Deeper insights 4: Being positive


Working with my son these few years the thing that has recently worked the best has been a technique called “Positive Behavior Support.” Without getting way deep into that, a simple thing to remember how it works is you try to not highlight (in other words, ignore) behaviors you want to extinguish, and reinforce positively the good behaviors.

Positive behavior support

In James case, one clear example is he got to a point where he was flooding the toilet multiple times every day. The normal human reaction is punishment or negative reinforcement. That did nothing for us. What actually worked was to be super positive every time he didn’t flood the toilet. So, in the last month for example he has only flooded it a couple times which is a lot better.

There are lots of applications of this in horn playing, teaching, and life in general.

I will start with, of all things, Facebook. Clearly some people out there really are models of optimism and positive thoughts, at least based on their public posts on Facebook. You are my heroes! One thing I was taught growing up was that if you don’t have something good to say maybe better to just not say anything.

There are also some people who come off as hugely negative. They are thinking they are just informing people and perhaps trying to sway opinions on topics of the day, but really the result is to drive people off Facebook. All the “stuff” posted makes their feed unreadable. I spend more time than I would like “seeing less” of posts and people, in particular I would really prefer to look other places for political news. #stayinyourlane

Part of why social media is important to me personally in terms of horn and life now is, as noted earlier in the series, James is extremely attached to me, I have had to limit my travels and performing greatly in recent years. So I really enjoy seeing interesting tidbits about the horn and other interests online. I appreciate pages and friends who do a good job, I do enjoy seeing interesting photos and videos and such, and I don’t want to be drug down by a bunch of negative vibes.

A random, negative story

Not long ago I saw an image posted on Facebook on a page feed that I felt was offensive. As I thought at the least there was no reason to be so negative in that particular feed, I pointed it out as gently possible to the person in charge; the deliberate choice of that particular image, even if allowed by Facebook, simply and honestly puzzled me. The short version of the conclusion of this story is that no good deed goes unpunished, I was banned from that page, controversial troll that I am! Apparently, old fuddy-duddies like me are the problem in their eyes, and to offend people like me was exactly the point they wanted to make. Well then.

Still, I stand by the idea that there really is no need to be offensive when being positive remains a valid option toward making your point. If you think it to be “edgy” it is probably at the least a microaggression against someone. It goes back to the positive behavior support idea, if there is something you want to change in the world there probably is a way to do it with positive reinforcement rather than negative reinforcement.

And back to teaching, and playing

My main memory of Verne Reynolds in lessons was him pointing out all of my mistakes with extreme clarity. He was not wrong to do that, but I would much rather point out what a student is doing right. It is a better teaching technique and will get a better result with horn players generally. As I have already noted, with my son, get negative on him he just shuts down. It does not work, and once the anxiety kicks in (him being very sensitive to the moods around him) the anxiety does not soon go away.

Stay in the here and now, keep positive, move on

Finally, one quality that my son and I clearly share. We move on. There is a point that we just don’t remember the negative things of the recent past and live in the new moment that has come rather than dwelling on the past. This skill/habit really is essential for the horn performer, you can’t dwell on mistakes or obsess about the future, you have to just keep a good optimistic attitude and keep going forward – in the moment you are in now.

To close the series the topic is quitting.

Continue to conclusion of series

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