakes and has trouble following through on practice sessions when she starts making errors. And of course this emotional state produces more errors.
But this downward spiral of negative emotion dissolves when it occurs while the child is nested in group.
The group is like a big barge floating down the river. It may hit an individual rock, or tree branch, but it will adjust around it and keep going. Psychologically this releases pressure from the individual child. Not only are they out of the spotlight, they cannot fixate and get mired in their own mistakes.
Group class provides the environment where a successful performance is possible, even though any particular individual may not be able to play 100% successfully. It gives each child a vision of a larger whole, into which they can fit themselves with a better sense of proportion.
Everyone feels better after group. Mistakes are mended, moods are soothed, and the music gets to have its effect on even the most intractable child.
The next time you want to put your savage beast in a cage, take him to group class!