A Global Army of Veteran Rockers
As parents, we're well aware of all the pitfalls that await our children: drugs...online predators...smooth jazz.
Still, we want, above all, for our kids to someday turn into Kick-Ass Grownups themselves. And that ain't gonna happen by locking them in the house and spoon-feeding them happy thoughts.
In this thread, let's kick around some ideas about how to raise a rock and roll kid. Someone who will attain what every Kick-Ass Grownup parent truly wants for their child: to be cooler than we are.
Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
Let Them Have Their Own Music. I know you want nothing more than to sit your kid down and pump her full of your favorite music. Rather than wasting all that time texting, she should be listening to Radio City by Big Star and breaking down the chord structures! I hear you, but that ain't gonna work.
Your bands are your bands. Your kid needs artists to call his or her own. Accept that, and encourage it -- even if you have to hold back the scathing criticism your inner rock snob has for the bands they choose.
And then, do your best to understand why these artists are connecting with your kid. I recently spent a few days on a road trip with my 14 year old son Matt, during which time we listened to almost nothing but his music. Now, sure, some it set my teeth on edge. But, as it turned out, I really started liking quite a bit more it than I expected.
Slip In Some Education, But Be Cool About It. Listening to your kids' fave artists gives you the opportunity to introduce them to the music you love by putting it in context. Does he like The Dropkick Murphys? Play him some Stiff Little Fingers. Green Day fan? The she needs to hear The Clash. Into hip-hop? Crank up some James Brown. Hardcore Kenny G lover? Military school.
Let Them Pick Their Own Instrument...and Then Spring For Some Lessons. While I thought it would be cool if my son picked up an instrument, I never forced anything on him. I simply took him to music stores and let him mess around until he found what interested him. When he discovered the drums, the deal was sealed. We bought him a kit from a pawn shop and let him bang around on his own. Then, when it was clear he was serious, we got him lessons.
In doing that, we tried something I suggest you consider: rather than finding a traditional drum teacher, we asked a local musician we know -- who's both a kick-ass drummer and a fun, lighthearted guy -- to teach Matt. He'd never taught drums to anyone before, so he simply chose to come in, show Matt some cool stuff and have a good time for a half hour every week. It's worked really well, as Matt looks forward to his time hanging with his drummer buddy more than he might something more structured and traditional. That's his personality, of course. Your own kid might be best suited for a pro teacher. Try it both ways.
Take Them To Shows! Nothing drives home a love of music like seeing it live. Take every opportunity to bring your kid to a rock show. Check with local clubs to find out when they have all-ages gigs, so they can experience music up close and personal. Then take 'em to a big arena show, preferably one with lots of flash and excitement. And if a festival is coming that features some of your young un's favorite acts, take them. You'll have a great chance to bond and to learn about the music they love.
Matt at Warped Tour's "Rock the Block" Concert, June, 2010
Don't Freak Out About Clothes, Hair or Over The Top Imagery. On our road trip, Matt and I attended a Warped Tour event, loaded with bands he loves. And yeah, the girls dressed kinda trashy and the yes, the guys wore t-shirts with all sorts of less than charitable messages on them and sure, the bands dropped f-bombs like candy. But everyone I encountered -- almost all of whom were between the ages of 12 and 20 -- was polite, friendly and intent on having a good time. There was way less hostility and testosterone floating around than I remember from my days as a young rocker. In other words.....
The Kids Are (Still) Alright. My day at Warped Tour made me especially happy because of one thing: these kids were crazy passionate about the music and the bands who played it. I expected a jaded audience of slack jawed teens, texting busily and using the event as an opportunity to hook up. Instead, I witnessed energized and engaged music fans who knew all the words, sang along and allowed themselves to be lifted to that special place music can take you. These are kids who will take good care of rock and roll.
OK, your turn. How are you raising rock and roll kids?
The music lessons . . . Best. Investment. Ever.
You don't expect these kinds of dividends . . . sure nice to receive them.
Don't worry too much about Lady Gaga, Will. You're right, it's danceable, but she can actually play piano really well and she knows how to dress for success. She might be the gateway for Kiss, Elton John or Queen.
Will Withem said:I am working with my 8 year old to expose her to as many different types of music as possible. She seems to react to the Beatles, the Ramones, Johnny Cash, Social D, The White Stripes and the Zac Brown Band. We're off to a good start. She also says she "kinda" likes Lady Gaga, I have to bite my tongue on that one. At least you can shake your ass to it.
It's a fun journey so far.