3 Hacks To Learn What Your Teenagers are Listening To

Rob Chagdes
March 4th, 2021

We were driving back from a family outing and I was shaking my head in disbelief. During this seemingly ordinary day together, I had stumbled upon a “parenting hack” that I wish I had learned earlier. I had somehow gotten my teenage daughters to share their music, not just with myself, but with the whole family. They were actually enjoying it too. 

While I would never advise parenting without a strategy, it’s amazing how sometimes I learn the best parenting tricks completely by accident.

My three daughters are teenagers, and my oldest is in college. She has always been fully transparent when it comes to what music she listens to. We never wondered what she enjoyed because she told us without prompting. 

I also have a daughter in high school and another in middle school. They both act like their musical preferences are classified government secrets. We have the media safeguards in place; no phones overnight in their rooms, parental access to their YouTube and Spotify accounts and so forth. It’s not really that we can’t find out what they are listening to, it’s more that they are very private about what they enjoy.

A while back my sixteen year old was in the kitchen with her AirPods in. I walked in and saw her and thought I’d ask a simple question. 

“So what are you listening to?” 

After an annoyed look, as if to say why are you talking to me right now, she gave me a short and pointed answer.

“You’ve never heard of it.”

Ah, okay. Thanks. My motivation was definitely to discover if you were listening to my “Rob’s 90’s Jamz” playlist….

“Yeah, I’m sure I haven’t heard of it, but who is it?”

She holds up her phone and she was right. I had never heard of it. 

“What kind of music is that?”

I was thinking we were on the verge of a conversation where I’d learn something new about her. My optimism was misplaced.

“Dad, can I just finish what I’m doing?”

I agreed and reluctantly accepted my defeat. 

Maybe you’ve had a conversation like this, or wondered how you can get beyond the surface to really learn what kind of music your children enjoy. Perhaps you have a child like my firstborn who would openly blare her TobyMac songs in her room, leaving nothing hidden. But maybe your child is like my girls who view their music as something personal and are less than eager to share. Here are three hacks to finding out what music your teenagers enjoy.

Ask Them To Control The Car Playlist

However you play music in the car, ask them to connect their phone and play music. On our road trip, I just wasn’t feeling like going through the trouble of playing something. I also didn’t want them to put their earbuds in and drift into isolation. I asked my sixteen year old to connect her phone and play something. She predictably didn’t want to. I told her that I needed to focus on the GPS and I would prefer none of them put earbuds in since it was a family trip. She went for it.

Over the next hour, she and her sisters were picking songs I’d never heard. They were talking and laughing together having a blast (This is not how they normally interact). We often consider it a win if nobody cries during a road trip. 

Asking my daughter to control the playlist allowed me to hear her music and even opened the door to connections with her sisters.

Ask Them To Add Songs To The Queue

On the way home, I was feeling good. I had learned a little about my high schooler’s musical preferences, but I wanted more. I thought I’d take a risk and asked if everyone in the car would put three songs in the queue on my Spotify account. I simply passed my phone around, and said it would be more fun if everyone got to pick the music we listened to. 

I am still amazed by what happened next. As the songs were playing, they’d try to guess who picked it. They’d talk about the songs, and that opened up a lot of doors. Eventually they started owning it. 

“Now everyone picks one song that nobody in the car has ever heard before!”

“Ooh then let’s have everyone pick one song that everyone in the car can sing!”

They had no idea just how much I was enjoying this while experiencing in disbelief at how easy this was.

Ask Them To Make You A Playlist

When we got home, I decided to ride the wave we were on just a little bit further. 

“Hey girls, do you think you can each make me a playlist with maybe ten songs on it? I’d love to have some more recent music to listen to.”

They didn’t even hesitate. Now I have playlists from each of them. 

I can’t say these hacks will work every time, but they have opened up doors. We have conversations about songs, share moments listening to favorites while driving to Target, and I got a glimpse of the music that speaks to their hearts.

And all I had to was ask. 

Rob Chagdes

Rob Chagdes is the Family Ministry Pastor at Prairie Lakes Church in Iowa. Since meeting Jesus as a sixteen year old, Rob has spent his life working to lead up the next generation to love God and invite others into His unending story. In addition to writing, he hosts The Farther Along Podcast. He spends most of his free time with his wife Leslie, their three amazing daughters, and their energetic dog Jedi.

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