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I Knew You Were Trouble
A Quick Music Discussion Guide for Parents
03/12/2013

Dynamic ImageThe Song: I Knew You Were Trouble

Main Point: Some people are just trouble…and we know it right away. But if we choose to involve ourselves with them, we will pay the consequences every time.

Vital Info Before You Get Started: The following info should help you contextualize this very popular song so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.

  • Taylor Swift is a huuuuuuuge celebrity in the eyes of many young people, probably including the teens in your own home. She’s a country/pop artist who usually produces music based on her own life experiences. She’s been criticized about the fact that so many of her songs are about ex-boyfriends (as is this song we’re currently talking about), but Swift says it’s totally fine and fair for her exes to flip the tables on her and write music about the relationship from their perspective.

  • As of this writing, I Knew You Were Trouble is sitting in the #4 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 and the song’s music video has been viewed on YouTube more than 70 million times! The song is so popular, in fact, that funny spoofs (like this one) have been created that have also gone viral.

  • Thankfully, Swift is one of the rare musicians who produces clean music, and (by most accounts) lives a modest and healthy lifestyle. This song is essentially about a break up that has just happened, and as Swift looks back on it, she realizes that the guy was “trouble when he walked in” and she should have known better.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO PARENTS: We at The Source for Parents believe that certain elements in our youth culture can serve as good discussion jump starters with students. At the same time, we would never hope to introduce students to a negative influence that they haven’t already encountered. This balance is a delicate one. In our experience most students, churched and unchurched, keep pretty current with music and music videos. Thanks to YouTube, MTV.com, and iTunes, the most popular music videos and songs are free to access only a click away.

Since this song has been near the top of both iTunes and Billboard, your kids have almost certainly heard it. Heck, this song gets playtime in retail stores and grocery stores which means everybody’s heard it! When you sit down to discuss this song, make sure to have a copy of the lyrics available (below) and access to the music video (which we provided in the link above).

Above all, don’t appear as if you have a “canned” discussion in your head and rattle off questions like a teacher giving a pop quiz—your kids get enough of that in school. This is a guide, primarily—not a verbatim script. Just familiarize yourself with the content here and start a conversation in the most natural, unforced way you know how.

The Song’s Lyrics: I Knew You Were Trouble

Once upon time
A few mistakes ago
I was in your sights
You got me alone
You found me
You found me
You found me

I guess you didn't care
And I guess I liked that
And when I fell hard
You took a step back
Without me, without me, without me

And he's long gone
When he's next to me
And I realize the blame is on me

Cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places i'd never been
Till you put me down oh
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places i'd never been
Now i'm lying on the cold hard ground
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble

No apologies
He'll never see you cry
Pretend he doesn't know
That he's the reason why
You're drowning, you're drowning, you're drowning

And I heard you moved on
From whispers on the street
A new notch in your belt
Is all I'll ever be
And now I see, now I see, now I see
He was long gone
When he met me
And I realize the joke is on me

I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places i'd never been
Till you put me down oh
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places i'd never been
Now i'm lying on the cold hard ground
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble

When your saddest fear comes creeping in
That you never loved me or her or anyone or anything
Yeah

I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places I'd never been
Till you put me down oh
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
So shame on me now
Flew me to places i'd never been
Now i'm lying on the cold hard ground
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble
Oh, oh, trouble, trouble, trouble

I knew you were trouble when you walked in
Trouble, trouble, trouble
I knew you were trouble when you walked in
Trouble, trouble, trouble!

Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
    Q: What is the message Taylor is trying to get across in this song?
    A: She’s basically saying that the relationship went wrong in a big way, but she’s not really surprised, because in hindsight, she “knew he was trouble” from the very start.

    Q: Who does Swift place the blame on for the toxic relationship, and what can we learn from that?
    A: She seems to take responsibility for the mistake of dating a guy she knew to be trouble. Over and over again, she points out all the warning signs that she neglected to notice, and then says the shame is on her. As it relates to us, we need to take responsibility for our poor decisions, too.

    Q: In light of this song’s message, what do you think Taylor Swift would say to us about the “trouble makers” in our lives?
    A: She’d probably tell us to pay close attention to a person’s choices and values and actions. If they don’t line up with how we believe and live, then she’d probably advise us to distance ourselves so that we don’t face unnecessary consequences for putting up with trouble makers.

Where to Take It from Here:
Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful! (There’s a guide just after this paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged—the next time it feels right, try out another song. Keep engaging them.

For Deeper Discussion:
(If your kids seem into diving in deeper and looking at what the Bible has to say on the subject, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)


Want help getting your teenager engaged in conversation? CLICK HERE for a helpful article from our "Parenting Help" page providing you with 3 Essentials to Talking with Today's Teens.

Transitional Statement:
It’s easy to like this song. Not only is it catchy, but it has a good message embedded in it. Taylor is telling us that as she looks back at the relationship that just ended she knew it was doomed from the start. She says she knew he was trouble “right when he walked in.” I don’t want to come off as judgmental by any means, but I’ve gotten that sense about a few people before. Sometimes, I’ve acted on my suspicions and avoided them, but sometimes, I’ve let my guard down, and it has cost me. If we know somebody is trouble from the start, it’s best to just avoid them, because if we choose to involve ourselves with them, we will pay the consequences every time.


More Discussion Questions:

  1. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: As we get started, let’s all take a second to share our favorite musical artist.

  2. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In the opening monologue (before the song begins), Swift ways, “Part of me knew the second I saw him that this would happen.” Have you ever felt that way about someone, especially someone you’ve dated? What did you do with that feeling?

  3. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: She then asks, “How could the devil be pulling you towards someone who looks so much like an angel when he smiles at you?” Does that reveal to you that maybe Taylor was placing too much emphasis on looks? Why or why not?

  4. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: According to the music video, what kind of trouble did the guy get himself and Taylor into?

  5. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Do you think that Taylor would repeat her mistake if she could go back in time? Why or why not?

  6. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: Have you ever had that same kind of feeling about someone that Taylor had? If so, what did you do, and what happened afterwards?

  7. Read the following passage:

      Proverbs 5:1-14 (NIV)

      My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, 2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. 3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6 She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not. 7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. 8 Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, 9 lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, 10 lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man's house. 11 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. 12 You will say, "How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! 13 I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. 14 I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly."

  8. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What is it that Solomon is warning his sons about in this passage?

  9. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: In this passage, Solomon is clearly warning his sons about involving themselves with an adulteress woman, but does it work the other way, too? Can girls apply this passage to troublesome guys, as well? Why or why not?

  10. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What did Solomon say were some of the consequences of involving ourselves with troublesome people, whether we’re dating them or just hanging out them?

  11. ASK A FEW: Take stock of your friends and acquaintances for a moment. Without naming any names, do any of them match the description of the person King Solomon says to stay away from?

  12. ASK A FEW: What do you think will happen if you continue to hang around them or begin to date them?

  13. ASK A FEW: What is the advice that Solomon gives to us in verse 8? Is that easy to do or difficult to do? Why?

  14. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: What are you going to do with the people in your life that you know are trouble?

Wrap Up:
I’ve really taken a liking to this song. I like the fact that Taylor puts her mistakes out there and says, “I messed up. I knew better, but I made a mistake anyway.” In a way, she’s inviting us to learn from her past. I don’t know about you, but I always like to learn from other people’s mistakes. That’s soooooo much less expensive!

Hopefully, you will learn that lesson. I’m not saying that all of our friends and all of our romantic significant others have to be perfect; if that were the case, we’d never have any sort of relationships! All I’m saying is, when we know someone is trouble, it’s probably best to intentionally steer clear of them. If you don’t, you will pay a price for it.


(Parents: At this point, it would be great if you could share a prepared and true story about a time in life when you hung out with or dated someone you knew was trouble. Chances are good that ALL of us have one of those stories. This will really connect the point to your kids’ hearts because they know you personally.)

I really hope you don’t make this costly mistake. I know it’s difficult to assess our relationships, and it’s certainly tough to distance ourselves from those who are trouble, but what you must do is ask yourself one simple question: Is it easier to walk away from a person who you know to be trouble…or wind up in trouble yourself?

When you put it in that kind of perspective, the problem becomes much easier to solve!


Close in Prayer

Written by David R Smith

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