How many times have you sung the “Clean Up” song to encourage toddlers to put away their toys? Or made up a funny song to avoid a meltdown?
Kids from a young age are naturally drawn to music — who doesn’t love singing and dancing (and seeing Mom and Dad act a bit silly) — but are there things we should be doing to direct that fascination?
And what about how to deal with foul language, overt sexuality or violent themes in music, especially as kids get older and begin to understand the lyrics they’re singing? Here are guidelines for tuning in to the power of music.
Mix it up. Expose your children to everything: classical, pop, rock, blues, country, R&B, jazz and rap. Kids don’t need their music put into categories; if they’re exposed to different styles, their favorites will include a variety of genres.
Band together. Be a musical role model by singing together in the car and at home, starting your own band (even if it just means banging spoons on pots and pans), taking a music class together and attending concerts.
Take the next step. Encouraging kids to play a musical instrument or be part of a chorus helps them develop social skills, such as discipline, leadership and teamwork. Introverted kids may enjoy music as an escape while extroverts might see music as a way to shine.
Show you “get it.” Music helps close the generational rift. Tune in to what they’re listening to, ask questions, and learn about who they’re following. It’s a great way to tap into your child’s emotional life and prove you identify with what’s important to them.
Discuss lyrics and set boundaries. There’s a lot of foul language and sexualized lyrics in music and, depending on your child’s age, they will understand it or not. Stay informed. Remind kids that while it may be ok for an artist to curse or say derogatory things for the purpose of selling music, it’s not ok in your world. That means setting rules regarding what’s appropriate and what’s not. Finally, pay close attention when you find your children listening to lyrics that are overly dark or violent as they may be indicative of an underlying issue that requires your intervention.
Kathleen Dexter, M.S.W., is a contract administrator for The Children’s Trust, and a licensed clinical social worker with extensive experience in the design and implementation of child and family services programs. For more information, visit thechildrenstrust.org.