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The Fate of the Child is in the Hands of his/her Parents

“Every child grows; everything depends on the teacher” - Shin'ichi Suzuki

We would like to start off this beautiful New Year's day with a discussion about early childhood education from the point of view of someone who has been indispensable in developing thousands of musicians worldwide. His name is Shin'ichi Suzuki and he is best known for developing the Suzuki Method or what he referred to as "Talent Education." Briefly, the Suzuki Method is based on the principle that all children possess ability and that this ability can be developed and enhanced through a nurturing environment. Although Mr. Suzuki was speaking from the point of view of a music teacher, we believe that a number of the concepts are equally applicable to sports. If you have time, there are a number of books that we encourage you to read including: Studying Suzuki Piano -- More Than Music: A Handbook for Teachers, Parents, and Students; Nurtured by Love: The Classic Approach to Talent Education; and Ability Development from Age Zero.

1. Talent is not inborn. Inborn greatness or mediocrity does not exist. No person is born uninteresting. Mediocrity is trained. Every child grows in the same way as he is brought up. Early education (between birth and kindergarten) is very important in the child's development. This is the "seed" stage, where the plant needs to get the highest quality attention. TENNIS: How many times have made excuses for their children that they are simply not as talented as their peers?

2. Emphasis on talent (or lack thereof) is misguided. "Inborn talent" seems to be used too quickly, too easily, to often. People we regard as talented have been nurtured in that way to the age of five or six. Why is that all Japanese children speak Japanese? By all account, Japanese is  a difficult language to learn and master for a Westerner yet all Japanese children speak it. Why is that? Is it perhaps that they have been immersed in the language from an early age? TENNIS: Everyone has a talent that can be applied to tennis. Just like a child can learn to speak Japanese if he is immersed in the culture, so can the same child learn to play tennis and master the sport.

3. Ability breeds ability. Development doesn't just mean learning but also building the ability to learn. Concepts shouldn't be learned only in bits and pieces but must be developed comprehensively. If you rely on talent to bring out the best qualities of the child you are really admitting that you possess poor nurturing methods. Saying that "my child has no talent" is the same as saying "I did not educate my child properly". TENNIS: instruction should not just be focused on learning the basics but also on nurturing the child's ability to learn the game further. 

4. Immerse the child in beautiful works from birth. In terms of music, let him listen to records of famous and enjoyable pieces. The child will be physiologically conditioned to absorb the information. Have him learn the activity from teachers who are passionate about the subject and who are interested in developing beautiful human being through the subject. TENNIS: how many times is your young child watching tennis matches played by inspiring competitors? How many times do you take him out to a pro match or a college competition?

5. The goal is to build the child's personality and refine her abilities. Unless the seedlings are well cared for, beautiful flowers cannot be expected. Setting the child aside until it has reached elementary school age is like ignoring a plant for the first couple of seasons and expecting it to thrive and be fruitful thereafter. Failing to nurture the child's abilities from birth is like binding the child's right hand for 4 years and then expecting him to be right-handed. Success depends on a number of factors and the only thing that the parents' goal should be on developing wonderful human beings. Whether the child "becomes something or someone" depends on him. Let him make his own way. TENNIS: tennis a tool for learning about life. The goal is to develop the human being through the sport and all the lessons that it has to offer. 

6. Ability cannot be developed without training. The more complex the task, the more training is required. In addition, the circumstances surrounding the training should be happy and be without much fuss. In this way, the child is relaxed and the endeavor is enjoyable. The child begins to absorb the information more quickly and looks forward to additional practices. TENNIS: this goes is fairly self-explanatory. The higher the level of play, the more tools are required in order to orchestrate the components. 

7. The child does what the parents do. If the child sees the parents learning to play a musical instrument then the child will WANT to learnt o play as well. This is different that the parent telling the child to learn something without doing it himself. Children will do what they dislike if they are being told to do it but they will become resentful and the activity will not develop into an ability. It's like holding a seed in your hand and ordering it to "SPROUT!" Also, the home environment should be analyzed to determine whether it is conducive to the child's development. Is it hectic, is it stressful, is it anti-social, angry or hateful? The child will absorb the actions of the parents and project it through his own activities. TENNIS: have you noticed how a lot of the more successful players have tennis-playing parents? They don't have to be good players but it helps for them to be passionate about the sport themselves. If the parents don't care enough about tennis to play or learn it themselves, the child is, most likely going to follow suit. 

8. Aim for more challenging things. Don't allow the child to do something that's easy just because she feels good about herself by accomplishing it. Just like in mathematical exercises, the child should be pushed - little by little - to grasp more complex components. Challenging the child with develop her ability and alleviate restlessness allowing her to concentrate on more difficult tax completely on her own and for a longer period of time. The child will become absorbed by the activity and the learning process will become fun. An unlimited amount of ability can be developed when the parents and child have a good relationship and when they are having fun together. TENNIS: don't let the player's progress become stagnant by repeating the same workouts. Challenge the player with new concepts and show him the many dimensions of the game. 

9. With difficult cases, children can be tricked into learning. This doesn't necessarily mean that the child is stupid, but that he learns in a completely different way. For example, a child that may have problem with basis math, can be taught the concepts through board games, cards or dice games. In this regard, it is important for the teachers and parents to see the world through the eyes of the child and not look at it from their own perspective. TENNIS: pros shouldn't teach all players in the same way and expect the same results. Players have different ways of learning so it's important for coaches - if they are interested in developing as opposed to merely collecting a paycheck - go beyond the routine and experiment with new teaching methods.

10. Treat the child as an equal human being. The human being is simply in the stages of development but use logic and calm voice as opposed to subjective orders. A child who is browbeaten will grow up to be rebellious and disrespectful in their own way. Spend some time understanding the child and the world form his point of view. There are no two people exactly alike and just because the older child is one way, doesn't mean that the youngest child will respond in exactly the same way to development methods. Environmental factors and all kinds of learning situations play a role in the child's development. TENNIS: how many times have you told a player "hit like this because I told you so" (or something along those lines)? It's important for coaches to explain the rationale behind the training in a way that the player can understand. Otherwise, the players will feel like they are not important and will become resentful. 

11. Start early. Talent education begins at birth and it is an ongoing process thereafter. The earlier the process is started the easier the child will learn and the greater skill she will acquire. Unfortunately, parents often do not have a plan for what the child will do in her life and allow her to be battered by the storms for a few years until she finds out what she really likes. Many children will develop bad attitudes because the parents are no actively engaged in nurturing the child's good attitudes. Often times there is a rift between the parents with respect to how the child will be reared. TENNIS: although it's easier for a child to listen to music as a baby than to watch a tennis match, if the goal is for the child to become a tennis player then simple methods (e.g. hanging a tennis ball over a crib) can be incorporated in order to start developing the tennis-player brain. 

12. Truth, goodness, beauty and love. These are universal concepts that all human beings (and some animals) desire. The primary responsibility for educating the children in these concepts is at home. Social functions and other obligations should not trump the responsibility of child rearing. Don't expect others to do the work for you. Own up to this obligation and immerse yourself in the process. TENNIS: these are the qualities that all tennis players should strive to develop. Results are secondary. 

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Reader Comments (2)

Nurturing environment is key - which means parents as well as the specific social groups that their children are exposed to. I believe parents have a huge control of social group exposure for most of the life of the child.

As far as early education in tennis, I consider myself lucky to have a child in early stages of life growing up in the time of QuickStart tennis mentality. If it were still the days of large heavy racquets and high bouncing fast heavy yellow tennis balls, I would probably postpone tennis until age 8.

January 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertweener

I agree that talent is not inborn. Talents are developed with the help of parents and through the exposure of children to the society. So I believe that the support of parent in the development of child's talents is of great important. I also agree that children imitate what the parents do therefore parents should be a role model. Thanks for sharing.

baby monitor

February 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIsabel

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