How can I help my children appreciate great literature and music?
December 1980

“How can I help my children appreciate great literature and music?” Ensign, Dec. 1980, 32

How can I help my children appreciate great literature and music, rather than just television and popular music?

Spencer J. Condie, bishop, Provo Twenty-Sixth Ward and father of five children The first thing to realize is that not all television shows and popular music are bad. In fact, some of these can be very worthwhile. Parents need to help their children learn to distinguish entertainment that is beneficial from that which wastes time, glorifies harmful values, and encourages improper behavior. Parents may need to explain why an individual song or television program is harmful.

But just pulling children away from undesirable influences isn’t enough; children should also be pulled toward the good. Let’s examine the situation of “migrating values” by looking at a seemingly unrelated phenomenon: the migration of Europeans to America. An explanation which partially explains why people migrate from one country to another is the push-pull theory. For example, large numbers of Irish were “pushed” out of their native homeland by the great potato famine of 1846. But why did they come to America instead of, say, Russia or China? The United States had generous immigration policies, economic opportunities, and religious freedom—just a few of the pulling factors.

Sometimes parents try to push their children away from the evils of the world without trying with equal effort to pull them toward the good—in this case, lofty music and edifying literature. The good things must be made interesting and enticing.

If financial circumstances permit, providing children with music and dancing lessons helps them appreciate the world of the fine arts. They learn confidence, poise, and grace, too. And they learn that the toll for talent is unselfish service. Also, children can be encouraged to sing in choirs and play in music groups.

Taking older children to an occasional opera, symphony, or choir concert may be somewhat unrewarding for them at first, but eventually they can develop a love for good music. If teenagers become rebellious and defensive in their attitudes toward good music, parents might set aside certain times when the whole family is within listening range of wholesome music while they are involved in other activities.

A Sunday moratorium on certain television shows and certain types of music could provide an uninterrupted opportunity for both good listening and good reading. And uplifting Sunday music could be followed by a home evening which addresses the problems of TV-itis and rock music addiction. One excellent starting point for such a discussion could be President Ezra Taft Benson’s general conference address “Satan’s Thrust—Youth” (Ensign, Dec. 1971, pp. 53–56), which confronts the evil influence of hard rock music. Another discussion starter could be Worthy Music, Worthy Thoughts, a filmstrip based on a speech by Elder Boyd K. Packer (see Ensign, Jan. 1974, pp. 25–28). These resources may be available from your ward or branch library.

Merely berating children for watching too much television or for listening to unsavory music can create a vacuum which must then be filled with worthy alternatives. When children can experience the joy and excitement of the sublime, they will learn to love it.

P. S. It’s easier if you start when the children are three instead of thirteen!