[Week 18 of 52 Weeks to a Better Relationship With Your Child]
Harnessing music for family relationships
You can avoid the stereotypical musical clash between generations. This is important because music is an important mode of expression and an integral part of social interaction. Here are basic strategies:
- Start enjoying music with your children when they are young
- Teach you children how to evaluate music
- Don’t be self-righteous about musical choices
You don’t have to be musical to enjoy music with your children. In fact, you should help your children to understand that engaging with music is not something restricted to the highly talented or famous. Young children automatically like and interact with music. This can be a wonderfully fun and useful as a part of your parent-child relationship.
There are many ways to integrate music into family life.
- have energetic music on while doing chores
- sing homemade opera to add fun to normal family activities
- sing to sooth at bedtime
- sing together during hours of travel, especially in the car
- sing to help memorize, whether for fun or to help learn
- sing or play instruments to express feelings
- make music for worship
- make up your own words to known tunes
- have social gatherings for sharing talents
- sponsor social events encouraging impromptu music
- initiate spontaneous rhythm events while doing dishes
- as a parent, don’t be shy about regularly practicing an instrument or singing
- allow children to experiment with instruments in the home, with appropriate care and supervision, of course
- invest in songbooks
- encourage interpreting music with things like drawing or dancing
Just participating in musical activities increases musical abilities and understanding. This leads to both increased enjoyment with personal participation and increased appreciation for other people’s music. By encouraging children to engage with music, you encourage them to be creative.
What if the repetition is making you crazy
Music is repetitive by nature. The structure of music is one of patterns and repetition. This helps with memorization and enjoyment. The more familiar we are with a song, the more we can “get into it.” This can provide both opportunity and challenge.
One important thing to remember is that we can often teach our brains to NOT pay attention to continuous noises around us. By practicing patience, mixed with understanding the benefits of repetition to the child, it can help us gain a perspective that makes it easier to subdue irritation.
Sometimes it is just a matter of volume. Asking children to turn down the volume or play their instruments a bit softer is a reasonable social thing for them to be aware of. For young children I would never recommend resorting to earbuds because there is too much of a chance they would have it too loud and damage their hearing. Plus, it reduces the ability for healthy supervision.
It is okay for parents to set limits on repetition. This may mean certain musical movies or song lists have limits. It may also mean that certain songs can only be practiced a certain number of times a day. A wise parent knows that repetition can also affect what a child is thinking or how they see the world around them. Some music is more positive to have around than other music.
Another management tactic is providing other alternatives and distractions. We can all, old or young, get stuck in ruts. A little bump in one direction or another can be refreshing, especially if done in a pleasant way.
Things everyone should learn about music
Music is the conflux of the physics of sound and the energy of human emotion. It can be both a tool and an experience. Children will benefit from being taught to be aware of how music affects them.
Just as implied in the list of ways to integrate music into family life, music is oddly powerful. It can be an expression of a wide range of feelings. And it can be used to stimulate a wide range of feelings. Simply being aware of this gives children a huge advantage is managing their own feelings and reactions to anything.
When they are mature enough, you can help them to evaluate lyrics. When they are very young, parents probably need to closely guard what those little ears hear. There is such a thing as healthy innocence. But as they get older, they can learn to weigh how important lyrics are, how much it is affecting them personally, and how to disregard some lyrics.
Another aspect of this can be learning to be humble about other people’s choices. Not everyone will be affected the same way by the same music. Older children can learn to speak up for what they are comfortable listening to without making other people feel judged.
Here is a short lists of things to consider discussing with your children about music:
- how does music make you feel?
- how does music affect how your treat others, both because how the music inspires feeling and due to who wants to listen to what?
- what instruments are playing?
- what is the physiology of sound and volume?
- why do different people like different kinds of music?
- how can music be enjoyed together?
- how important are lyrics?
- does music interfere with communication?
- does music interfere with or help with personal creative times?
Dealing with different musical preferences
A lot of musical preference have to do with association. People often like certain songs because it reminds them of good times, real or imagined. If your children associate some songs or genres of music with family fun or good relationships, you will always have musical things to share. However, variations in taste will develop.
This is a perfect chance for parents to expand their own musical appreciation. It is not that hard to find some new songs that you can all enjoy. It can be very fun for a child to show a parent something new.
It can be fun to make a bit of a game out of it. An older child can share a new song or artist. The parent can say what is interesting, fun, odd, or irritating to them about the music. The child can counter with their own perspective. Then, the child can look for another new song or artist that the parent might enjoy. I know I have found some great new songs to sing or dance to this way.
Setting guidelines for the household
When a child is old enough to turn a knob or get toys out by themselves, there will be some need for household guidelines about music. It won’t always be a good time for music to be on. Not everyone will want the same kind of music at the same time. Here are a few simple guidelines we had:
- live musical practice or enjoyment almost always took precedence over listening to music on a device
- quiet in the house until 7 AM
- music is allowed after 7 AM no matter who is still sleeping
- musical choices need to be lyrically appropriate for all age levels present
- we will took turns choosing the morning chore music for the day
- person to person communication was a priority over volume of music
Gilbert and Sullivan solve many problems
In our family, Gilbert and Sullivan musicals have helped bring multiple generations together. If you don’t yet know who they were, they were a dynamic duo of comedic political satire in opera form during the late 1800’s. I grew up listening to my parents LPs of their operas. I introduced this music to my children and ended up with two full operas being performed live on my back patio over a couple of summers.
Introducing children to the music of previous generations helps them to see that people are all basically the same, no matter what year they were born in. People are looking for love, making fun of politics, and dealing with hardship. Music helps us share our struggles, hopes, and joys across time.
Won’t your parents be mad we took you out dancing?
Now, as our children have all reached adulthood, my husband and I have had a lot more opportunities to go out dancing on a regular basis. And as our children are now adults, they have often joined us at various bars and restaurants where there is live music.
We are usually the first ones out on the dance floor and the last ones to leave and we can dance for a solid couple of hours working up a good sweat.
But a few years ago, one of my daughters was working out of town and went out with some co-workers one evening dancing. Now she tends to be a little more quiet in the work environment, not because she’s shy but because she doesn’t always feel the need to be the one in the center of attention. But, like the rest of us, when the music is on and you get out on the dance floor you just enjoy the music!
Part way through this particular evening, apparently one of her co-workers got conscience-stricken that he was leading her astray. And he said to her, “Won’t your parents be mad that we took you out dancing?”
She obviously had a good laugh about this. And her co-worker was left evaluating some of the assumptions and categories he had put people into.