Scene: A 6 year old’s piano lesson.
My student was very resistant to trying something new. She insisted “I just don’t want to do it!” over and over.
I’ve been teaching long enough to know the difference between a badly behaved kid and a kid who’s behaving the way they are because they’re nervous, or afraid they’ll mess up.
So we left the piano, came down to the floor to play a music theory card game, and as we played, we just had a conversation.
Me: So, what do you think is the worst that could happen, if you try something hard on the piano and you mess it up?
Me: If you try something, and it’s hard, and you totally mess it up. What’s the worst that could happen? Would you die?
Me: You’re right, of course not! Would your mom and dad stop loving you?
Me: Never ever. Well, what if we take it down a notch, here? Would everyone laugh at you, if you made a mistake?
Me: Hey, I’m glad to hear you say that! Some people are afraid that would happen. But you’re right. People wouldn’t laugh at you. Would people secretly think you’re dumb, for making a mistake?
Me: That’s right. No one is going to think that.
Her: Could I break the piano?
Me: No. You definitely could not break the piano by making a mistake.
Her: So what could happen then?
Me: The worst that could happen is that you’d make a mistake, and then you’d go back and try again.
Her: That’s the woooorst that could happen?
Her: But that’s not bad at all!
Me: Exactly. Want to go back up to the piano and try it again?
Her: I guess so.
And she did. And you know what?
She didn’t even make a mistake.