I was 19 when the boy band craze hit its peak. I was team N’Sync, but I enjoyed a few Backstreet Boys songs. It’s still hard for me not to sing along with “I Want It That Way,” even though I still don’t know what “that way” is. Another memorable but inappropriate song lyric is BSB’s “Am I sexual? Yeaaaah!” I mean, how many 11-year-old girls were singing that line to their stuffed animals?
To listen to music when we were kids, we had to buy tapes or CDs, listen to the radio, or sneak in a few minutes of VH1 or MTV. It wasn’t that hard for parents to keep tabs on us. iMOM even had a handy Song Request Form printable. Now, with phones, earbuds, TikTok, and streaming music, it’s nearly impossible to keep an ear out for inappropriate song lyrics—and kids don’t need to ask permission to hear or buy music. It’s everywhere. We can’t be their consciences for them, so how do we get them to be more discerning about what they listen to? We can start by asking them these 7 questions.
But before you ask any questions, remember…
The parent-kid battle over music has been going on longer than any of us has been alive, so don’t ask these questions and expect your child to come to you and say, “Oh, Mother, you’re right! I see the light!” The goal is not to shame your children, but to help them start thinking about what they’re taking in, kind of like teaching them how to read a nutrition label on food. Sometimes just getting your kids to talk about inappropriate song lyrics with you is enough to stir their hearts into knowing they shouldn’t listen.
Sometimes just getting your kids to talk about inappropriate song lyrics with you is enough to stir their hearts into knowing they shouldn’t listen.
In an epic parenting move, Mark Merrill—the president of Family First, iMOM’s parent organization—had his daughter recite the lyrics to Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” out loud to him when she wanted permission to listen to it. I cringe just imagining her having to read “I’m a genie in a bottle; you gotta rub me the right way.” She’s married with a kid of her own now, by the way, and probably not a Christina fan anymore.
Questions to Help Kids Think About a Specific Song
1. What’s this song about?
2. Would you ever consider reading and reflecting on the lyrics of a song before choosing to listen to it? Why or why not?
3. Do you relate to these lyrics? If so, in what way?
Questions to Help Kids Think About Music in General
4. What do you think makes a good song?
5. Why do you think these artists use cuss words and sing about sex, drugs, alcohol, and complicated relationships?
6. If someone actually did the things mentioned in this song, what do you think would happen? (This is good for inappropriate song lyrics about violence, drugs and alcohol, or sexual promiscuity.)
7. How do you think music affects the people who listen to it (especially kids your age)?
What questions would you add to this list? How do you talk to your kids about the music they listen to?