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Give the Gift of Music

What do these things have in common:  dogs barking, a wailing banshee, an industrial metal press operating at high speed and the swearing skills of a sailor?  If you guessed popular teen music, you are bang on.
Before anyone gets an idea that this article is about bashing whatever happens to be popular, it’s not.  I enjoy probably as wide a range of music styles as anyone I know.  The point of this article is to help parents think about being intentional with the music their children listen to on a routine basis.
The overriding scripture that comes to mind is Proverbs 29:15 which tells us that “a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”  While this verse can be used to help us think about many areas of raising children, it certainly applies to music and what goes into our children’s minds and ears by way of tunes.  If we are careful and intentional, we can help our children to develop a taste for good music while weeding out the garbage which permeates much of the airwaves and digital devices.  If we aren’t, we shouldn’t be surprised if our children gravitate toward the garbage heaps and end up in a mess.
The inherent problem with much of society’s popular music is the underlying character of the people who write, sing, and produce it.  I tried to warn parents who thought Hannah Montana was “innocent” because of the direction Miley Cyrus was headed.  Now those little girls who adored her have as a role model someone whose description isn’t fit to print in this magazine.  The world’s system is pretty simple:  Get a new child pop singer; puff them up until they reach critical mass; pump out the CDs, music videos and movies; help the child star transition to a bad girl/bad boy motif by beginning to sing more decadent lyrics and by wearing less and less clothing; milk the fan base of the new “outlaw” all they can until he or she is burned out and used up and then … find a new innocent looking child to begin the process all over again.  Really, we’ve all seen it over and over in our lifetimes.  As a parent, just say “Not in my house” to the next Bieber or Montana and find someone who isn’t a creation of that broken world system.
One practical step any parent can take is to take some time to listen to what music your child is already imbibing.  Ask for the lyrics if you can’t understand them.  Look the songs up on the Internet and read the lyrics there if you need to.  Find out if your child is listening to rap which glorifies God and builds up the listener or if they are listening to music which is depressing, rude, explicit or degrading.
Let’s pause a moment to ask what you should do if you find some of the absolute trash in their music collection.  Some parents would argue (strongly) for the approach of trying to wean them of the bad stuff over time.  If I walked into the kitchen and found my child sitting there surrounded by razors, gasoline and matches, I wouldn’t wean him.  I would get him safely out of that situation as quickly as possible.  The question is, do you understand just how dangerous to your child’s health some of the music really is?
A second step is to take your child to hear different kinds of live music.  There are plenty of Christian concerts in our area ranging from Southern Gospel to contemporary to alternative.  There are also numerous opportunities for classical concerts.  There are military band concerts, jazz concerts, bluegrass concerts and the occasional foreign music concert.  Listening to a live concert and seeing the musician(s) at work can spark an appreciation for new styles of music in a child.
As well, parents can make music hands on by buying a crate and beginning to fill it with instruments.  We have a box like that in our house.  It contains instruments ranging from a kazoo, a small accordion, whistles, xylophone, drums, castanets, harmonica and more.  As our children have grown, they have each connected with one or more of those instruments during times of family devotions or just during times of play.  They learned that they were capable of making interesting sounds with these cool things called instruments at a very young age.  And, as they have grown, they have moved on to other instruments which suit their interests and abilities even better.
A fourth way of giving the gift of music to your child is by buying a mix of good tunes either for their digital device or, if they still live in the early 2000s, for their CD player.  Digital music is simpler in that you can buy one good song rather than a whole CD.  Either way, give your child the opportunity to listen to that music on a regular basis.  Replace the bad with good if they already have bad music. And by “a mix,” I don’t mean the stuff that your grandpa listened to and told you was the only thing God likes.  Buy a mix of different genres, styles, sounds and even international flavors.
Finally, you can give the gift of music by actually paying for your child to have music lessons.  Or get them involved with a local church children’s choir.  Don’t say, “But my child isn’t interested!”  Offer a significant reward:  “You sing in the choir, and we’ll talk about that bike (or sneakers or whatever is reasonable as a reward).
With time and effort, you can help your child’s musical taste buds to grow beyond sugar water to something which will help to lift their spirits, provide them with a good background sound for school studies and can even help to draw them into the presence of God, the author of the best music ever.


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