Parenting Possibilities: To Take Away or Not Take Away

You Better Run

“You better run, better run, out run my gun.”

These are sample lyrics to Foster the People’s freakishly popular song, “Pumped up Kicks,” that my children were happily listening to the other day. When I realized that the song my 5 and 9 year old boys were dancing to with joy was essentially about gun violence, a blanket of horror came over me.

Let me back up a bit…

For Chanukah, my partner and I agreed to give our boys their own mini MP3 players. It was a big decision for us as we were aware that the MP3 players would be the first electronic device they owned. We made the purchase in preparations for an upcoming long plane flight. The MP3 players seemed like a great, fun option for them to have on the plane.

Once their gifts were open, immediate excitement and requests to load songs on their players followed. We were happy to pick out songs with them and relished in how thrilled they were about the gifts. The song “Pumped up Kicks” was one of the first choices for both of them. My partner and I had heard the song before but the lyrics were always murky to us.

After listening to the song again, I thought I was hearing words referring to guns and cigarettes but it seemed so improbable. I decided to do some research. First I looked up their video on You Tube. The video was a montage of the handsome young men playing the song live and having a blast. Nothing about guns there, so it seemed.

Then I looked up the lyrics online. Here is a sample:

“He found a six-shooter gun

in his dad’s closet, with the box of fun things.

I don’t even know what,

but he’s coming for you.”

He’s coming for you. All the other kids with the pumped up kicks,

you better run, better run, outrun my gun.”

Startled and upset, I knew I had to take a moment before I reacted. I needed to think about how to approach this with my family. Do we tell the kids and then ban the song? Do we tell and educate them but still let them listen? Do we not tell them and let them be in ignorant bliss?

When I shared all this with my partner, she was also shocked.  The fun, light beat and high pitched singing fostered a random association for her that the song was from a Disney movie.

I then wondered how many other parents are completely unaware that their children are listening to these lyrics. It’s on every pop station, on iTunes (without a warning) and featured on the popular singing show, “The Voice.”

So what is a parent to do?

I believe the predicament spreads wider than just this song. As parents we all have the responsibility to monitor, set rules and expectations of how to interact with media, pop culture and the internet in appropriate and safe ways.

When our boys are teenagers, there would be nothing I would like more then to keep them in safe warm cocoons until they can come out and make all the smart, safe and savvy decisions I would most wish for them.

This is when I wake up.

Someday, they are going to be aware of gun violence, exposed to social media, to alcohol, drugs, to peer pressure. If we took the approach of saying no to all these things, most likely they will rebel and our lines of communications will be strained. There will be fighting and heartbreak.

Just taking something completely away or banning it is an approach that I steer away from. There are many realities out there that scare me as a parent. If I let my fear control my parenting, then I will most likely distance myself from my children which scares me even more.

As parents, I believe it our responsibility to educate and help navigate the world with our children, not for them. It is also imperative that we are present, involved and aware of what our children are doing online and off.

To refer back to the song lyrics, I asked myself, “Do I want it to be my partner and I who has this conversation with them or do I want it to be the older boys on the bus who first tell them?”

As challenging and awkward as it is, I certainly want it to be us to bring up these topics. I want our children to have the space to ask questions, express feelings and participate in a course of action that feels safe, appropriate and agreeable to all of us.

It all goes back to basic psychology. If we just take something away, or quit something, we will want it even more. If there is something good we are offered or moving towards instead, then our success rate for change is much higher.

Questions for the reader?

  • What would you have done in this situation?
  • Is there a time when a ban is the course of action you would take?
  • If you do allow your children to be exposed to pop culture, social media and the internet, is it possible to teach and encourage our children to use those modes of communication for good?

Shana HiranandaniABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shana Hiranandani shares a home with her two boys, her partner of 12 years, a big dog and a small cat in the Pioneer Valley of Western MA.  Shana earned a B.A. in Psychology from UMass Amherst and a M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Antioch New England College. Shana is a Board Certified Life and Career Coach, offering consultations from her office in Florence, MA.  Her monthly column offers parenting perspectives from a Jewish-Indian-American, 2-mommy household.

6 Comments on “Parenting Possibilities: To Take Away or Not Take Away

  1. Sorry to be late to the party. I only found this site today. And I feel I have a lot to add to the conversation. How about having been a Scout Master,( Boy Scouts of America) for 14 years. Our troop camps 12 months a year, our October theme: Rifle & Shot gun..(including flint-lock rifles). is dedicated to letting boys 11to 17 handle a live firearm and shoot target or skeet..The program is controlled under the auspices of adult males who are approved members of the NRA. One of the men was a “gun smith” by trade and taught a hi-tech course in firearm mechanics. many of my boys took this course and are highly skilled in the handling of firearms..And these boys were raucous, rambunctious and always up to a challenge..HOWEVER..the first issue taught was RESPECT for all adults, acting and outside the troop.And when I caught a Scout not living up to what I considered Scout can make book that I was in his face…HARD !! The rest of the troop decried the embarrassment of being called out, and afterwords. the boys moved in on their own and corrected the bad behavior on their own.. Therein, lies some of the problems of today’s society with young boys..Respect, introspection, peer pressure to what is right, is a lost cause in today’s society. Hard work to obtain the highest levels of self awareness and success is ridiculed and derided.
    Boys…all of matter class, need the strength and leadership of men everywhere to step up to roles of leadership and wisdom..I have ever so much to cover in the issue of young men and violence, but I do not think I have found a proper forum

  2. Freakishly? Danceable song with easy hooks.
    I wouldn’t have given the ipod to the five year old. He could use “mine” to make up for the nine ear old getting one if need be. He can suggest picks for me. I would encourage him to think of it as something that reads to him, rather than a song player, and that’s what i would try to load it with.

    I would ask the boys separately what the song was about, and let their answers guide my discussion. Sadly, I suggest that a nine year old needs to know quite a bit about guns, what they can do, how they should be treated ( if not handled), and something about the danger in the story of a child handling a found gun.

  3. Thank you all for your thoughtful answers and responses to this post.
    Lots to think about! ~ Shana.

  4. Better conscious than unconscious listening.
    Though 5 is pretty young to understand the meaning of it all, even 9.

    I would say, bring it to their awareness in an age-appropriate way (google that;) and then they may not find it so danceable anymore.

    I don’t know, it’s a reality in our world now… So I suppose the tools to deal with it would be empowering. What are the tools to deal with it? For you boys…for mine (8)…

    Compassion comes to mind. Maybe talk about the character in the song like in a book…’why did he do that?’ What was he feeling? Who could have helped him…

    These are my instinctual responses.

    Thank you for asking.


    Another mom who loves and cares.

  5. When my oldest 2 were young (under 7) they watched no television not listened to popular music – because their parents didn’t either and they were homeschooled…..a decision made in part because we were concerned that popular culture would take root in them early…and we were careful to avoid it….. It proved to be a good choice for them because by the time they were exposed to “popular culture” in songs, movies, they were able to approach it on their terms and less influenced by their peers.

    THAT said – when they began to hear those sorts of songs I also didn’t censor and encouraged/facilitated their talking about it in whatever way THEY choose.

    And the concerns from my part were about gun violence, issues of abuse of and violence towards Women, Jews, Blacks, etc…… all of which are buried in both an overt and also subtle way into our world culture and society.

    And as Jason above says, it’s all good learning!

    Good luck with yours!

  6. We let our kids listen to anything and discuss it. Max has complained to me that too much of my music has swears. It’s good learning.

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