As if you really needed me to tell you that.
If we leave musical selection entirely up to the kids, it’ll be Raffi and Miley Cyrus until they are ten, and then whatever music they choose to blast through the privacy of their ear buds until they leave home at 18 (if they ever leave at all).
It is incumbent upon us as adults to see that a variety of music is shared, both at home and in the car (yes, this will require some serious negotiation, but it can be done). I believe that variety is the key; that whatever we insist on playing, it represent a variety of concert, world, folk, jazz, and rock music.
Along with listening to a VARIETY of music TOGETHER, there are two further standout issues here. One has to do with variety without subjectivity and the other has to do with setting a parental example.
Avoiding subjectivity. If we – as adults – can avoid being subjective about the music we choose to play, our kids will stand a chance of not developing early prejudices against certain types of music as well. For example, if I tell a 10 year-old girl that the music of Johann Sebastian Bach is the best on the planet, and this 10 year-old girl knows for a FACT that the music of Demi Lovato and Beyoncé is by far the best on the planet, well, Houston, we already have a problem. But if we can avoid superlatives and comparisons and just stick to the program, which is exposure, we’ll have a much better chance of playing a variety of things around the house while avoiding corrosive and divisive conversations. (Yes, of course the music of Sebastian Bach is, by any standard we choose to apply, “better” than that of Demi Lovato. But that is a judgment that the 10 year-old must come to on her own, once she’s accumulated enough wisdom and life experience to make it for herself. However, without exposure to Bach at some point or other, it is not a judgment she will be able to make.)
Setting a parental example. It is a truism that children will read if we read aloud to them and if they see us read. Books in a house (or at least Kindles in every corner) breed respect for the written word. The musical equivalent is that children will listen to music if it is played for them and if parents themselves listen to music. The kids might not be crazy about what the adults in their lives listen to, but if we listen to a variety of music together, I believe that they will inevitably come to appreciate that variety along with their own “generational” music. Remember, we’re investing in the future here; exposure first, appreciation later.