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Ask the Rock Doc: 
Sound Advice for the musically-minded 
By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen 

Details, and, in some cases, the method of communication associated with the following letter may be altered, to protect the confidentiality of the distressed person. 

Dear Rock Doc: 

In 1996, our granddaughter, Greta, was taken away from her mother due to her mother's drug problems and inability to take care of her.  My wife and I are both in our late sixties.  We did not plan on parenting in our old ages.  Our own children are all grown up.  We'd rather just sit around on our rocking chairs, watch television and read than parent, but we love our granddaughter and want to be good parents to her.   Greta was 5 years old at that time, and she was a perfect little angel.  Now she is 13 and she's turned completely wild.  I guess they call it "the Gothic scene."  She has painted her fingernails black, not to mention her toenails.  She refuses to wear anything we buy her unless it's black.   Her hair is all wild and her make-up makes her look like someone gave her two black eyes.   Speaking of hair, her grandmother and I have been pulling our hair out (though I don't have much left to pull out), trying to get her to concentrate on her school work instead of listening to Gothic albums and begging us to go to every Gothic concert that comes along.   

She falls in love with a different lead singer every week.  We hear nothing but rambling on and on about bands with real sick names like Fornication 55, Alien Sex Fiend and Wench.  This really disturbs Emma and me, because we are devoted Christians.  We listen to old hymns, music recorded by the praise and worship team at our church, and the occasional song by Neil Diamond.  We've tried lecturing her, burning her records, and grounding her.  None of it works.  

My wife and I are both well educated, retired school teachers. I taught high school back in the 'seventies, but kids were not so out-of-control back then.  My wife taught elementary school.  We've read every book, but are always disillusioned when we test our new found knowledge on our granddaughter.  We've bought her nearly everything she's asked for except for those evil CDs and repugnant posters.  Please help.  

Grandpa of Greta, the Gothic Groupie 

Dear Grandpa of Greta, the Gothic Groupie: 

Greta is in the midst of an adolescent identity crisis.  This has created a family crisis.  Christ is in the midst of your crisis, and He wants to intervene.  Start with prayer.  Lay your needs before the Lord.  He will hear you and will respond in kind.  My advice will only go so far without prayer and earnestly seeking God's will in your lives.

Adolescent identity crises are more typical in what theorist Ruth Benedict refers to as discontinuous societies---industrialized nations that introduce rapid social change--but we can't turn back time and take away the rapid, and often overwhelming, social changes sprung upon society with the advent of industrial development.  Unfortunately, Greta is looking for her self, or her identity, in all the wrong places.  The groups you mentioned are like dark clouds that are impenetrable, even by the brightest of lights.  

I might suggest that instead of repeating punitive measures that have brought no success, you reward her for engaging in more positive activities.  I would suggest looking into Christian Goth bands like Evanescence, Savior Machine, or Anticrisis.  These bands are like dark clouds with silver linings.  The darkness they introduce is like the three days Jesus was in the tomb before He was resurrected.  Their lyrics may begin in the tomb, but they ultimately point the listener to the light of His resurrection.  Introducing these bands to her would allow her to continue to explore her identity, but in more meaningful ways.  If you approve of these bands, and you are able to interest her in them as alternative sources of entertainment, CDs or concert tickets could be used as rewards for completing homework assignments or getting good grades, or even for giving up listening to bands that offer only destructive lyrics.  

In addition to struggling with what Erikson referred to as identity vs. role confusion, there is an obvious generation gap that is amplified by the fact that you are her grandparents.  Attitudes, beliefs and values have changed substantially since the two of you were teens, even since the time you taught teens.  Styles have changed dramatically, (although when it comes to style, what goes around comes around).  That does not mean that you have to adopt styles that are immodest just to bridge the generation gap.  This does not mean that you have to sacrifice your principles and adopt anti-Christian attitudes, beliefs, or values.  But I would suggest that you spend a great deal of time educating yourselves on what is current as it pertains to young people in Western culture.  Ignorance about what is "happening" magnifies the tension associated with generational barriers.  Listening to Christian Gothic music and sharing it with her may already give you some street legitimacy in her eyes, and may alter her perception about just how big the generational gap is.  

Let her know that you love her unconditionally, but that your love involves appropriate boundary-setting.  Model attitudes that are glorifying to God.  Include God in every decision.  As she gets older, she will increasingly look to you and her grandmother, not Goth "gods" as role models.  Just because you spend a lot of time rocking in your rocking chair doesn't mean you can't be a "rock 'n role model."  Take it from me, Dr. B.L.T.

If you are a musically-minded person in distress, write Dr. B.L.T. at 

Dr. BLT, aka Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, is a Christ-centered licensed clinical psychologist and university instructor who specializes in the psychology of modern music.  He uses his original songs as well as those of other artists to address the problems of his patients, including his biggest, sickest, most challenging patient--society.

His face and name recognition, particularly with teens, comes from his short part on a long Cake music video--the Cake video for “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” that earned the band a nomination for Ground Breaking Music Video of the Year on the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards. 



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