Tag Archive for music

Enhance Your Tween’s Self-Esteem

Nurturing a positive self-concept in our children as they move through the “tween” and teen years can be a challenge. Harsh, even mean, social comparisons and peer criticisms chip away at their self-esteem on a daily basis. However, research published in April 2019 offers a practical and efficient way to improve our children’s self-esteem even during these years. This study used data collected from 6,209 11-year-old children participating in the United Kingdom Millennium Cohort study. These children completed a self-esteem scale as well as a questionnaire to determine how often they listened to or played music, engaged in visual arts, or read for enjoyment at home. They were also asked how often, if at all, one or both parents joined them in the activity. Finally, teachers rated the children’s level of ability in music, art, design, and the English language. The results revealed at least three interesting findings.

  1. Children who engaged in visual arts activities “most days” tended to have significantly higher levels of self-esteem than those who participated less often. That difference doubled when comparing those who engaged in art activities “most days” with those who engaged in art activities “less than once a month.”
  2. Children who engaged in reading or in making/listening to music with a parent 1-2 times a week also reported a higher level of self-esteem than those who did not.
  3. Finally, a child did not have to be good at the activity to reap the benefit of a higher self-esteem by engaging in that activity. It appears that engaging in the activity, not one’s ability, was the key factor.

In other words, a great way to nurture your child’s self-esteem is through visual arts, music, and literature. Children experienced a higher self-esteem when engaging in visual arts independently and with parents. Reading and music showed increases in self-esteem when engaged in with a parent. What does this mean for you and your children? You can nurture a healthy self-concept and a higher level of self-esteem in your child by:

  • Reading to them and with them.
  • Reading the same book as your child and taking the time to talk about the book with your child or teen.
  • Listen to music together and talk about the music you listen to.
  • Sing together. Play instruments together. (This is a great family fun night, too.)
  • Dance together.
  • Draw or paint together.
  • Make crafts or art projects together.

You may be thinking, “But I’m no good at those things.” That’s OK. Remember, the study revealed that you don’t have to be good at the activity to reap the benefits of an improved self-image. Just enjoy the process. Enjoy the time together. And enjoy your child’s boost in self-esteem.

Join Your Family in Song

My daughter was just learning to walk when we started singing “Go Down Moses” while dancing around the living room. My other daughter stood up to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” as we solemnly buried a bird that had committed kamikaze against our front window. The toddler we babysat looked at me with anticipation and followed the directions of our impromptu lyrics calling her to step onto a small step and “jump” before laughing and asking to do it again.

When our children seem upset and begin to cry, we sing them a song to help them calm. When they can’t sleep, we sing them a lullaby. When they need to clean up their rooms, we might follow Barney’s cue and sing “Clean up, clean up….” We teach our children the alphabet through song. The list goes on. Music works wonders for a parent…and it continues working right through the teen years.

Children start remembering melodies as early as 5-months-old. At 11-months-old they are more receptive to a person singing a familiar song, even if that person is a stranger. Infants and children feel soothed by music and even begin to use music to calm themselves at a very young age. Who hasn’t heard their very young child, upset about having to take a nap, lying in their crib singing a song rather than crying? Even teens calm themselves through song.

Music brings us together. Whether we sing like a songbird or croak out a tune, it communicates that we are paying attention to the one we sing to and the ones we sing with. It signals that we are all part of the same group, we belong. Music draws us together and bonds us. It allows us to share emotions and even synchronizes us physically.

Why not use music in your family? Sing a song together. Listen to music together. Enjoy music together. Your family will love it. You will experience greater joy and intimacy with your family. Give it a try: “Sing. Sing a song. Make it simple to last the whole night long….” 

A Beautiful Sight

My wife and I attended a free concert at the Three Rivers Arts Festival the other night. A few days later I had the opportunity to attend another one with my daughter. They were

wonderful outdoor concerts…and free (who can beat that!). People filled Point Park to listen, dance, eat, and sing. I looked around at the variety of people in attendance and was struck by the number of families. I watched as parents danced and laughed with their children. It brought back memories of attending these very concerts with my own family. Children giggled and their eyes sparkled with delight as they danced, bounced, and swayed with their parents. Parents laughed out loud as they enjoyed one another, their children, and friends. The whole family sang and clapped together. I was deeply touched. I had the joy and privilege of watching the miracle of parents bonding with their children through music, fun, and dance. It is such a beautiful sight to see families celebrating together.

This morning I watched a mother and her two young children in a local bakery. Her 3-year-old was a little fussy. At first she was frustrated. She even appeared a little embarrassed by his fussy behavior displayed in public, in front of “people watching.”  But she quickly composed herself and knelt down beside her son. She talked with him, explained what she expected of him, and explored what was bothering him. I saw them connect…right before my eyes I watched the miracle of a mother bonding with her son. In that connection, her son calmed down. She gave him a drink and he calmed even more. It was a truly beautiful sight to watch a mother so graciously respond to her son. As I was leaving, I said, “He’s much happier now.” She replied with, “He’s 3. That seems so much harder than 2.” I simply agreed; but, I wish I had said more. I wanted to tell her what wonderful children she had and what a beautiful job she had done responding to her 3-year-old when he got fussy. Maybe I should have. Even more, I wanted to help her cherish these moments with her son. Sure, he got fussy in public. Maybe some people looked on with criticism, but I watched a beautiful connection form between mother and son, the miracle of bonding between a mother and child. It was a beautiful sight! I hope she will cherish that connection. And, I hope that when frustrations arise, she will step back and realize the precious moment of connection, the miracle of bonding that her child’s fussiness provides. These moments pass by all too quickly. Three-year-olds grow up and, before you know it, they become mature adults forging their own lives. Yes, three-year-olds can prove difficult, as will the 8-year-old and the 16-year-old, but the opportunity to connect remains precious…and all too fleeting. Enjoy your children…every dance, every giggle, and every laugh, every frustration and every meltdown too. They all provide one more opportunity to connect and love. That is a beautiful sight!

Barney, Big Bird, & Mr. Rogers Knew It…Do You?

mrrogers_imageBarney, Big Bird, and Mr. Rogers had at least one practice in common, a practice that every parent of young children can use to great benefit. Let me give you 3 simple hints (click on each for a further hint): “We always clean up, clean up, to show we really care….” “And That’s Cooperation….” “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” Did you figure it out? They all sang songs and used music to teach lessons to the children watching their shows. You can do the same thing at home. Singing songs with your children can be a great parenting tool. Let me list some of the ways music and singing can help with parenting just like it helped Mr. Rogers and Big Bird.

  • Singing teaches lessons. We learn everything from the “A-B-C’s” to values like “Amazing Grace” through music.
  • Singing can aid children in transitioning from one activity to another. A consistent song can make the transition go more smoothly.
  • Singing can make a task more enjoyable and increase children’s compliance. Who hasn’t used the song “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere…” to help motivate children to clean?
  • Singing can make children feel significant and important. Consider how many people feel a small surge of pride and well-being when they recall Mr. Rogers singing “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.
  • Singing can help build relationships. Singing puts us “in sync” with one another.
  • Singing can help create and maintain family traditions like decorating Christmas trees, worship, or having fun.

Next time you find yourself struggling to get your children to do something or transition to some new activity, try breaking out in song. It may just help…and you will all have fun together!

What Do “Twinkle Twinkle,” Oxytocin, & the Sacculus Have in Common With Family?

I know, I have a long title and now I start with a story…it’s all wrong. But stay with me, please… My family has a long history with “Twinkle, twinkle little star.” It all started when my children were little and could not pronounce “twinkle.” Instead, it came out as “tinkle.” Being the loving father I am, I rewrote the lyrics so “tinkle” would fit. My wife was less than pleased when my daughters sang “tinkle, tinkle little star, please don’t tinkle on my arm; up above the world so high, please don’t tinkle in my eye.” Well…in my defense, I didn’t think the words would stick. And, they did eventually learn the “correct words” to the song. That became evident when a kamikaze bird did a nose dive into our picture window. My youngest daughter found the bird after it had sacrificed his life in that last heroic dive into our picture window.  She took me to the bird and informed me that we needed to give it a proper burial. So, with the dignity becoming such a heroic act, we gathered the bird (feathers and all) and led a procession into the flower garden. After painstakingly preparing a final resting place for our new found friend, we carefully laid him to rest and covered him with dirt “from which we come.” Throughout this process, my daughter squatted near the grave like a catcher. With a final pat of the shovel on the covered grave, she stood up and solemnly placed her hand on her heart as she sang the dignified chorus of “Twinkle, twinkle little star…” and we paid our final respects to the lost bird. At least she sang the “twinkle, twinkle” version.
Really, we sing a lot in our house. We make up words and music just to say we are getting ice cream for dessert. Sometimes we even sing seriously. And, sometimes we sing together. I really didn’t think much about this until my wife showed me this article entitled “Singing and Psychological Well-Being” (Click here to read full article). Now I have justification for singing together. Singing in a group, singing together, has a wonderful impact on our health. It stimulates the sacculus in the inner ear, which brings immediate enjoyment. It releases oxytocin, helping to form a bond of trust and empathy among those involved. Singing together also helps people cope with difficulties, even tragedies. It builds resilience and helps us successfully navigate those tragic moments of life. So, we often sing at funerals. When terrorists struck the U.S. on 9/11 or when we witnessed the tragedy of a senseless school shooting, people came together and sang as part of the healing process.
Yes, singing together brings us together. It helps us navigate difficulties. It bonds us in trust and empathy. It builds intimacy. And, it’s fun! Even Sesame Street knew this—they brought celebrities together to encourage us all to “Sing, sing a song…” (Check it out here). So, why not enjoy these benefits as a family? Turn on the radio, pull out a song book, or make up your own words (la, la, la, lala)…just sing a song together and enjoy the growing intimacy it produces.

What We Do For Marriage & Family

Last week I read a post by The Romantic Vineyard about “What we do” to keep our marriage strong. I wanted to add some “we do’s” to the list as well. What do we do on a regular basis to keep our marriage strong? Interestingly, most of the things I thought of not only build a stronger marriage but a stronger family as well!


We do humor. I love to laugh with my wife…and I love to laugh with my children. Humor keeps even the most difficult situations running more smoothly. Humor lessens the friction during conflict. Humor draws us into relationship and deepens our intimacy. Some of our best memories involve times of uncontrolled laughter on the part of at least one family member. To laugh with family is a beautiful thing.


We do music. We listen to music and play music. We share our favorite songs. We sing together…sometimes we sound beautiful and sometimes not so much. Still, we do music. Just as music is filled with harmonies and the sharing of melodies, a family that does music together learns to live their life in harmony with one another while taking turns performing the melody.


We do awe and wonder. I love to experience something majestic or awe-inspiring with my wife. As we stand in awe looking over the wonder of creation or enjoy the awe-inspiring music of a concert, time stands still and we spend an eternal moment enjoying the same wonder. Our favorite time of shared awe and wonder comes in the moments of worship…and that worship can be at church singing a worship song or standing silently hand-in-hand on the beach watching the whales play in the ocean. (Check out this blog on the benefit of awe and wonder to a family.) 


We do holding and hugging. What more can I say? We hold hands, share hugs, and walk arm in arm. When we say good-bye, we give a hug or a kiss. When we come home, we give a hug. When we go to bed, we give a hug. An accomplishment gets a hug or a high-five. For no special reason, we share an oxytocin hug . Hugs put flesh and blood on our expression of love.


We do lunch. The work schedules of my wife and I often make supper a difficult time to share a meal together. So, we enjoy lunch together. Lunch has become one of my favorite parts of the day. After all, I get to combine eating with the enjoyment of my wife’s company…what more could I ask for?


We do Church. Going to worship services at church is a time of growing intimacy between us and between God and us. As a couple and as a family we serve together by helping with various projects at church. We have enjoyed mission trips and service activities as a family. We support one another in our individual efforts to serve through the Church. Whether one of us goes on a mission trip without family or plays in a worship band, we support one another and share in one another’s excitement for that service.


What do you do to strengthen your marriage and family?