My wife and I are very concerned with some of the music our son listens to. What's the best way for us to talk with him about it — do we just ignore it, forbid it or what?
You have good reasons to be concerned. There are many artists today whose lyrics are so disgusting, obscene, violent, and in some cases demonic that they have to put warning labels on them.
When dealing with teenagers it’s always important to try to understand them. Proverbs has a lot to say about the importance of seeking understanding. Before you tell him what you think, take time to understand his point-of-view. What does he like about the music? What does he think about the lyrics? What’s good about it? What’s bad about it? What impact does he think listening to those lyrics over and over again might have on his mind and heart and behavior?
After you’ve listened to him (and not argued with him) share your concerns with him. With our son we played a couple of the songs he thought were “fine” and then pulled out the lyrics (www.lyrics.com) and read them out loud. He was clearly uncomfortable and embarrassed by what we heard. We didn’t have to make a point regarding the darkness and destructive influence of the lyrics—the lyrics made it for us.
Let him know that you aren’t trying to take over his life and that you only want to help him make good decisions. You might agree with some parents who have decided to set limits on music with lyrics that are destructive saying that if they hear or see any music in the home (including their kids room) with a warning label or one they know is unhealthy they will immediately destroy it with no questions or discussion.
Another helpful step is to talk with other parents to see how they have dealt with this problem and perhaps to agree to pray for each other for wisdom and discernment in dealing with your kids.
Know that this may not be an issue you resolve in one discussion. Even if your son gets upset your ability to stay calm, keep a sense of humor and connectedness will help keep him open to talking. Be sure to close your conversation with a short season of honest prayer, thanking God for the strengths you see in him and asking for wisdom and discernment for all of you.
Remember, you are really looking at two issues. The surface issue is the music but the greater issue is your relationship with your son. Don’t give up and keep looking for opportunities to connect with your teen outside of the issue. At the end of the day, the quality of the daily relationship you have with your son will determine the kind of influence you will have in shaping his listening habits.