Music is what feelings sound like. –Unknown

I read that quote earlier this week and thought it extremely apropos for my kids’ relationship with music. The kids playlists that I’ve written about are just a sample of the power that rhythm, melody, harmony and lyrics have to evoke expressions of love and moments of pure joy. But there’s a bigger picture, too, that showcases how extremely powerful music can be, especially for kids.

I’ve expressed my affinity for all things Michael Jackson in several of my kids playlists blogs; there’s something about the chemistry of his voice, the music he chooses and the lyrics he sings that has a profound effect on listeners, my kids included. After seeing Kingsley have very poignant responses to certain MJ songs, I began purposefully exploring the King of Pop’s extensive library of hits to see what this could mean for further insight into using his music as a gateway for emotional expression.

This all started while I was driving around town running errands one day. I had Kingsley and Kensington in the car with me, and Kingsley was really upset about some kiddie crisis that I can’t seem to specifically remember. In any case, I grabbed my iPhone and played “Heal the World”. I’m not sure why I chose that song, but I’m glad that I did. It was everything Kingsley needed in that moment. It actually took him from 100 to zero within seconds! I could tell that he was still sad about whatever he was dealing with, but I used the moment to talk to him about how he was feeling. We talked about the mood of the song; to him, it sounded sad. Whether the mood in the song resonated with him, or the emotion in the song moved him in a different direction, I can’t really say. But since that day, I can play what we now call “The Sad Song”, and he settles within himself.

It happened again one night when I was having a hard time getting Kingsley to go to bed. He simply did not want to go and was intent on having a toddler moment. I put on The Sad Song, and he calmed down instantly. It is now a go-to tool for helping him settle; if he’s having a hard time, The Sad Song to the rescue.

Since then, I’ve used other MJ songs as an avenue to talk to Kingsley about how songs make him feel, or to try to define and interpret what emotions are most present to him in tracks that I play. Here’s what I’ve found so far:


MJ Tracks

Sad Songs

Heal the World, You Are Not Alone

Scary Songs

Beat It, Thriller

Mad Songs

They Don’t Care About Us

Happy Songs

P.Y.T., Wanna Be Startin’ Something, The Way You Make Me Feel, Love Never Felt So Good

It’s been so interesting to see how a toddler interprets melodic chords, tones and other musical elements. I would have never thought that “Beat It” sounded more eerie than “Thriller”, but it does for him. And honestly, that’s not really the point. I love that I can now use music as a means to connect to my son on an empathetic, intuitive level and dialogue with him in a way that hopefully shows him that his feelings and emotions matter. When I ask him, “is this a happy song or sad song?” I want him to know that it is perfectly okay to tap into that part of himself. As a mom, I want to nurture these conversations and continue to shift my parenting paradigm in ways that help me foster deeper interactions and talks with my boys.

Let me make something clear: I am neither a psychologist, a therapist nor Oprah. None of this is scientific – at least, not in my processing. It’s simply something that works for my family. I’ve realized that much of what kids are trying to do in the toddler phase is process how they feel, but they don’t really have the vocabulary or language capacity to pinpoint those emotions in ways that we adults can interpret and respond on their level.

Both as a DJ and a mom, I realize the truth in the old saying that music can soothe the savage beast. My boys are by no means beasts; they’re just little humans learning to utilize elements in their surroundings to express where they are emotionally and mentally. I, like any other concerned mom, simply want to nurture that the best way I can. With that said, I am grateful for Michael Jackson’s heart, spirit and dedication to artistic expression. His life and legacy continue to impact my kids’ lives, and his music will always have a significant space in my home sound system and kids playlists.

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