Just for a second, think back to when you were a teenager. What were the paramount influences in your life during those junior high and high school years? Would you be surprised if your list did not include friends and music? Of course you would be. Little has changed today. The friends teens have and the music they listen to are still very important to their daily lives as evidenced when either or both is removed for period of time. Of the two, friends and music, this blog is concentrated on music.
Advertisers have targeted our teens daily and music companies have identified the importance of the music teens listen to by making their products so easily accessible at all of our fingertips. Music outlets are jumping in,including the ever-popular companies like Apple Music, Spotify, or YouTube to the more obscure sites like Music or Soundcloud. These outlets range from free sites to subscription based, and all of the sites give the end users a catalog of millions of songs from which to choose. By all accounts Apple Music or Spotify are home to 35-40 million songs to select from on our mobile devices.
The question is, as parents, when was the last time you listened to your teen’s music? When was the last time you Googled the words to the songs your teens listen to? Even more importantly, when was the last time you affirmed your teen’s musical choices?
The question parents frequently ask is, “How do we verify what our teens are listening to without making them feel like we don’t trust them or their choices?” Here are three ways to interact with your children’s listening choices and how to have healthy conversations about their choices.
Seek to understand your child’s music before passing judgment – Who are your child’s favorite artists or bands? Who are they mostly listening to and why? Who do they want to see in concert, spending their hard-earned money, or yours? Take time to start a dialog with your children, letting them know you seek to understand their music and not to condemn their music choices. It is easy to discount an artist or genre of music because they are “not your style” but that bias attitude only alienates people. When you listen to your teens while simultaneously asking genuine, thoughtful questions, you engage those for whom you care, rather than repelling your teens and causing you to be perceived as narrow minded, at least to your child.
Do your research - Music is so personal to all of us, and we will defend our music choices even when we aren’t making sense to anyone but ourselves. When we disagree with our children’s music choices, the discussion can quickly become personal, or at least feel personal. If you have any criticisms of the music decisions your teens are making, ask yourself if you have facts behind any objections? Research your child’s favorite artist and their lyrics, both the original song and the “clean” version, before engaging any discussion. When you have substantial knowledge of the artists top songs and albums, you are displaying to your teen that you care enough about them that you would do your research. If you disagree with the content of your teen’s music, discuss your objections with your child without letting emotions rule your conversation. Make the facts be the bad guy; don’t be the bad guy. If the song’s content is objectionable, then discuss it with your child and help them understand your point of view. If a “clean version” is still not clean, help your child understand what you are hearing. Remember to always be motivated by love for your teen.
Always be teaching; always be training - This topic is so personal to our teens today; it is our responsibility to train and not to alienate our teens. Is there a benefit of continually reminding our teens that you are the parent, and they are called to obey you? If you want to drive the point home, add that God commanded your teen to obey you, the parent. If you play that card, you will quickly alienate your teen and quickly end any good conversation with your teen. As parents, we are called to train our children not to chide them for not being identical to their parents. Deuteronomy 11:19 says, about God’s Word to “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Always be teaching!
Open communication is far more advantageous than edicts and mandates, especially when it comes to those God has entrusted into your care. At the same time, naivety and not engaging your teen’s music isn’t ideal either. Understand, research, and train your children in all areas, especially with their music choices, and by faith God will do something good in your relationship with your teens.