Shielding Kids From Pop Culture

One good way to limit kids’ exposure to crass materialism — not 100% successful, in my long parenting experience, since peer factors will eventually come into play, but sometimes successful — is to bring them up going to lots of garage sales and flea markets and thrift stores, so they realize prices in places like malls are a ripoff.

And in general, I’d say the obvious tactic for a lot of “inappropriate” (as teachers call it these days) popular music, at least past a certain age, is not so much to shield your kids from it (which is a fool’s game, in that you’re setting yourself up to be disappointed when they hear it) as to talk to them about the lyrics. Kids are smarter than you think. Also helps to raise them to be opinion leaders (not consciously do that, maybe, but keep in mind the possibility), so their friends follow what they listen to, more than the other way around. Which also means let them hear what you’re listening to, when they’re little and still will. After that, you can learn from what they’re listening to.

Trace Adkins has a song on his upcoming album called “Whoop A Man’s Ass” about how that’s what he’ll do to you “if I catch you cussing at a kid or rouging up a lady.” Reaction struck me as a little extreme in the first case, though it might depend on the situation.

Also worth remembering the cardinal parenting rule that goes back decades (with only names changed): If you want 3Oh!3 to be their favorite band, tell them they shouldn’t listen to 3Oh!3, since it’s bad for them and the group says things they shouldn’t hear. Works every time!

Weird memory: Car-pooling little kids to grade school in the mid ’90s, and “Pepper” by the Butthole Surfers frequently showing up on the radio. I usually didn’t change the station; just hoped the kids didn’t hear the band name. Maybe I turned the volume down, or something. Pretty sure the kids thought that was a catchy song anyway.

As for the N-word, seems to me you’re way more likely to hear it on the street now, from say young white males addressing each other. In New York, at least. Growing up in suburban Detroit in the ’70s, I remember it mainly being a “shock” word that kids used once in a while — calling Detroit “N___-town”, say. (Gross, right?) But it was always grandstanding, not commonplace, which is how it often seems now. If anything, I’d say its ubiquity in hip-hop has made it less off-limits for young whites. Some insist it was not uncommon on ’70s TV, though I don’t recall any examples — maybe it was used occasionally by Archie Bunker or somebody, to make a liberal point about racism?, 21-22 June 2010

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