I recently participated in a podcast about teaching values through music. To be quite honest, I hadn’t really thought hard about that idea before, but early childhood is the perfect time to do this, as our values are pretty much in place by 7 years of age. In the podcast, Dr. Pam Schiller said that she begins every class and every presentation with a song.
Why? Singing calms the brain and allows us to think consciously. When we think more consciously, we are more likely to use the values ingrained in us. One of Dr. Schiller’s many books is called The Values Book, which is all about teaching values to young children, like courage, honesty, loyalty, and self-reliance. She uses music to help explain and teach values.
We work so hard at helping our children succeed in math and literacy. I wonder sometimes if we are working as hard to instill values in them. Your chemistry genius child isn’t going to go far in finding a cure for cancer if he can’t cooperate and work in a team. Your little one who doesn’t learn the benefits of being honest is someday going to be passed over for that promotion if she can’t be trusted to tell the truth.
So back to what I said in the beginning – I hadn’t really thought hard about the idea of teaching values through music. Why? Sometimes as parents, we think someone else will do it. Say… in church. Or at school. Or, we’re so busy focusing on academics, we forget about the heart.
So how does this work? For instance, Dr. Schiller plays “musical chairs” to teach cooperation. She’ll put masking tape circles (instead of chairs) on the floor. When the music stops, a circle is pulled up. Now everyone has to fit into one less circle. Eventually, all the children must be in one circle, and it takes cooperation and helping each other (maybe by helping another child to balance on one foot so he can fit in!).
This doesn’t mean that you should eliminate “politically incorrect” songs. Some songs are just songs. And life isn’t always politically correct. Remember the Disney movie “Song of the South”? It is the most-oft requested movie to be released from Disney. The academy award winning song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Da” is one of my favorites. But the movie is never slated to be released in the US because of the racism/master-slave issues contained within. Could the movie be used as a springboard to discuss racism and slavery and why they are wrong? I think so. Sometimes the broken or wrong is a better conversation starter than the perfect.
As Dr. Schiller reminds us, songs are emotional, and anything emotional has a higher influence in the brain, and it is processed more quickly and at a deeper level.
We can use music to teach children to value each other. Music is a part of celebration in culture all over the world. Since music is universal, what a better way to introduce a “strange” (unfamiliar) custom to children than through that celebration’s music? We cannot force children to like another’s way of doing something, but with music (which is a universal “like”), we can help children at least see from the other’s perspective.
What can you do? Here are just two examples. I’ll bet you can come up with more.
For a younger child. Itsy Bitsy Spider. (Not every moment should be made into a teachable moment. Sing lots and lots just for the sheer joy it gives you.) Talk about perseverance. What did that spider do every time he got “washed out”? He tried again. And again. “That’s just like when you feel off your scooter yesterday, you got right back up and tried again. I’m proud of you.”
For an older child. The issue of slavery arises. Don’t avoid it because it is uncomfortable. Learn a spiritual. Talk about the hidden meaning behind the words, about the “code” used for communication. Once you understand the code, you can begin to see from a slave’s perspective how they really felt about their situation.
When you learn something through music, you are going to keep it forever. The question is… What are you going to teach?
You may listen to the podcast in its entirety here.
-posted by Miss Analiisa, who wants to know what your top values for instilling in your children are. Post a comment and tell us.