ASK BBB: Parenting Advice from Betsy Brown Braun

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My husband is a TV music composer and I teach piano, yet our 6-year-old daughter shows no interest in music at all. Not even the kiddie songs, like “The Wheels on the Bus.” More than that, music of any kind seems not to distress but to disturb her. She leaves the room when there is music on the radio or anywhere else. I have started closing the door when I practice, but is this too late?

It is no accident that when a woman is pregnant, we say she is expecting. Our kids are born with all kinds of expectations on their backs—our expectations for them. My child will be a basketball player, an artist, a pianist. And then each grows up to be whomever she is and will be. So much for our expectations.

I can imagine how disappointing your child’s lack of interest in music is for you and your husband, both in the music field. If only our children would develop according to our plans. It just doesn’t work that way.

What I do know is that the more you try to force something on a child, the more push back you are likely to get. Part of a child’s development is learning to respond to her own tastes, likes and needs. She is learning how to take care of herself and meet her own needs. This comes from within.

Allow me to reassure you. The music in your house is not falling on deaf ears. Children do absorb their surroundings—the particular habitat in which they live, all aspects of the environment (smells, sounds, physical arrangement, etc.). And it stays with them forever, often pointing them in a particular direction later in life.

I grew up in a house filled with Broadway musicals. I never chose that music for the transistor radio of my teen years, but today, I love Broadway musicals. I know all the shows, all the songs and all the words. It is my music of choice.

The house in which our kids were raised was orderly. Everything had its place and found its way to its proper home each night. That certainly was not the case with our kids’ rooms, especially when they were teens. But now, all three of our adult kids prefer a neat and orderly household.

It is your job to be responsive to your child, to her choices and desires. She needs to experience a full palate of activities and experiences as she grows up so she can find her own way.

Your child’s interests and choices now may have no bearing on what is to come. But the music with which your house is filled is getting absorbed. You are laying the foundation for cultivating her tastes. And we know that people tend to gravitate what is familiar and reminiscent of their good times. For your daughter, that will likely be music, as long as it is not forced down her throat.

I would like to offer one more thought in response to your comment about your daughter seeming disturbed by music. There is the possibility that it is not the music itself that is the problem, but rather the decibel level. Perhaps your daughter has a hypersensitivity to sound. I suggest you pay attention to her response to all kinds of sounds—big and small—and watch her reactions. This topic might be a good one for your pediatrician.

Betsy Brown Braun, M.A. is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist (infants to teens), a Parent Educator and Multiple Birth Parenting Specialist. Betsy consults with parents privately, runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers and other professionals. She is the author of the bestselling “Just Tell Me What to Say” and has been featured on the “Today Show.” Betsy and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have five grandchildren, so far.