I mentioned this in passing on Silas’ 11th birthday post, but I keep telling people about this, so I figured I’d write up something more detailed.
Silas has always gotten extremely frustrated with anything that requires practice. If he can’t be immediately good at things, what’s the point of doing them? Literally everything—walking, reading, LEGO, swimming, riding a bike. Basic things. We’ve gotten through them, but it’s been a struggle. When he first started to play the uke, I saw this whole thing playing out yet again. Learning to practice and to push through frustration, to acknowledge that things are going to start out rough, is such a key skill for…you know, life. So after another tear-filled practice session, I said to Silas, “I think what you need is a training montage.”
He was confused. I explained it to him: “You get frustrated easily because things don’t come to you fast. I think it’s because in movies, people learn new skills really fast. But in movies, they use a training montage to cover a whole lot of time. Months, maybe, go by in just five minutes.” We watched a few classic training montages: Rocky, Mulan, Luke and Yoda. And then I said, “We’re going to make a training montage of you learning the uke.”
Every day, if he didn’t feel like practicing, I’d get him to play just a little, “for the montage.” We needed the footage, you know. It got him to get the thing out of the case and noodle a bit. I cut together a preliminary video at three months, and it was terrifically motivating. The six-month one (below), seriously changed how he thought about practicing anything. His math practice got less teary. He finally learned to swim and ride a bike correctly. He learned a few basic dance steps. This random inspiration did the exact thing I had been hoping for!
So that was pretty great, right?
This video is from last February, 18 months into his uke journey (and a year after the end of that previous montage). The songs he’s playing here (“Hotel California,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “High Hopes”), he’d seen for the first time only a couple days earlier. These also weren’t songs he was familiar with from hearing them, either. He can pick things up really fast now. It’s easy to forget where he started, he’s come so far. I’m really proud of him, but also just thrilled with the way he made the connection between this uke-specific thing to the rest of the skills he needs in life.
Anyway, I see things in parenting and homeschool groups on the regular about the perpetual challenge of getting kids, especially those with a low frustration threshold, to practice things. Here’s my parenting hack for it.