Can Your Children’s Music Really Influence Them

Full confession. I am one of those people who tends to make up their own lyrics to songs. Mind you, it isn’t intentional. I tend to misunderstand them and choose similar sounding, but inevitably wrong words. During my teen years, I also quickly realized the lyrics of many songs whizzed past me as I did not hang out with a group that regularly used foul slang terms. The lyrics I sang were rather innocent, even if the original lyrics weren’t.

Having said that, I have heard adults for decades claim that the lyrics of songs do influence many, if not most teens. I decided to do some research. Obviously, God would prefer we listen to songs with wonderful lyrics. If, however, your teens prefer more mainstream music, could it really impact their faith journey negatively?

The first study I found was under the oversight of the Prevention Research Center. Their study Music, Substance Abuse and Aggression came to some interesting conclusions.

They found that there did seem to be a significant connection between listening to rap music and alcohol use, illicit drug use and aggressive behaviors when all other variables were controlled. Alcohol and illicit drug use (but evidently not aggressive behaviors) were also strongly tied to young people who listened to techno and reggae.

What is unclear, however, is whether listening to those genres encourages those behaviors or young people engaged in those behaviors are drawn to those genres of music. (Note: In this study, alternative, R&B, rock, pop, country, punk, heavy metal, salsa, classical, jazz and world music did not seem to have the same connection to negative behaviors. None of those sampled listened to Christian music.)

They also found that a young person’s gender, age, sensation seeking and ethnicity had some influence on substance abuse and aggressive behaviors. These were controlled for in the genres of music, but it indicates a third sphere of influence on negative teen behaviors.

Their final conclusion was that a teen’s substance abuse and aggressive behaviors could be connected to their frequent listening to the lyrics of certain genres of music containing lyrics about alcohol, drugs and violence.

Also interesting is the impact music and lyrics can have on emotions. A study by Bharucha found that people tend to listen to music to help them feel a specific emotion. So if they want to feel happy, people tend to choose to listen to happy, upbeat songs. Young people may also choose particular songs because the lyrics reflect their current feelings. When one recalls lyrics are actually poetry, this dynamic makes sense.

A study by Vastjall, found that participants reported significantly less stress in periods when they were listening to music than in periods of time when they weren’t. They concluded that even a passive listening to music can influence mood.

Music can also be used to manipulate the emotions of others. Countries have regularly used music as part of their torturing regimen. Music may be chosen for this purpose because of the tune or the lyrics. Volume was also used to create a response in those being tortured.

So what does God have to say about music? In the Bible, we see many verses suggesting we use music to praise God and encourage and teach others. Perhaps the most applicable verse to our discussion of the impact of negative lyrics would be Philippians 4:8. Paul tells us God wants us to fill our minds with things that are good, pure, lovely, admirable and the like. Why? Because the lyrics that become locked in our minds can influence us and God would prefer that influence to be positive.

Should you ban your kids from listening to anything except hymns? That type of parenting can easily backfire, if you aren’t careful. On the other hand, having open discussions between parents and teens about the music each prefers (Mom and Dad’s favorite tunes might have suspect lyrics, too!), it’s lyrics and how it may be influencing each of them can and should be a regular conversation in Christian homes.

Important Scriptures for Your Kids to Memorize

Scripture memorization is a great way to help your kids keep God’s words on their hearts and in their minds. Your church may not encourage your kids to memorize scripture. If you want your kids to know what God would want them to do without having to take the time to research, look up and read scriptures, memorization is key.

With so many possible passages, which ones should you help your kids memorize? Below is a list of some of the scriptures that can help your kids be who God wants them to be.

Some of the passages are only one or two verses. You will need to review these regularly in order for them to transfer to your children’s long term memories. Longer passages should do that automatically because of the number of repetitions they take to memorize.

Make sure your kids understand what they are memorizing. Explain to them how those verses can help them if they memorize them. Since memorization assignments at home are rare for non-homeschoolers, you may want to have ways to celebrate whenever they memorize passages.

The scriptures have been divided into categories to help you organize your memorization project.

Classic Scriptures

  • Psalm 23
  • Acts 2:38
  • Deuteronomy 6:6-7
  • Luke 6:31
  • John 1:1-14
  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • Matthew 5:2-12
  • John 3:16-17

Scriptures to Comfort

  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
  • Romans 8:26-28
  • Psalm 1:1-6
  • Isaiah 40:29-31
  • Proverbs 3:5-6

Scriptures About Courage

  • Philippians 4:6-7
  • 2 Timothy 1:7
  • Joshua 1:9
  • 1 Peter 5:7
  • Isaiah 41:10
  • Matthew 6:31-33

Scriptures About Behavior

  • 1 John 1:8
  • James 1:27
  • Colossians 3:23
  • Proverbs 29:11
  • Psalm 34:14
  • 1 Timothy 4:12
  • Ephesians 2:10
  • Matthew 5:13-16

Scriptures About Our Heart

  • Philippians 4:8-9
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • Luke 16:13
  • 1 Peter 5:5
  • Proverbs 21:2
  • Matthew 22:37-38
  • Psalm 51:17
  • Ephesians 4:32

Scriptures About Family

  • Proverbs 6:20
  • Colossians 3:20
  • 1 Timothy 5:8
  • Ephesians 6:1-4
  • Proverbs 15:17

Scriptures About Friends (and Enemies)

  • 1 Corinthians 15:33
  • Proverbs 17:17
  • Ephesians 4:2
  • Luke 6:35
  • Proverbs 27:17
  • 1 John 4:7
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  • Proverbs 27:6-9
  • Hebrews 10:24-25
  • 1 Peter 4:8-10
  • Proverbs 22:24-25

Don’t know these scriptures yourself? What a better family activity than memorizing them together? Having God’s words on the hearts and minds of your family will help all of you.

Protecting Your Kids From Predators

Stranger danger right? As much as the idea scares young parents, it is much more likely your child will be pulled away from family, friends and God by a predator. Predators are slick, savvy and often subtle at first. Not all of them are sexual predators, but they are all dangerous in their own ways.

Thankfully, there are ways you can protect your kids from being targeted by predators as their victims or their enablers (enablers are often used to help the predator recruit more victims). Predators look for some key characteristics in their prey. If your children don’t have them, predators will often ignore them in favor of easier victims.

  • Give your kids lots of emotional and physical attention. Predators look for young people who don’t feel connected to their parents. Often these kids are run aways, but predators also target kids from families where the parents are too busy with their own lives to give their children the attention and love they need. If your child is well loved and has consistent, meaningful interactions with you and your spouse, they won’t be attracted by the attentions of a random adult.
  • Give your kids a strong spiritual foundation. Many of the things predators use to attract kids and teens either won’t appeal to young people with strong spiritual foundations, or will at least set off warning bells. Kids who have a strong understanding of what God has declared right and wrong, know something is dangerous about an adult who is encouraging them to do things they know are wrong. Most healthy adults, protect young people from those things – even if they’re not Christians and participate in them themselves.
  • Reinforce constantly that your kids can tell you anything – even if they know you won’t like it. Predators often use fear of parental reaction to manipulate young people. Make it clear that if any adult asks your child to do something they know is wrong, they will not get in trouble for telling you. Often predators will blackmail kids they meet online by threatening to tell them they were spending money on video games or something similar. Make sure your kids understand that while there may be consequences for those minor infractions, you are more concerned that they are safe and not being manipulated by someone who wants to hurt them.
  • Help your kids establish and defend healthy boundaries. They should be comfortable declining to participate in activities they know are wrong and be willing to be firm and walk away to get help if necessary. (This skill set also helps with peer pressure.)
  • Teach your kids about the lobster in the pot. Or is it a frog? Either way, the heat is turned up so gradually, the animal doesn’t realize it is in danger of being cooked and eaten until it is too late. Predators don’t usually start at the end goal. They start where the person is and encourage them to stretch their boundaries over time. Teach your kids to be watchful of anyone who keeps encouraging them to go just a little bit beyond what they know is right.
  • Teach your kids to be careful around people who make promises that sound too good to be true or who flatter them too much. “Free” things often come with strings attached. Predators will often “give” kids lots of things and then tell them they owe them an impossible amount of money. They tell the young person, they can be repaid (without parents finding out) if they will “just” …fill in the blank with send nude photos, run drugs, etc. Predators also use flattery and praise in their recruitment process. If your child is average looking, being told they have the looks to be a “top model” may feel good, but many young people have lost lots of money on “modeling” lessons from predators who knew they had no real chance in the industry.
  • Teach your kids critical thinking skills. Cults can be just as dangerous as other predators. They hide their motives in words of altruism and higher purpose. Often their actual beliefs are strange – especially compared to scripture. Kids with strong critical thinking skills will often ask lots of questions before just accepting something new. Cult leaders and other predators don’t appreciate questions as it can cause trouble with those they are already preying upon. They will often reject questioners outright as “not ready” for whatever it is they are claiming to offer.
  • Teach your kids that they may not make great decisions when afraid or elated. There are very few choices that absolutely must be made in the moment. Teach them to ask for time to think about it. If the person says “no”, there is a very good chance someone is trying to manipulate them in some way.
  • Teach your kids that drugs and alcohol do not lead to great decisions. Predators use alcohol and drugs to lower the inhibitions of their prey. They know people will do things when drunk or high they would never do when sober.
  • Teach your kids to distance themselves from people whom they regularly catch lying. Predators lie….a lot. In fact, they are pathological about it. Young people need to avoid people who lie constantly – even if they aren’t predators. They just don’t have enough maturity and life experience to handle it.
  • Don’t allow your kids to view themselves as victims of others. Yes, your kids may have had an experience when they were someone’s victim. Defining oneself as a perpetual victim makes them very vulnerable to predators. Young people who allow themselves to be defined as a victim because of any number of factors, believe they have no voice and no power. That makes them vulnerable. God can help your kids process and move away from bad circumstances so they are defined by how God sees them and not as a perpetual victim.
  • Teach your kids to recognize and avoid narcissists. Predators often use enablers to identify new prey and help groom them for the predator. For some reason, these people are often narcissists. Everything is about what they need and want. The feelings and needs of others are meaningless to them. They often act in cruel ways to anyone who questions them or asks for parity. Young people don’t have the tools to handle the narcissists of the world. They need to spend as little time with them as possible.
  • Teach your kids to think carefully if friends and family are all expressing concerns about their relationship with someone. Yes, there are rare times when they will be wrong. In general though, if everyone who loves you is concerned, there may very well be something to be concerned about. Teach them to at the very least take a break from the person of concern so they can clear their head and think clearly.
  • If necessary, teach your kids to ignore any threats to you and come tell you what is happening. In the more severe cases of predators, victims are often told their family will be hurt in some way if they tell anyone what is really happening. Make sure your kids know that you will get the help you need to be safe, but you can’t help them if you don’t know they are in trouble.

No one can guarantee your child will never be approached by a predator. Doing the things in the list above though, will make your kids much less attractive to predators looking for prey.

Teaching Your Kids God’s Principles

Periodically, aspects of secular culture invade Christianity. It’s well disguised, because it is often promoted by theologians and the ministers who are taught by them. Unfortunately, many of today’s theologians are thinly veiled agnostics or atheists and it impacts how they view scripture.

One of the most common ways of currently undermining scripture is by claiming that much of it wasn’t written to apply to us. The argument is that an Old Testament prophecy only applies to the specific group of people to whom it was given. Or that a New Testament epistle only applies to the original person or church to whom it was written.

On the surface this sounds logical. If the people in Nineveh hadn’t repented when Jonah preached, God would have destroyed them. The specific prophecy wasn’t about the country next door.

Paul’s letters to Timothy, Titus or Philemon did indeed contain specific instructions for those people. If he wanted Barnabas or someone else to do something specific, I’m sure he would have written them, too.

What these types of theological arguments often miss though, is that in addition to specific commands, God has underlying principles. He knew some things stay the same over hundreds or even thousands of years, but other things change. He also may not have cared to list each person who would ever be covered by His blessings or every single possible sinful activity in a category.

When God makes a promise or gives a warning to a specific group of people, there are often underlying principles that apply to all of His people. When God says He loves His people – even in an Old Testament book – I don’t need my name mentioned specifically to know I’m included. When God repeatedly says He detests lies and lying, He doesn’t need to list every possible way a person could lie or obfuscate the truth for the principle to be obvious.

This rejection theology also ignores the fact that almost as quickly as scripture was written down, it was passed among the people to learn what God wanted them to do. They didn’t seem to think most of the books weren’t written specifically to them and therefore didn‘t apply.

We have strong evidence the gospels and epistles were quickly passed from city to city and congregation to congregation and were considered to be inspired by God. There is no evidence they assumed the commands and principles didn’t apply to them, even if they weren’t the original addressee.

Why is this so important to teach your kids? Because ignoring biblical principles is one of the most common ways Christians currently use to excuse their disobedience and their sinful choices. Teens have always had a talent for this. (“God didn’t specifically say it was wrong to get high on cocaine.”)

The ignoring of biblical principles has seeped into the lives of adult Christians now and even into pulpits. Listen carefully for how many times someone teaching, preaching or having a conversation says something like, “I know the Bible says xyz, but…”. The “but” is usually followed by some version of it wasn’t meant for me to obey, because if God had known what I know, He wouldn’t have said that. Or even worse, implying that God did not inspire scripture.

Teach your kids to remember those conversations between Adam, Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. Remember the argument that seemed to sway Eve? Satan basically claimed, “God only told you not to eat the fruit because…” and of course, “You won’t really die.” He was trying to convince her God’s rules were not meant for her. He wanted her to believe her wants were more informed, more important, than God’s commands and principles.

Satan’s tricks haven’t changed in thousands of years. We just tend to forget what they are and to be watchful for them. Teach your kids to watch for those biblical principles and not to believe the argument that biblical principles no longer matter to God or apply to them.

Do Your Kids Need Apologetics?

Apologetics are “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something”. In the case of Christians, apologetics usually refers to answers to questions or criticisms commonly posed by people who aren’t Christians. Many young people raised in Christian homes may hear these questions or criticisms from teachers, peers, or even in the things they read and watch.

Some Christian young people may have even wondered about these same things themselves. The problem is that if they are brave enough to voice their questions and concerns, the reaction from other Christians can be extremely negative. Many young people have learned to leave those doubts unexpressed and unfortunately unanswered.

Those who do ask them may have been told some platitude that was formed years ago when the average Christian had no access to things like primary source documents from the early church. Now with the internet, Christians have access to primary source documents, archaeological finds and more within seconds. Unfortunately, many Christians don’t know those things are available or could help provide clearer answers than a platitude that could easily be demolished by a savvy debater.

Before you start immersing your kids in apologetics though, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

  • Apologetics aren’t a replacement for Bible knowledge. Apologetics can help your child understand why Christians believe what they do, but your child still needs to read the Bible to be personally familiar with the scriptures. Apologetics often cover topics in broad strokes, while living a Christian life requires a more detailed, nuanced knowledge and understanding of scripture.
  • Apologetics aren’t the best way to understand how to apply scripture to one’s life. Although there may be some application principles in an apologetics reading, they don’t attempt to cover every application principle in scripture. The focus is generally on the things that confuse or upset non-Christians.
  • Apologetics are only as good as the person who researched and wrote/spoke them. Someone who doesn’t understand scripture or is holding on to some false teaching or man-made doctrine may have faulty apologetics, too. It’s important to screen anything before showing it to your kids or at least watch it with them so you can discuss any areas in which you believe the Bible teaches something differently.
  • Apologetics can prepare and protect your kids from common arguments against Christianity they may hear or read – often in college when you aren’t there to discuss it with them. A good apologetics resource usually addresses the most common questions and criticisms. They will have already explained to your child the answers that are well thought out and researched, using scripture and its underlying principles.
  • Apologetics can keep your kids from allowing someone to take one or two verses out of context and use them as an argument against the correct full picture given by the Bible in its entirety. For example, some people will say the Believers’ or Sinners’ prayer is a way to become a Christian – even though it was invented in the United States a couple of hundred years ago. They will pull out a couple of verses about faith saving you, ignoring the fact that every conversion involved baptism, Jesus himself was baptized, verses in Acts and Romans connect baptism to having your sins forgiven and the early church only accepted baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins as the way of becoming a Christian. Apologetics can point out the problem with a few verses pulled out of context and point your kids back to the full picture found in the Bible.
  • Apologetics are not a way for your child to share his or her faith. That involves sharing the story of Creation and the Fall and God’s plan for redemption. It means your child can tell the story of Jesus – especially about his death, burial and resurrection. It involves your child being able to share how he or she has seen God working in the world today. It also means your child can tell someone the joy found in the Gospel message and how to become a Christian. Bits of that may be found in apologetics material, but is not it’s central purpose.
  • Apologetics can prepare your kids to answer questions others may have when they share their faith with them. When your kids begin to share their faith, some people may have questions or concerns that are answered by apologetics. Those answers will help your kids stay calm and know how to answer them. It also keeps them from giving in to the temptation to answer with a platitude or a less than kind answer out of fear or frustration.

So who are some people who are well known for producing strong apologetics materials? *Lee Strobel has plenty of “Case for” books that many have used over the years. The great thing about his materials is that most of them come in adult, teen and child versions. Sean Mcdowell has videos that can be found on RightNow Media. They are short and easy to understand. Many churches have free subscriptions you can use. J Warner Wallace is a former police detective whose apologetics use forensic science. He also has videos on RightNow Media and several books that are often on sale in the ebook format. Ravi Zacharias is also popular, although I haven’t had time to explore his materials.

Apologetics are not a substitute for teaching your kids the Bible and helping them understand and obey it. They can however, give you some important tools to help strengthen your kids’ spiritual foundations in specific areas. It’s worth exploring them with your kids.

*Please be aware that apologetics writers are human and capable of making mistakes. There is no substitute for the absolute truths found in the Bible. Compare everything they say to scripture for yourself and teach your children to do the same