Teaching Discernment to Alyssa

Posted on: 02/8/10 9:55 AM | by Jonathan McKee

This week’s Youth Culture Window article is a little different than normal… it’s a story of my 14-year-old Alyssa asking me permission to download a song on iTunes. This situation wasn’t one of those ‘cut and dry’ easy decisions. You know… like when your kids ask you if they can download a Crowder song (“Duh, yes!”)… or when they ask you if they can download Beyonce’s Video Phone (“Duh, no!”). This was one of those instances that actually took “discernment.” (Dang… why isn’t parenting easier!)

This just happened last week, and I thought it would be a fun story to share with other parents. Here’s just a snippet of the article:

“Dad, can I download Down?”

That’s what my 14-year-old asked me this week, hoping to download the song from iTunes onto her iPod. If you’re a parent, you may have experienced a situation similar to this, seeing that 76% of 8-18 year-olds now own these mobile music devices (KFF, Generation M2, page 29).

During lunch that day, Alyssa had heard Jay Sean’s song “Down” play over the school’s PA system (because that’s what our public schools often do in CA). There’s little wonder why my daughter heard this song at school. Though it’s currently ranked #23 on Billboard’s Hot 100, this song by Jay Sean and Lil Wayne has been on the charts for 30 weeks and it peaked at #1. In other words, this tune has gotten some serious air time!  I heard it in the airport last weekend.

My kids have an agreement with my wife Lori and me that they must review the lyrics before downloading any song. We’ve been trying to teach them to use discernment with what they listen to because we all know that music truly affects actions. (Just last week David’s Youth Culture Window article cited the unique study performed by the University of Sussex about the affect of music on teenagers. That study made me want to “knock some pencils off the table” in my house to see what happens!)

So when Alyssa asked me if she could download the song, I offered her the same response I always give. “Did you look at the lyrics?”

She answered honestly, “Yeah, but I couldn’t tell if they were bad.”

You gotta love this situation! Here’s my daughter being a normal teenager who likes the sound of a song. She knows the process in our house and she comes to me genuinely seeking an answer of what’s right… or just hoping I’d say yes!

Here lies the struggle. In moments like these I can’t help but second guess myself. Alyssa is a great kid. Am I monitoring her too much? Should I back off and let her just download what she wants? After all, my rules seem a little more stringent than many other parents I know…even some of those in my church.

Do you ever wonder what to do in these situations?

 You can read the rest of the article here, or it’s featured in the big Youth Culture Window magnifying glass on the front page of our site, www.TheSource4YM.com

One Reply to “Teaching Discernment to Alyssa”

  1. Thanks Jonathan! Thanks for sharing your heart as a parent. After 20 years of youth ministry, I was convinced I’d be the expert parent of a teen … until our son actually turned 13 that is! Thanks for sharing your experience with Alyssa! Blessings from Southern Indiana!

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