Photo by Raúl Nájera on Unsplash
Photo by Raúl Nájera on Unsplash

Teenage Music


I don't approve of some of my teen's music. What's the best way to approach this — do I forbid it or ignore it or what?


Welcome to the club. When I was a teenager and then in youth work, I just knew I’d never have a problem with my kids’ music. In some ways I still don’t. I love a wide variety of music, but the unique problem today is with the lyrics of some of the music. When we were growing up our parents had to contend with groups like the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and the Eagles. Today parents have to be concerned about artists like Eminem, Pitbull, Lil Wayne, and others whose lyrics are so obscene, violent and demonic that they have to put warnings on them.

At the outset remember that there are at least two issues here. The surface issue is the music but the deeper and more significant issue is your relationship with you child. When all is said and done, the kind of relationship you cultivate day-in and day-out will to a great degree determine how influential you will be in helping to shape you child’s listening habits.

Initiate a conversation that allows your teen to freely to express their perspective. Before you launch into your perspective make sure you understand theirs. As you discuss this issue with your teen remind them that you aren’t trying to take over their life but that you only want to help them make good decisions that will have a positive lasting impact on them for the rest of their lives.

Only after you’ve worked hard to listen to and understand them should you share your perspectives and your reasons.

Make a list of your concerns with the most significant ones first. If one of your concerns involves the content of the lyrics makes sure you know the content. With one of our sons we went to and ran of the lyrics of several of the songs. We also played a couple of the songs and listened to them together. We didn’t have to make a point regarding the destructive influence of the lyrics—the music and the lyrics made it for us.

In our home we have allowed music that was not Christian but set limits on music with lyrics that were destructive. We told our son that because of our love for him as well his brothers if we heard or saw any music in our home (including his room) with a warning label or one we knew was unhealthy we would immediately destroy them with no questions or discussion.

These issues can produce tension so how you talk with them is very important. Know that this may not be an issue you resolve in one discussion. If fact, we would encourage you not to try to force a resolution in one discussion. Even if your teen gets upset, your ability to stay calm, keep a sense of humor and connectedness will help keep him or her open to talking. Be sure to close your conversation with a short season of honest prayer, thanking God for the strengths of your teen and asking for wisdom and discernment for both you and them.

Don’t give up and keep looking for opportunities to connect with your teen outside of the issue. As you spend time this builds trust in the relationship and where there is trust there is love and respect. Love and respect are the foundational building blocks to helping your teen accept your influence. Teens are more likely to accept influence when they feel valued, respected and that Mom and Dad are making a legitimate effort of understand them.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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