Interview of Alexander Rybak to Dagens Nyheter (Swedish newspaper) – 9.2.11



“Parents must accept children’s tears”

Author: Malin Nordegren. Found and translated by Ingegerd Claesson

Source:, published 09.02.11

PART1. We think too much of what our children wants here in Scandinavia, says the winner of Eurovision song contest Alexander Rybak. If you want to become really good at something, then you can’t have fun all the time, he says to Inside’s [section of the newspaper Dagens Nyheter] new series.

Alexander Rybak was four and a half years old when he started to play the piano. When he was five he also started to play the violin.

-Actually I thought it was boring to practice so much. If my parents had been Scandinavians they would have said ”he can stop, he doesn’t think it’s fun” says Alexander Rybak who was born in Belarus.

-Many say that my parents were strict, but I say there was a lot of love. If you are going to become good at something you can’t have fun all the time. My parents compensated with being very loving, we did a lot of fun things together.

He has been called ”a wonder kid”, the now 24 years old violinist who won with record scores at the final of the Eurovision song contest in Moscow 2009. It is the musica schooling and the many hours of practicing that’s behind the success, he says.

Alexander Rybak was born in Minsk in earlier Soviet Union. His mother Natalia is a pianist and his father Igor is a famous violinist. When Alexander was five years old the family moved to Norway. There most things were very much different from in Belorussia, discovered the little Alexander.

-It was much freer. At first I didn’t realize that other children didn’t had to practice many hours each day, but I soon got that clear. And I saw that my friends got a lot of toys all the time, while I only got toys when I practiced. I thought that was unfair. But there are a lot of things that are unfair when you are a child, says Alexander.

For a period I was rebellious and wanted to stop practicing. But my parents were smart , they got me to continue, to feel that the option to stop with the music didn’t exist, and I’m very happy for that today.

When did you start to think it was fun to play?

-It was probably at my first concert in Norway. I was seven years old and played the piano with a big orchestra. I remember how happy I felt.

You should respect children and what they want. But here in Scandinavia there is a tendency to listen too much to what small children want, he thinks.

-When you are a parent and 30 or 40 years old you have to trust that you know a little more than the children. Sometimes you can judge what’ best for them, better than they can. There’s nothing wrong in being an authority. There can be some tears and toil sometimes, but you have to put up with it as a parent, and that the children are angry at you sometimes.

It’s not a matter of ”forcing” children to practice an instrument for example, says Alexander. You have to get the training to be a natural routine in everyday life.

-Should you always ask children if they want to brush their teeth too, or if they want to go to bed? You shouldn’t have too many routines but half an hour practicing each day isn’t very hard, and it can mean a lot for a child’s development.

One problem in Scandinavia is that you get the children used to try a little bit of everything, instead of really getting into something, says Alexander. And you always let the children choose.

-Here you ask the child: ”What do you want to play? ”Tuba”, says the child. And then the parents asks different music schools ”Do you have tuba?”. But when it comes to music you should always start with the piano, it helps getting a good ear for music, it will be useful later on.

In Scandinavia we are also afraid to criticize the children, says Alexander. They have to be told that they need to practice a lot and also get to know if they do something less good.

-To think that even children can take criticism is a way to show them respect. You should absolutely encourage them but not only give applause

But isn’t it easy to break the children’s selfesteem if they often are told they don’t do things well enough?

-Yes, of course you have to wrap it in and say it in a good way. That’s often forgotten in Eastern Europe.

Indisputably much in Scandinavia is better than for example Eastern Europe when it comes to views of children, says Alexander. Foremost you are better at regarding children as individuals here.

I think intelligent pedagogues hear realize you can pit more demands on children. And intelligent pedagogues in Eastern Europe realize that you mustn’t put to high demands and push too much. The middle road is the best.

Not everyone can become star. But with demands and practicing children and young people can get to experience that they can manage more and more, that they can get better, and that brings self esteem, thinks Alexander.

-But it’s important that you communicate with the children and explains why you have these demands. The only thing I think my parents did wrong was when I asked why they said it just ”was” this way. It had been much simpler if they had explained the reasons.

What will you do if you get children of your own?

-It is impossible to answer that before you know what persons they are. Every child is different. My parents had no plan for me before I was born. The most important thing is of course that children feels well and have it well. If I got to choose to raise children strictly and make them Olympic winners, and having children with a good life – then I would naturally choose the latter.

-I feel myself very privileged to have had a good life and become recognized as a musician, says Alexander Rybak.

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