If you’ve been in my music class with your child, you may have heard me talk about one of our favorite songs, “Ladybug Picnic”. It’s a song that originally aired on Sesame Street and it features the number 12. One of the verses goes like this: “1-2-3, 4-5 6, 7-8-9, 10-11-12 they chatted away, at the Ladybug Picnic. Well, they talked about the high price of furniture and rugs, and fire insurance for lady bugs.” I often ask if any adult in the room knows what the line about fire insurance refers to. No one does – unless they are well over 50 years old. Those of us who are know that it refers to the old nursery rhyme, “Ladybug, ladybug fly away home, your house is on fire, and your children will burn.” It’s not something that we say to children anymore, because it’s got a pretty terrible message. How about “I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly”? Well, she swallowed a fly, a spider, a bird, a cat, a dog, a goat and finally a horse before dying at the end. It’s a fun children’s song, but seldom sung today because of the violent death the poor old lady suffered after eating a horse. Sometimes we substitute the words, “She’s full, of course!” instead of, “She died, of course!” to make provide a more gentle ending.
Lots of baby songs and nursery rhymes have been added to the “too violent for children” file and are rarely heard by today’s children. Three blind mice got their tails cut off with a carving knife. Humpty Dumpty broke into so many pieces that he was too far gone for anyone to repair. Even seemingly innocent ones like “Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie” had a verse that says, “The king was in the counting room, counting all the money, the queen was in the parlor, eating bread and honey. The maid was in the garden hanging up the clothes, along came a blackbird and pecked off her nose”. Even Rockabye Baby has been changed so that when the bough breaks and the cradle falls, “I will catch baby, cradle and all”.
We go to great lengths to protect our children from violence. That’s one of our jobs as parents. So how about the music we listen to in the car or at home. OUR music. What kind of lyrics are we exposing our children to, and what kind of impact does it have on them? According to an article in the New York times, “One in three popular songs contains explicit references to drug or alcohol use, according to a new report in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. That means kids are receiving about 35 references to substance abuse for every hour of music they listen to, the authors determined.”
I’m not saying that your playlist should be exclusively me, The Wiggles and Raffi. I believe that children should be exposed to a large variety of music. Just pay attention to the message in the song. Children are little sponges and they will begin to sing the songs that they hear. Soon your child will be begging you for their own iPod and will have access to unlimited amounts of music – some with some very, very bad messages. As you’re rocking out to your favorite tune just stop for a minute to consider the words and the message they send to your child.