Parental DJ, Part 1


Music is powerful. 


Music touches us and affects our emotions in deep, subconscious ways.  Songs get stuck in our heads.  Song lyrics permanently embed into our memories and can be retrieved decades later.  Because of these emotional and mental powers, the songs that your kids learn are of utmost importance.

So who will be the gatekeeper for what music my kids enjoy?  I believe that would be me.  Here are a few principles that we’ve come up with for guiding the music selection that we put in front of our kids.   

First, Do No Harm…

First, the music you choose should not harm your kids.  There is a great verse about “whatever is true, noble, lovely, and excellent.”  The music they hear should not contain anything crass or suggestive.  It shouldn’t even demonstrate or glorify bad attitudes.  There should not be even a HINT of impropriety, as my mom used to say.

Harness the Force For Good

Remember, music is powerful!  It draws us in.  It gives us goose bumps and makes us feel powerful emotion.  It also helps us to lock in important memories.  We feel that it is our job that our kids are ‘soaked’ in the word of God.  Marinated, I like to say.  Music is one powerful tool for shaping their worldview, memorize Scripture, and challenging them to pursue leadership and noble things.  (More specifics in another post.)

History and Perspective

The Best Of: Our entire economy pushes us to discard the old and buy new, as fast as we possibly can.  Because of that we have to actively reach back to ancient connections for stability and connection.  Purposefully select music to tie them back to ‘classics’ from different eras.  Classical music, hymns, patriotic songs, big band, jazz, Sinatra, Bing, Elvis, classic rock, disco (2 songs), country.  I think it is great to expose them to a variety of styles from a variety of eras.    When I first really got into music it was the beginning of the CD era.  On my limited budget, I almost always bought the Greatest Hits or Best Of, so that I would get 10-20 good songs for my purchase price.

Hymns:  One of my specific goals for our kids is that they know and love hymns.

Different Genres: When Dana and I go to weddings, we enjoy big band swing music, Cotton-Eyed Joe, YMCA, and the Cha-Cha Slide.  For an occasional night out we will attend a symphony or a musical.  I try to expose my kids to good songs from a variety of eras, so a playlist may include Yellow Submarine from The Beatles.  Jesus is Just Alright from DC Talk, You Can’t Always Get What You Want, and Rockin Robin.  This is a way that they can be well-rounded.  Some might call it cultured.  Others call it an appreciation for music.


Music can be so fun!  Dana and I have so enjoyed music throughout our lives in so many ways.  We have good memories from with singing in church, playing piano, band, choir, listening to tunes with our friends in high school, the dance at our wedding (still the best wedding party we’ve ever attended, in our humble opinions!), and dance parties in our home.  Music is fun!

Only You Can Prevent Mind Warping

Here’s the in your face part.  You should not listen to the regular popular radio with your kids.  The entire message and focus of the radio is immoral and wrong.  It pushes lifestyles and activities that are the opposite of what you want for your children.  The music industry elevates performers who compromise their integrity in order to achieve fame.  You would not ever dream of letting your kids hang out with Miley Cyrus – why would you let them listen to her?  You may be able to withstand the conflicting messages about values, but your kids are not ready for this.  I’m not saying that you can’t ever listen to secular music.  There are plenty of secular songs that are fine for your kids to listen to.  But here’s the key – you have to select them.  You have to be the DJ.  You cannot allow the radio DJ, and really, the music companies, to decide what songs your kids are going to hear.  This is not just a commercial for KLOVE or 88.5, but it is so wonderful to hear my little 4-year old son belting out praise or worship songs as we listen to their ‘positive, en-cool-aging’ music, as he would say.  (And plus it’s fun to listen to TobyMac with my kids, since I listened to dc Talk when I was a kid.)

Fill ‘Er Up!

It is much easier to fill your child’s mind with good things than to try to change their mind after it is filled with bad things.   Because what your kids hear is what your kids learn. What they learn is what they believe, what they feel, and what they pursue.  Remember – music is powerful.  Purposefully select music for your kids that will inspire, encourage, teach, and bless them.


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4 thoughts on “Parental DJ, Part 1

  1. Pandia says:

    I agree that music is powerful, and I am responsible in selecting my kids’ music. (For now… we have to train them as they get older to make their own wise choices… while maintaining veto power!) However, I feel that it’s a little inconsistent to say that you wouldn’t let your kids listen to Miley Cyrus because you wouldn’t let them hang out with her. (She has many fine, clean songs from her earlier years, and Dash and I love listening to Wrecking ball.) Would you let your kids hang out with the Beatles (Yellow Submarine was inspired by an acid trip) or the Village People? I think we can have a tendency to sanitize the past and demonize the present. Sure. Miley is one sad and confused girl. I wouldn’t let my kids watch her music videos, or buy entire albums, but some of her songs are great and even joyful! Yes. Her behavior is wrong, but it is no more wrong than the Beatles’ behavior… they just hid it better.

  2. Gwyn says:

    While I do not disagree that we are the gateway, and I agree we need to be careful to guard our children’s hearts, and 90% of what my children listen to is “Christian music”, for the sake of consideration, if we judge each artist/band by a specific song or personal mistake, or not listening if we would not want to be friends with the person, etc. we would not have much to listen to…
    Even “Christian artists” make mistakes/decisions we may not agree with. We are all human.
    If we judge some of the artists you have listed (their entire body of work by one mistake or bad decision) (in addition to Miley Cyrus) –
    Frank Sinatra was known to frequent prostitutes, had extramarital affairs and was married 4 times. And, he had controversial lyrics too – Ever heard “Witchcraft”? Elvis Presley was criticized for his “sexy” dancing moves (hip gyrating). Ed Sullivan resisted having him on his show saying his dancing was unfit for family viewing. Elvis was an abuser of prescription drugs.
    What about Christian artists? What about the controversy surrounding Amy Grant, her divorce and remarriage or when she released “Baby, Baby”? Does this void her previous work and it’s validity? Sandi Patti had an affair while singing worship songs for the masses. As did a member of the band “First Call” and Michael English. Some of these repented. But, even if they didn’t, is everything they have done invalid because of a bad decision or rebellion? We need to be careful to walk the line between protecting our hearts (and that of our children) and sitting in judgment of others. (You know me well enough to know I AM protective of my kids. :))

    1. Pandia says:

      Well said, Gwyn.

      1. Nate says:

        Pandia and Gwyn – Thanks for taking time to read our post and comment on it. You bring some good balance to the discussion. I love how different parents bring different perspectives as we try our best to raise our kids.

        Gwyn – you’re absolutely right. I certainly am not the musicians’ judge. King David was the ultimate example that one sin or a series of sins does not negate your character and work. I gave that criterion as an example, but it definitely does not always hold water. In general I think it is a good thing to consider, “Is this artist generally a person of integrity and do they share my basic values?” But you’re right – it is not necessary to have such high standards for all music.

        Pandia – You have uncovered my ignorance of Miley Cyrus, in that I have only seen her vulgar video clips and sound bytes on the news, print, and social media and have never read the lyrics to any of her songs. So perhaps I should not have picked on her – I did not know that any of her songs were positive or uplifting.

        I agree that many pop stars throughout history have been bad role models. I think that one difference between modern pop stars and pop stars from the 60’s are that the former are cool and hip and the latter are cold and dead. The former’s lifestyles and messages are current, trendy, and appealing. Current pop stars are toxically attractive, and we are barraged with their images and influence through all sorts of media. It’s interesting how taking a song 20 or 40 years out of its context can take away a lot of its potency. For example, we rapped to Ice, Ice, Baby at our talent show at church last year, and it was silly. The same rap would have been offensive if done in 1990, because at that time Vanilla Ice was a relevant influencer of culture. Now he is not. So, although I agree that it is a risk to introduce my kids to the music of druggies and drunks from the 60’s for fear they will be influenced by those values and lifestyles, I feel that my kids are not highly likely to be influenced by the lifestyles of old, dead pop stars, especially if I only select songs with ‘innocent’ or nonsensical lyrics. In other words, teenage girls may have Bieber pictures taped around their mirror, but probably not Elvis’ pictures. Boys will cut their hair like Bieber, but probably not like Elvis.

        As with all things with neutral or negative qualities, we have to decide if engaging in that activity would dishonor God, harm others, or harm ourselves. That, in a nutshell, is the role of the parental DJ. I am not too worried to allow my kids to enjoy selected music from flawed stars from the past because I feel that I can purposefully separate their music from their persona. It sounds like you feel the same way about Miley – you are introducing your kids to her music, and purposefully sheltering them from her values, activities, image, character, message, and trends. And at the age that your kids are right now, they probably are not at risk for idolizing her, emulating her or patterning their thinking after hers! : )

        We are all 3 on the same page that for our younger kids we play a huge role in shaping what they think is oK. Thanks for adding your comments to the discussion – it is not complete without you.

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