Friday, July 25, 2008

Start with a question

Today our Allie-14 left to spend the weekend out of town with family friends. After she left I noticed that the computer was up and that our music library screen was up. A couple of the recent downloads were songs I didn't recognize, so I looked up the lyrics.


Let's just say that they were not "edifying."

Since she was in the car, sitting next to her friend for the next several hours, I thought (in my all-knowingness), rather than call her, I'd send her a text message about it (otherwise I know myself all too well - I'd forget to deal with it when she got home). As I tapped out the text, I felt myself getting mad ("Doesn't she know better??"), and the message getting longer and longer, with words like "disappointed" and "privilege" in there with threats and ultimatums.

I knew the words were a bit strong (they always seem stronger when (1)they are written, and (2)-they are a complete surprise).

So (in a divinely inspired moment, I believe) I asked Neal-13 to read the message. I asked him, "How would you feel if you were sitting next to your friend in a car, and you got this text message?"

He took the phone and read it. "Wow, Mom. I think you should wait and talk to her about it when she gets home. She won't want to reply to this."

He was right. She wouldn't want to reply to it. I could picture her receiving it and being first embarrassed. Then angry. Then defensive. Click.

I deleted the message. And yet, I still felt like I wanted to bring up the topic before I forgot about it.

So instead, I sent her a different message. "How's your trip going so far?" I decided to start out with a nice, general question.

A bit of chit chat followed, and then I texted her: "Hey, when you get a minute I'd like to talk about the songs you downloaded."

What followed was a very nice "conversation" (it is still weird to me to think about communicating this way, but it works!). I mentioned that I read the lyrics to the songs and felt they weren't appropriate. She seemed genuinely surprised, because she just wasn't listening to the words that carefully.

"I'm sorry, Mom. " she said. Several times. "I didn't notice that they had any bad words." In the case of one of the songs, it wasn't the words; it was the subject matter. She hadn't thought of that. (Yep, the answer to the question, "Doesn't she know better?" really IS sometimes, "No.")

The conversation isn't over, of course. Music is a huge, ongoing topic, and one exchange isn't going to instantly bestow a lifetime's worth of discernment on my kids. And don't even get the idea we've done a perfect job - I probably need to take a closer look at what's on her iPod. But we still have to keep at it. I SO want to find the balance - to challenge my kids to a higher standard - without being completely irrelevant and inflexible, which is so easy for me to be!

When she gets home, we'll talk more. Which is more than I could say if I had sent my first threat message. Maybe this time the door to talk is still open a crack. I'm so glad I started with a question instead. I bet Allie is, too! Thank God for younger brothers!
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8


Anonymous said...

What a refreshing read! So many "christians" don't find many "worldly" music wrong. Many feel it's ok, it's only words. And many come back w/don't you watch xyz?

What they fail to realize is that words have POWER. power to create thoughts, feelings etc. Some good some bad.

Thank you for raising your children to be mindful of what they LISTEN to.

Grafted Branch said...

Give them Bach. :)

Christy. said...

You are so wise! I hope I remember to take a step back and be mindful of my approach when my kids are a bit older.
Thanks for the post, it made me think! :0)

Chloe Alnetta said...

Thanks you so much for the timely post! We have 13-year old twins and are rapidly approaching the music world where Allie is at ... and I would definitely have a tendency to overreact if I found "un-edifying" music in their possession. Thank you for the reminder that, sometimes, they just don't know better. I always overestimate what they should know and expect them to make mature decisions, when, in fact, they are only 13!!

By the way, it has been so good to have you back blogging more regularly... I followed you throughout your move and read all your "in-progress" updates. Your house looks fabulous!!

Anonymous said...

Loved this post and know all about how much work it is to keep up with what's on whose i-pods. It's exhausting, that's what!


Susanne said...

Love this. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has almost sent an angry missive in the guise of a text message. Good for you for taking a step back and keeping those "talking" doors open.

Music is such a huge issue. And like you said sometimes they really don't know better. What I find hard is when I find some of the "Christian" stuff questionable. Is it just my own taste that's disliking the style or am I picking up on something?

Andrea said...

Thanks for this practical advice told through a story.
That's extending grace....
to Abby, and to us.
I think you're awesome, K. :)

Anonymous said...

Even some of the stuff on Radio Disney is not that great. They have a "clean" radio version for the kids, but then the kids want to buy the actual album from the artist. I used to teach Pre-K and one of the kids brought in a CD with "explicit" lyrics on it, but I'm not sure if the parents realized that because they play it on Disney and all the kids know it and sing the clean lyrics. Anyhow, one of my coworkers played it on the radio because the girl asked. I heard it, and told her that it's not appropriate. She didn't know about the "explicit" on the CD either.

Carolina Mama said...

At what age do you let them buy their own music without you? Seriously, what's realistic. Looking from the age of 7 year old children. :) God Bless.

Becca~CapturingSimpleJoys said...

This is good for me to read. While my children are young and music isn't our issue~yet, I have a tendancy to me the one drawing a line in the sand. I have no doubt that as kids approach their teen years some understanding from mom and dad and willingness to talk rather than to lectur have far more beneficial results. I love reading how you handle things! Good posts to refer to in the years ahead.

Beck said...

It's hard backing off sometimes and giving your kid the benefit of the doubt, isn't it? I'm so glad to have read this - it gives me an idea of how to handle similar situations in a few years with my own kids!

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

This is such great advice, Katherine. My first instinct is always to jump in with a lecture, but your approach was so much better. With Camden only 9 years old, we haven't had to worry about music too much yet, but I know it will be an issue (along with movies, the computer, etc.) and something I need to continually be aware of.

Mom to 5...Daughter of the King said...

Well done! I hope I an dothe right thing when my kids are that age!!

Cassandra said...

Teaching and coaching to make appropriate choices is much harder than just issuing rules and guidelines. Awesome post. I love love your blog.

Jen said...

At least you evaluated first. I try to do that alot...look back and think before reacting..I used to just fly off the handle. I think it comes with growing up and maturing. We still are you know.

Queen to my 3 Boys said...

Good for Neal for being so intuitive. Good for you for asking him and taking his advice. I pray that your conversation goes well when she gets back.

Mozi Esme said...

Smart brother! And smart mom for getting his opinion!

I love the text you used - if we could just ingrain it into our own minds as well as our kids!