This guest post is by Kat who is board-certified music therapist who provides song-writing, chanting, drum circle experiences, and performance opportunities at a camp every year for kids who have or had parents with cancer. Download her free music eBook on making music for wellness.
Music is most likely a huge part of your teen’s life. Countless times I hear about teachers and parents cutting out music as punishment. I cringe. This makes as much sense as taking away math class or football practice as punishment.
I think it’s important to have reasonable rules, but let’s be careful about how music is used in the rules.
When I provided music therapy at a behavioral health facility, a common theme for teens was that music is solace. Music is escape. Music understands teens. Music expresses emotion that no one else “gets.” Taking music away may be taking away the very essence of their own process of healing and well-being .
Here are a few reasons to not ever take away music as punishment.
1. Music is a central aspect of identity. Music preference sets your teen apart from you in a healthy way. Kids crave independence, and naturally, music provides a sense of identity separate from his/her parents. Kids want to be understood, and music is empathetic. Whatever the preference, respect it without grimacing or mocking when the music comes on.
2. Research shows how making music is good for overall health. We know from research at UCLA that active music making can build social and emotional skills in low-income kids. Also, after sending 1,155 surveys out to teens about the value of making music, researchers from the University of Washington found that making music teaches self-discipline, diminishes ethnic boundaries, improves coping skills, releases emotion, and provides a sense of belonging.
3. Listening can be just as powerful as making music for your teen. Taking iPods and headphones away is just as harmful as taking lessons away. When a kid is listening to rap, R&B, metal, or any genre, the teen gains perspective and inspiration from the listening experience. Everything gained from listening applies to life: cognitive processing of musical elements and form, lyrics, emotions evoked, movement and exercise inspired. There is great depth to a listening experience.
If your teen is taking lessons, then listening to a variety of music is very beneficial. Everything gained from listening applies to making music in lessons, regardless of genre. When I studied classical piano in college, I listened to jazz, metal, punk, and rock music for the form, the harmonic implications, and the orchestration. Then I was able to better discern these components in all genres of music, making me a better musician, but even more important: making me a better listener.
Here’s what we can do to foster music making and listening in a healthy way:
Let your teen love his/her music. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to listen to it. You don’t even have to have any respect for the music. But I recommend respecting your teen’s independence in musical preference.
Listen to some lyrics with an open mind. Letting go of judgment and criticism while listening to music of today can be a challenge, but it’s worth it to understand your teen. Start with just one song or artist. Consider lyrics by Eminem, Tupac, Taylor Swift, and even Lady Gaga. Lyrics from these artists contain ideas of struggle, strife, overcoming challenges, and going through processes that every human experiences.
Encourage new musical experiences. Consider talking to your teen about taking lessons on piano, guitar, voice, or joining a community music ensemble. Encourage get-togethers with friends who make music, and you never know… They may even start a band. Also, consider finding a local drum circle to attend with your teen. Today, there are tons of family-friendly, free community drum circles across the United States.
Finally, if you feel any frustration in connecting with your teen through music, then continue to be open and patient. You never know when something new might come about and strike a chord with you and your teen.
There you have it. Let’s keep music in our kids’ lives!