The Family iPod: Is it okay to play punk rock for my child rather than 'kid music'? On's Parental Advisory.

Parental Advisory: The Family iPod

Our kid loves punk rock just like we do. Is that okay? by Rebecca Odes & Ceridwen Morris

May 13, 2009



Since our son was little, we’ve just been playing him the music we like around our house. He has really taken to the punk stuff. Our families are always presenting us with the latest kids rock release to try to ease him into something “more appropriate.” He doesn’t mind some of it, but would much prefer to slam dance to the real thing. Is there really any problem with this? We love the idea that we can share the same taste. – Mommy is a Punk Rocker

Dear Mommy,

The current breeding wave has been accompanied by an enthusiastically raucous soundtrack. Our sprogs have become fans of all kinds of music, much of it not specifically made for children. This is not to say that they don’t enjoy the Kids Stuff channel on satellite radio, when they hear it. But we wouldn’t bat an eye if we heard a four-year-old singing happily along to “Surrender.” We know a mom who exclusively blasted “Horses” during hours of mindless floor time with her toddler, and credits Patti Smith with saving her from suicide.

While much research and profit has ensued on the subject of classical music and child brain development, we know of no such study on the value of tinny recordings of “The Wheels on The Bus.” Clearly all kid music is not created equal, and there is some marvelous stuff out there. Some of it, you might actually even find pleasant. And punk-ish, in ‘tude if not in tone.

But if you’re asking if kids’ music is important for his development (social or otherwise), the answer is no. Maybe none of his friends will be able to share his excitement when a song he likes comes on, and vice versa. But that shouldn’t be a problem at this point. Older kids are more likely to use taste in music to define themselves and connect to each other. But young kids? If one goes home to Gwendolyn and The Good Time Gang and another pogos around to The Ramones, it’s not going to be a friendship dealbreaker in the sandbox.

Much bloggage has been spilled on the semiotics of the “Raw Power onesie;” What does it mean when we brand our babies with our rebellion? Many of us know punk as the music we came to in adolescence, when it perfectly suited our urge to differentiate and rebel. So what happens when it’s the backdrop for early childhood? Probably not much, aside from helping parents keep from losing their minds in an otherwise clearly kid-oriented universe (as in the mother above).

We’re generally not down with the idea of music as a bad influence, per se. As for the question of whether punk itself is particularly problematic, it seems unlikely. Punk may sometimes seem an explicitly rebellious genre, but it’s unclear how much of that translates, and even then, whether that’s not a good thing. Maybe childhood slam dancing is actually a perfect outlet for frustration. As in all things, some judgment is required. If your son is goose-stepping to the white supremacist hardcore beats of Skrewdriver, you may perhaps want to reconsider your playlist.

As for your kid’s lifetime relationship to punk, time will tell. The music we remember from childhood has a special place in our hearts, but it’s a very different place from the music we came to on our own. Surely a good chunk of this generation of parents was grooving to the then-radical sounds of somebody. The truth is, you can play your kid a Minor Threat record and think you’re cool, but you’re no different from the ’60s dad crooning Sinatra into his spatula as his children grow up to worship Hendrix. Your child may end up associating Daydream Nation with Thanksgiving dinner rather than a teenage riot.

So don’t get too attached to the idea of you and your kid sharing the same taste. Your son may keep up the punk rock love. But there will likely come a time when he, like so many youths before him, feels the need to seek out his own drumbeat. Enjoy the (dissonant) harmony while you can!

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