Okay, so you might be a little skeptical. “Mind control? Really?” Trust me, music can take your parenting places it has NEVER successfully gone before.
I first learned this trick from watching my dad. We didn’t eat cereal for breakfast most of the time, we ate oatmeal, and oatmeal takes time to cook. It’s only about a minute and a half in the microwave, but in the eyes of a hungry child that’s a long time… a long time for Dad to set down the breakfast bowl and apparently do absolutely nothing to get breakfast in the belly it belongs. Some children handle this kind of waiting pretty well, but not all children. After waking up the whole family to the blaring sound of my baby brother’s cries a couple of times, Dad came up with a new strategy… the cooking song. It’s literally the simplest song in the world, one word (you guessed it… “cooking”) repeated to the tune of a ticking clock (you can listen to it below). It can be sung as long as necessary. And the magic of it is, somehow, even my non-verbal baby siblings could understand what it meant… breakfast is cooking and it will be ready in just a moment.
#1 Music can be used to explain difficult things, and make them easier to accept.
The cooking song is a good example of the power music has to ease difficult circumstances. There are lots of more recognizable examples of this, particularly when it comes to cleaning. “Whistle while you work,” for instance, and Barney’s famous cleaning up song. I recommend using all of these at the appropriate moments. There is also a lot of children’s music about rain. Rain is frustrating, or even scary for some children. Nothing turns those frowns upside down as quickly as “If all the raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops.” And what parent hasn’t sung a lullaby or two to make it a little easier for a baby to fall to sleep.
But wait, there’s more!
#2 Music can be used to give commands
Once I started using the cooking song with my own children I realized there were other types of communication my kids just didn’t comprehend… specifically commands. Every parent on Earth knows what I’m talking about. When you’ve asked them to put on their shoes more times than you can count, and they literally haven’t heard a word of it, you’ve been there. So I tried a little experiment. I started singing my commands instead of saying them (or yelling them, yes I’m that mom). It was revolutionary. It was magical. It was marvelous. It was mind-control.
No kid likes to be told what to do. But somehow, when you sing it, it’s a game. Somehow, you don’t have to say “do this or bad things will happen,” because when you sing it to the tune of Beethoveen’s 5th Symphony, they just know! I have improvised hundreds of lyrics including, “get on your shoes,” “put on your seatbelt,” “Get in the house,” close your mouth when you chew,””Go to the bathroom right now!” There are no limits. They hear it, they obey, and they are happy while they do it. Tell me that isn’t mind control.
Here are some examples:
“Put Your Shoes On”:
“Put on Your Seat Belt” sung to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus:
“Go to Bed” sung to the tune of In The Hall of the Mountain King:
#3 Music can be used to express love.
My Dad is an ace at this one too. He has no qualms about singing made up songs for an audience, and he frequently modified songs he’d heard to be about one of his children. It wasn’t until I sat down to write this blog that I learned the name of Lullaby in Blue. Dad never sang that part of the song. He always started from “How I love my pretty baby,” and he substituted somebody’s name for the pretty baby part. In fact, he substituted so many of the lyrics that I had a hard time figuring out if it was one he’d altered or one he’d made up entirely. There are lots of famous songs to communicate love to children. “I Love You a Bushel and a Peck” is a family favorite (this is my favorite version). And there is the bedrock “You are my sunshine.”
#4 Music can be used to play.
Children instinctively know the joy of music. Somehow, as adults, we tend to forget. Music sooths and calms, but it also invigorates and unifies. It makes us feel happy and energized and also mediates stress. There are lots of music games that parents can play with children. “Where is Thumbkin” “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” It can be really fun to record your children singing songs, and even more fun to look back on those songs.
Music is a marvelous parenting tool. It brings order to chaos. It brings harmony and peace to discontent. But it’s also a tremendous gift parents give their kids. It’s a coping mechanism. A communication tool. A natural stimulant. Music makes life happier. It brings me peace to know that whatever happens to me and my kids, I’ve given them this gift, that nobody can take away.