Five Pieces of Advice Regarding Influencing Your Child's Musical Development

Over four years ago I wrote my first blog for Jeopardy of Contentment (which turned out to be a about a fifth of my writing output for the site). To justify the music my boss gives me as payment for my entries, I wanted revisit that post not only to bathe in my awesomeness as an observer of the human condition, but also because I find it fitting since Matt will be welcoming his first child by (hopefully) early Thursday morning. A few times he's asked some questions regarding parenthood (Do I lay the child on its back or stomach? How do I know if its colicky? How long can we leave a newborn alone in the house before we should check back in?), but Matt's outwardly pretty calm and ready for the whole shebang. I am curious what his first post will be once she is born, and when it will be posted. Mine was about six days after, so I guess that's the record.

My first post was about what songs would you have playing in the car for the ride home. Certainly a list that can be very fluid, and really more about what music you would first expose your child to when things get settled. Beyond just those five songs, my intent was also to look into how you would expose your progeny to  your musical tastes, and how you might handle any obstacles thrown your way should they not be as receptive to your excellent tastes. I now offer, after four years of experience, my last piece of prepartum insight to Daddy Schram:  Five Pieces of  Advice Regarding Influencing Your Child's Musical Development.

1. Don't Force the Musical Issue

Ideally you'd like your child to instantly love everything you do, at least until they are old enough and have had enough of a musical diet to have a well-informed opinion to argue with you. I learned early on that forcing an artist or group on a one-year old is not only ineffective but deflating to the parent. Babies and toddlers are complete id and honest reaction, and playing something once that they don't like will not change the second or third time. They're reactions will consist of scowls, anger, and without-a-doubt negative comments like "I don't like that" or "No! No! Something else!". They will like what they want to like, and as much as you want to be the cool parent, it's not going to be Husker Du, but Baby Genius or The Backyardigans, which I really like anyway. So that's cool.

2. Don't Stop Forcing Said Issue

Look, it's going to hurt awhile, rejection always does, but you don't quit on what's important. And what do your kids know? They poop themselves and need you to get them anything they can't reach.. You're their parent, and you know what's best. Three years after my daughter constantly asked my to turn off Sleater-Kinney, this past winter I put on Corin Tucker Bamd's "Neskowin" and she ate it up. She now requests the "Mommy Song" regularly (because I told her Corin Tucker is a mommy, too). Victory!

3.Mix It Up

This ties into Item #1, in regards to the kind of music you're playing. Not just a volume fitting for the time of day (soft for sleep, high energy for playtime), but the genres that reside within that piano-fortissimo arc.For sleep, mix in classical piano and quartets with smooth electronic and jazz and acoustic artists (At the time we did  a lot of Beethoven, Iron and Wine, Bon Iver and Rockabye Baby). For playtime, I guess whatever goes, but go after all genres and styles, even ones you're not a big fan of normally. Outside of my general rock realm, we did Pink and Lady Gaga quite a bit (they loved "Paparazzi").

4. Expose Them to Female Role Models

Even if you have a boy. The music scene is just as hetero-male dominant as sports. I've already done a post about how some "strong women" in pop still conform to male ideals, and it's important for your kid to spurn those ideas at a young age. For girls, they need to know that to be a woman singer is not about your tight clothes and being a nonstop innuendo; it's about your passion, honesty, lyrics...well, anything you measure any artist on, as long as it's not sex. I've have a lot of female artists that I think are hot as hell, but I have them because of the music (most of their hotness came as a result of me loving the music in the first place).

For boys, it's just another chance to teach them the value of not objectifying women, of not expecting the opposite sex to conform to your ideas or categorizations for a what a woman in music should be. As the father of daughters, I appreciate this.

5. Don't Change You

There will always be things about your life that change after having a kid, and the hobbies and passions you had before will still be there, but they'll just need to managed a bit more strictly. Musically speaking, do you like to sit down with headphones to listen to a new album? Naptime and bedtime. Do you play in a band? Less practices, shorter practices, and no road shows, at least for awhile. Love going to shows? Wait until the  baby can sleep through the night consistently, so that you're not leaving one tired spouse to have to get up and deal with a fussy babe, or go to kid-friendly shows to mix it up and expose them to live music.

The idea of leaving behind what you love is ridiculous, because that is part of what you want to share with your kid as they grow older. My children love it when Uncle Brett and Uncle Scott come over for Band Night, or when I show them a t-shirt or a video clip of a show I went to. They love going to see The Doo Dads at The Record Bar because that's where Mommy and Daddy went to see shows, and they love hearing me play music, no matter how bad I am at it.

In conclusion, keep the records spinning, let them discover (with you guiding a bit) for themselves what they love, and always have music be a positive element (no douchey "I liked them before you were born" crap.) in their lives. Even if music isn't a big thing to them, that kind of environment is never going to be a negative, and I always think of artists of any medium who often speak about music constantly being played or heard in their house, and how that inspired them in what they pursued in life. There are a lot of difficult responsibilities to being a parent, but music seems like a no-brainer.

Good luck, Matt!

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