FAMILY: Shared Music Listening Opens Dialogue


This article originally appeared in Issue# 34

We've heard a lot recently about the need for parents to have access to the lyrics of rock music. Few parents will succeed if this is a "policing" technique as in "You can't listen to any rock music by 'Name of group.'"

The secret of a useful dialogue between parents and youth Is the willingness of parents to ask questions which invite young people to talk about their feelings and what they like or don't like about a song.

An example of this came when I was watching TV one evening with my daughter and one of the rock groups moved into the spotlight. They sounded hostile; their actions as well as the lyrics were very suggestive. "How did you feel about the way the guys related to the girl in their group?" It wasn't a long conversation, but it did begin a dialogue about sexism which we've found easier to pick up since.

One mother described how her 12-year-old son "bugs" her: "He keeps asking me to come into his room and listen to music with him. I'm not about to listen to his obnoxious music," she concluded. That mother is not only refusing to listen to her son's music, she's not listening to his invitation to enter a part of his life. That's an invitation reserved for parents who are open, not hostile, and willing to say, "Tell me about that song or that group? What are the things you like?"

This woman's fears were shared by a concerned parent who spoke recently with my friend Jeff Kellam, a radio personality, Presbyterian minister and educator.

This father wanted Jeff's advice on whether it would be appropriate for him to take his 12-year-old son to see the group "Rush" in concert.

"If you're going with him, you'll have the opportunity to talk about the experience," Jeff suggested. "Perhaps you can go to the store and pick up an album or two. Look at the lyrics if they're printed; ask the store to play one of the best numbers."

Their conversation points up a continuing challenge for parents in the family arena — maintaining contact with their children even in media areas where they may feel overwhelmed by the peer pressure the child is experiencing.

Author Bio: 

Margaret Foth wrote Your Time, a radio program for families sponsored by Mennonite Media Ministries, Harrisonburg, Virginia. She is the mother of four children. Since concluding the Your Time program, Margaret has worked as a mediator and trainer in conflict resolution skills and practice.