Parents and Their Teens’ Music Choices

I recently got an email from a parent asking for some advice on how to help her teenager think through music that she likes to listen to that the parent does not think is appropriate for her or edifying for her relationship with God. I am always glad when parents think through how to set healthy boundaries for their kids. The fact that this parent wants to think through how to set good limits for her daughter is a great thing in itself. Here was my response:

[Parent Name]:

Discussing culture in general and music specifically is certainly on my “rotation” of things to teach on. We will likely discuss it specifically sometime in 2010, but we do regularly talk about (as an application) the music, movies, and television shows that we choose to listen to and watch.

My goal when it comes to music is to help students think through the messages of the music they listen to. For instance, when traveling with students in a van on a mission trip or in a car to a retreat, I allow students to plug their iPods in (it used to be CDs!) and play any music they like as long as I get to press pause any time I want and ask questions about the music and make comments. I find that this equips them to help make decisions about what they choose to expose themselves to in our media-saturated culture. It doesn’t mean that I condone every song that is played (I once gave an impassioned 20-minute lecture to some students on the way home from a retreat on the intrinsic value of females as children of God after we listened to the first 60 seconds of a song that demeaned women in an awful way). However, it does open the door for great conversation.

I’m not familiar with the band she likes to listen to, so I can’t speak to their music. However, if [daughter’s name] is willing to listen to some songs with you, it might be good (and even fun!) to have a conversation with her about specific aspects of the band’s songs. Ask her questions about why she likes the music, what the message of particular songs are, whether those messages line up with or are contrary to God’s Truth as found in the Bible, and whether or not the music builds her up in her walk with Jesus. And please feel free to speak frankly to her about concerns you have with the band’s music and message.

Ultimately, they choice is yours in terms of what concerts [daughter’s name] attends and what music she can have on her iPod. I’m encouraged that you are willing to set limits for her, and I hope you continue to set safe boundaries for her as her mom. She may not come to a point where she understands why you set those boundaries, but I guarantee that it will help her to set boundaries for herself in the future.

A resource that’s been a huge help to me when it comes to music and other media is Walt Mueller, who started the site, has put a lot of time into helping parents understand the culture that their teenagers live in.

Thanks for the note, and I’ll continue to be in prayer with you as a parent. You are certainly not the first parent to have these concerns!

Yours in Christ,

Ultimately, I try to take an equipping approach to this. Of course, this does not mean that I’ll play a song during a lesson that is obscene or has explicit lyrics (I may bleep a few things out) just to have students discuss it–just as I don’t need to show a pornography video from to teach a lesson on it. However, if students are already listening to something, then it can often be good to engage in a conversation with them and try to shed God’s truth on what they are exposing themselves to.

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