The day I overheard my 7-year-old daughter singing “Let’s go all the way tonight” was the day I knew our family had to do something different with music in our house.
My end goal when I launch my kids into the world is that they can use the wisdom they’ve developed in our home to be thoughtful and intentional in their choices. For example, as they grow older and more independent, I want my kids to be wise in the media they choose to consume. I won’t always be around to police their activity so I want them to be able to listen to the still small voice (1 Kings 19:12) inside of them that prompts them to change the radio station or TV channel, or close a website.
Up until a couple years ago the only music my kids (now 7 and 9) heard was Christian contemporary or occasionally classic rock songs we introduced them to, like “Thriller”. When they started listening to current pop/secular music other places and wanted to listen to it at home, I thought that perhaps it was time to allow a little more freedom in that area on the way to learning how to choose well. So, when they had non-Christian radio stations on in their rooms I didn’t love it, but I was OK with it. And, if I’m honest about it, a part of me didn’t want them to be the strange kids at school who don’t know anything about pop culture.
But then, when my sweet 7-year-old daughter was singing “Let’s go all the way tonight” from Katy Perry’s song “Teenage Dream” I realized that both my kids are still far too young to make those decisions on their own. They still need their dad and me to help them process what media is OK. We as parents, at this point in their lives, are called by God to protect them and help them gain insight in order to help them learn to be responsive to God’s still small voice.
So, at a recent family meeting, I shared Proverbs 4:23 with them.
“Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
We talked about some of the songs that they had been listening to and what the lyrics mean. It was a wake up call for my son to hear the stark reality that one of the songs he likes has a part about getting a girl drunk and then having sex with her. We talked about how powerful lyrics are and how, even though they don’t know it, those words and ideas are getting planted in their fertile hearts and minds.
We talked about the word “discernment” and that our hope for them is to someday be able to discern what media they choose to consume that will feed their souls. But that, at 7 and 9, they don’t have the knowledge yet to be fully discerning.
We told them that because we are the mom and the dad it is our job to help them stay safe… not only in terms of physical safety, but also to help protect their hearts. And so, after discussing options, we told them that if they wanted to keep their radios in their room they could only listen to our local Christian contemporary station. We added that if they wanted to listen to other stations, we could do it when we were all together so that we could help them understand what the songs mean.
After a couple qualifying questions from my kids, they completely accepted this decision. I was expecting a backlash but there was none! I wish I could get inside their minds as they were processing all of this but I’d love to believe that these following ideas helped them know that we are for them and not against them.
- We didn’t overreact when hearing them sing inappropriate songs. We were calm and thoughtful about how we approached this. They knew that they were safe with us.
- We’ve frequently shared over the years about some of the songs we listened to when we were kids and how those sometimes stupid lyrics are still stuck in our heads (example: I Like Big Butts). We are honest about even now making tough decisions about what media we consume. They knew that we can empathize.
- We didn’t outlaw all secular music forever and for all time. We let them know that they will grow in wisdom and be able to discern what is appropriate with time. They knew that we believe that they are capable of making wise choices – and that we will be here to help shepherd them through the learning process.
- We had fun with the topic and didn’t get overly serious! We enjoyed our kids in what could have been a tense situation.
Apply it now:
When we all discussed our goals as a family and the reason behind our decision, our kids were totally supportive of all of us working together to be careful with what ideas plant themselves in their — and our! — hearts and minds. Even if they didn’t respond the way they had, I know that we could still feel confident in our parenting and how we approached this situation and our decision.
- Are you modeling appropriate media consumption? Even when your kids are in bed and aren’t able to see what you are watching/listening to, are you guarding your own heart?
- Talk openly with your family about what your family rules and values are around different media. For example, I am OK with a few swear words in movies if the movie we are watching as a family clearly shows a strong character trait like perseverance (example: Rudy).
- As age appropriate, talk with your kids about what they are seeing and listening to rather than just hitting the off button.
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