Teaching Children to Choose Appropriate Music

Mormon Mother reading about Jesus with young children.Music can impact a child’s choices, attitudes, and emotions. The best time to help them learn to make wise choices about music, and to develop a love for a variety of quality musical styles is to begin when they are young. This family night lesson will help both children and teenagers begin to think about how music influences their lives, and to learn to enjoy it responsibly and completely.

Learn how to plan a family night.

Prior to this family night, ask each person to be prepared to play or sing his favorite song or music. If there are words, ask them to provide a poster of the words. If anyone in your family plays an instrument, invite them to be prepared to play something special.

When your family gathers for family night, begin with a prayer and a song. It doesn’t matter if anyone can sing well, or if anyone knows how to lead. Just enjoy the song. You might want to choose a religious song if your family knows one. Otherwise, choose something calm and soothing.

Ask your children to listen to brief selections of music as you play them. Have prepared clips from various types of music, from the peaceful to the noisy. Give each person a sheet of paper with the names of the music and a place to write a note about how the music makes them feel. Little children can draw something instead of writing. Give examples of things they might write: Feel like running around. Makes me smile. Want to dance. Ask them to put a happy or sad face by each to remind them if they like it or don’t like it.

When you’re finished, review the songs, asking for feedback. Help them understand music can impact their moods and emotions. Offer several situations and ask them to think of a song or piece of music they’d want to listen to at that time and why.

Examples:

Sad because a friend has moved away.

Celebrating a special day

Worried about moving to a new home

Peaceful

Angry at someone

Remind them they can choose music that will reinforce their mood or change it, so they need to always choose their moods carefully. Ask if they think music can sometimes be dangerous.

When we listen to music the words enter our minds even if we think we aren’t listening to us. They have a rhythm that makes it easier for us to remember it and apply it. This is why we teach children difficult things like the alphabet by using music, and why music is an important part of church services. But just as music can influence us for good, inappropriate lyrics or overly raucous styles can have a negative influence, convincing us that evil is okay or chasing away the Spirit of God. We need to keep in mind the power of music.

Ask your family to turn to 1 Samuel 16 in their Bibles and read the last verse: “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” Music is so powerful that David was able to use it to chase away an evil spirit. Satan can use that same power to bring an evil spirit to us.

Ask them what kinds of music they think might chase away the spirit. Can God be where evil is…or even a little wickedness? What kinds of music might bring God closer? You may want to point out music doesn’t have to be religious to be valuable, but it must never contain anything that would displease God.

Read this thought to your family:

“Worthy music is not only a source of power but also of protection…Wherever we are we should carefully choose what we see and hear. We would not knowingly tolerate pornography in our homes, but if we are not careful, we may allow music into our lives that can be just as devastating.

Many youth listen to music that can be described as loud and fast, becoming louder and faster. It aims to agitate, not to pacify; to excite more than to calm. Beware of that kind of music.

As you know, continued exposure to loud sounds will, in time, damage delicate organs of hearing. In like manner, if you overindulge in loud music, you will more likely become spiritually deaf, unable to hear the still, small voice.…Do not degrade yourself with the numbing shabbiness and irreverence of music that is not worthy of you. Delete the rubbish from your minds and your MP3 players. Protect your personal standards! Be selective! Be wise!”

Russell M. Nelson, “The Power and Protection of Worthy Music,” Ensign, Dec 2009, 13–17

Ask your children to take turns playing or singing the music they chose to share. Review the words to the songs and discuss what the song’s message is and whether or not it would be pleasing to God. Discuss whether or not the actual music would be pleasing to Him. Try to ask questions that lead each child to decide for himself whether or not the music is appropriate.

When it is your turn, play some music your children might not be familiar with. Tell them you’re going to play a number of types of music and you’d like them to listen with an open mind to decide if they like it. If you have younger children, ask them to draw as the music plays. Their drawings can illustrate what they feel without being an actual picture, or they can draw a picture of something in the music. Play classical, opera, spiritual and other types of music. You might want to play music native to other cultures. Your children won’t like all the music, and they may not like it right away. Over the next few months, begin playing it quietly when the family is in the room, working on chores or projects. Simply by being exposed to quality music, they will learn to appreciate it if it isn’t pushed at them. Just play it. In time they will start to become aware of music they like.

For the remainder of the evening, try some music related activities. Invite family members to play or sing the music they’ve prepared. If your children are young, make homemade rhythm instruments and play them as you sing children’s songs. Play musical chairs to classical music.

Consider teaching your family to lead music. Then, each week in your family night, invite someone to plan and lead the music.

Obtain a copy of the hymnbook used in your church or purchase religious music your family enjoys. Each week, learn one new hymn during family night and sing it often in your family.

Integrate music into your everyday life. Have the family sing as they work on chores, go hiking, or carry out tasks that don’t require quiet. Sing together in the car, and periodically turn off the television and sing as a family. Locate quality music events in your area and begin attending them as a family.

Ask your children to go through their music to see how it measures up to God’s standards. Challenge them to remove from their collections anything they’d be uncomfortable playing if Jesus Christ were visiting. You might want to offer to purchase a certain amount of appropriate music for them in exchange for removing all inappropriate music. Make sure you set the example by doing the same with your own music collections.

Following are several ideas for bringing music into the home from Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do.

IDEAS FOR DAILY LIVING

1. Start with yourself—cultivate a musical disposition.

  • Develop your own mental savings account of music—Memorize a few favorite hymns and hum or sing them while going about your daily duties. This will pay great dividends.
  • Stay on the straight and narrow—Use appropriate music as an internal compass to cleanse your mind from stray thoughts and remain focused on gospel principles.
  • Be selective—Choose uplifting and edifying music to play in the background as an appropriate framework for productive enterprise.
  • Learn to perform—Everyone can do something to add music to the world: sing a little; try your hand at an instrument (guitar, piano, harmonica)—even if the output is at first less than perfect. If you are blessed with considerable musical talent, all the better, for you can use this talent to enrich the lives of others.

2. Make music an important part of family life.

  • Family [Nights]—Sing…hymns… together; few activities will contribute more to unity and peace.
  • Recitals—Let family members (even the youngest) perform for the group within the walls of the home. These rehearsals are often the foundation for musical expression outside the family and can contribute to self-confidence and an enduring commitment to the development and expression of innate talent.
  • Teach correct principles—Guide family members to opt for uplifting and wholesome music. Remember that music that is suggestive, extremely loud, or that has questionable lyrics has a devastating effect upon the soul. Studies have shown that music can lift or have negative effect upon one’s behavior. Let us be wise in our musical choices.
  • Family reunions—Make sure that music plays a key role in larger gatherings of the extended family.

3. Be actively involved in musical worship.

  • Prepare yourself—Listen quietly to the prelude music in [church] as a way to prepare the spirit to receive and process truth.
  • Actively sing the hymns with the congregation—We all have the opportunity to contribute to the ambiance of spiritual joy during our meetings by lending our voices of gladness and gratitude.
  • Join the [church] choir—Go the extra musical mile as an “angel” in one of the Lord’s choirs. You will be all the more prepared to join the heavenly choirs when that hour arrives.
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