Most people study Emotional Poverty for the same reason: to learn how not to get shot in the classroom. The information presented is applicable to pandemic forced homeschooling, which is now entering another week of hostage holding. Dr. Payne provides techniques for working with kids during emotional outbursts, and she introduces the concept of isomorphism, meaning what happens at one level of an organization happens at all levels. When applied to schools, this provides dialogue to evaluate teachers’ emotional health and its impact on the class from a sympathetic viewpoint. When applied to the new home school in which I am the teacher, I know how screwed my kids are. We all need therapy, but in the absence of access to a professional mental health provider, environmental audio volumetric control is a DIY home therapy starting point that has seen success in both personal and professional applications.

In the 1900s for a psychology paper topic, music as therapy was selected strictly as an excuse to poke around the top floor of the Baylor library and shop for a husband among the aisles of the music collection. The quest for an “MRS degree” was a fail (several, in fact), but unearthed was a great deal of information supporting music therapy as an effective tool in manipulating mood. Current research shows improved outcomes for babies in NICU who receive music therapy via singing. I have used music as therapy in an affluent retirement community where music, lighting, smell, and creative decor successfully manipulated the mood of the masses. The Alzheimer’s Alliance of Smith County provides training detailing the amazing impacts of music on the human brain. From puberty until it is fully formed around age 25, the soundtrack of life—the music listened to over and over, danced to, or sung along with—becomes interwoven with the forming brain. Patients with dementia who have lost language as their brains recede like floodwaters can be reached with the music of their youth. It holds power to impact the behavior, mood, and attitude of the entire family.


  • Use DIY home music therapy to control the sound of your home. The adult gets the remote. Control your family with mood music like you are charming a date. The sound of machine guns or the nonstop singing of princesses is a guaranteed setup for an emotional outburst not limited to children.
  • To get reluctant kids out of bed, increase the volume of the music every five minutes along with the number of lights on. Reggaeton has proven effective, but pick what you like because you are going to be listening to it awhile. Sing along. At bedtime, reverse the process but with soothing instrumentals. If necessary, begin at a volume that makes other activities impossible; as kids comply, lower the volume. (*Limitation: The ATF attempted this tactic with David Koresh at Mt. Carmel. That didn’t end well. Know your audience.)
  • Students with access to technology can learn history and compassion by creating playlists of songs for seniors. If George was born in 1938, what music was he likely listening to at age 20? Make George a playlist and load it on a cheap, simple mp3 player that can be sanitized by George’s facility. Create the playlist now, and gift it to the facility later to avoid leaving home.
  • The documentary Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory explains this music therapy phenomenon in enough time for one caregiver to read the mail and pay bills.
  • To reinforce compassion, have children journal or cartoon about a concert violinist in a long-term care facility forced to listen to the music selected by the young nurse’s aides who do not know or care that classical music soothes the violinist when he is agitated. Have kids listen to music that they hate and record how it makes them feel.
  • The bonus hidden lesson is in self-regulation. While kids discuss George and explore George’s music and how it may impact George’s mood, they are additionally acquiring a skill in self-soothing with music. Every healthy coping mechanism is a win.

Thorough research is essential. I learned this the hard way when I began Elvis Presley’s birthday by playing his music in an affluent retirement community. Several residents let me know they hated “Elvis the Pelvis,” as this was the terrible music their kids listened to. When the smell of peanut butter and banana sandwiches filled the facility as I planned, it served as an unpleasant reminder that left the community a bit salty. The Elvis impersonator just before dinner pushed them over the edge.