Today’s post is on how I motivated my introverted child to participate in a group performance.
My #2 Jae (5yo) is an introvert. In his 4 months in kindergarten, he rarely spoke. Over 1.5 years of weekly music classes, he rarely interacted with other children. Yet at home, he can be talkative and loud at times.
Two months ago, he confidently completed a violin solo event, which means he isn’t shy.
Suzuki violin is supposed to be a group class. However, his only classmate left some time back, so he has individual lessons.
Next month, there will be a Christmas group Suzuki violin performance. During the first rehearsal, he chose to watch without even touching his violin. Among the group of about 30 children are two acquaintances.
With about 30 children and 30 adults in the practice studio, nothing near the small company he enjoys, he was expectedly overwhelmed.
After that observation session, he was cooperative in practising the pieces at home.
Right till lunch time before the second rehearsal, he insisted that he didn’t want to perform.
He loves playing the violin, is able to play all the required songs well, and has solo stage confidence. I’d a strong feeling that he simply needed a good nudge to join the new group and I wasn’t convinced to let him worm his way out of the performance. At least not yet.
During lunch, I casually mentioned the post-performance celebration, which involves eating at the child’s favourite place.
“Jae, after the Christmas performance, we will go and celebrate like the last time. You may suggest where to celebrate. Perhaps you’d want to have one ice cream cone all to yourself? There’s Baskin Robbins at XXX mall, just nice! Thanks to you, we can all celebrate too. So have you decided whether to perform?”
He had the choice of whether to participate, since there was no way to force him onto stage if he refused.
His eyes grew rounder, he thought over it for a few seconds and then agreed! I was surprised because just a moment ago, he’d flatly refused to perform.
During the car ride to the music school, he napped, so I had to carry him and the violin upstairs. Gosh, hazardous to my back!
Thankfully he woke up calmly before participating fully in the session. I didn’t even have to say anything to encourage him in class. The power of the ice cream cone in helping our introvert cross his mental barrier!
After the session, he asked if we were going to have ice cream. Ha, of course… not. That’s reserved for post-performance, to celebrate the child’s bravery on stage.
How did this work?
I usually use natural consequences rather than offer rewards or punishments for motivating the child’s behaviour. These might be why the reward worked this time:
- I rarely use a external reward to motivate my children. When I do, it’s when there’s no obvious or near-term natural consequence. So this isn’t an overused technique. Each small success will convince the child of his ability, and then I can gradually wean him away from needing any reward.
- We had tried it out earlier. In the previous performance, Jae was willing to participate. However, the practice drills got tiring and all of us (including mummy-the-coach) needed an extra boost of motivation. So we agreed to consider celebrating at the child’s suggested place if he puts in his best shot right till the end. (Note that I use “consider” instead of “promise” to ensure the adult always gets the final say, just in case.)
- I know my introverted child well. I understand that he needs great courage to try out certain new experiences. I know that he would enjoy the performance and just had to overcome the thought of joining a new and enormous group. A small reward that he loves was all it took to help him focus on the longer term and bear with the initial discomfort.
Where to read more
To find out more about the world of introverts, especially if you’re an extroverted parent, these are some references:
- Introverts: You Were Born That Way by Neil Thompson: A quick read to know who is an introvert
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking* by Susan Cain: The current #1 best seller in behavioural psychology at Amazon
P.S. Check out my workshops here
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