QUESTION: My 10 year old son loves
alternative music. He frequently listens to it and sings the lyrics.
I don't mind his fascination with it and I do mind some of the lyrics
in many of the alternative songs. Having not monitored the music until
recently, I was shocked to find that many of the lyrics contain many
swear words (much use of the f... word) and many negative lyrics speaking
of death and how the world and everyone in it is worthless. I am concerned
this influence will alter how my son views the world. I am having difficulty
differentiating between what is normal 10 year old disrespect and negative
attitude and what is music influenced. What do you think we should do?
ANSWER: You support your son's
growth by showing respect for his choices and passions. This shows positive
regard for his individuality. At the same time, your job as a parent
also includes filtering the world through your own eyes and ears for
appropriate guidance. Your approach is a thoughtful one, so whatever
you decide is in your child's best interest will no doubt end up serving
There are a variety of responses possible and often
discussions about lyrics and music center around whether such music
should be brought into the house, or not. Age of your child and your
own philosophy on childrearing will shape your own choice of action.
Naturally, you can find those in favor of rules against such music
in the house, however this presents the possibility that you will
not know what your child is really doing on the side! So your concern
about your son's view of the world is well placed. It offers you an
opportunity to begin the process of discussion with him to understand
what the music he is listening to means to him.
Have an open discussion with your son about your
discomfort with the lyrics of the songs he is listening to. Ask him
what he likes about the music. Explore with him what the meaning of
the lyrics are to him. It is likely that he may not have given it
much thought up to this point. Perhaps he likes the beat, or maybe
he is listening to music which is popular with his friends and in
some way makes him feel included in the group. Discover what the context
of this music is for him.
If there are violent or other negative messages in
the music your son is playing, point this out to him. Have a discussion
about whether he and you agree or disagree with this message. But
keep in mind that musical preferences usually involve emotional expression
of some kind, which may or may not include agreement with the content
itself, but simply allows for an emotional release. Perhaps you remember
when you felt sad following the breakup of a relationship and played
music filled with laments that you "can't go on without him/her".
These musical choices did not mean you believed in suicide, but perhaps
you played them to express the feelings of sadness and rejection.
What kind of feelings does this music evoke for your
son? Anger? Alienation? Individuality based on pessimism? Or simply
a budding interest or latent musical talent of some kind? Staying
in tune with his inner landscape lets him know that he is not alone
and it allows you greater knowledge of what he is experiencing and
where you might help. If he is indeed submerged in feelings of cynicism
and anger, you might be concerned about why this is the case for him.
What experiences or present situations or incidents would contribute
to identifying on a deep level with intense pain, rage or apathy?
Do not be shy in addressing these concerns directly
with your son. This kind of connection between parent and child will
prove invaluable if he needs your help, now or in the future. And
sharing your concerns in a way that invites him into the process increases
family bonding. Situations like these provide the fuel for discussions
which promote intimate connections. And perhaps these discussions
can flower into other areas of discussion and sharing. Maybe a trip
to the symphony or introducing other forms of music could open your
son's horizons and further your avenue for shared activity beyond
the tension of the current situation.
Every generation defines itself in a number of ways,
especially through musical and artistic expression. Whether you agree
or not your son will be exposed to it because it is a part of his
culture. Use this opportunity to dialogue with your son rather than
create distance. After gathering more information about the meaning
of your son's choice in music, you might also find that you and your
spouse may benefit from talking to other parents about this topic.
It helps to know that as parents, you are not alone!
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