I’m not much of a disciplinarian.
The kids’ beds remain unmade most days, their shoes and backpacks litter the family room and I’m likely to say, “Oh just finish what you’re reading and then do the dishes.”
My children are fueled by hugs and kisses and lots of praise. The world will be unkind to every one of us; home should be a haven of acceptance and love.
I think because I don’t nag and so rarely insist on much, my children listen to my opinion. And well, maybe I do have a lot of opinions.
Tis the season when everyone shops for gifts and several times in the last few weeks I’ve been asked, “What age is appropriate for an iPod touch?” “Have you heard of any good DS games?” “Are you buying a Kindle Fire?”
An uncomfortable silence (for me) usually follows. Most of the time, I’ll remain quiet and let others carry the conversation, but once in a while someone persists in hearing my opinion. I hesitate to speak up because I hate to offend.
But here it is: no iPod touch, no personal game consoles, no smart phones, no Kindle Fire, no internet connection or TVs in any bedroom (including mine and Erik’s). We do have an iPad shared among the family– always password protected, usually hidden on a shelf or in a drawer and drained of power. A few iPods also roam the family, but they are used for long runs, lawn mowing or late night study sessions– no one wears ear buds around the house or at the dinner table.
We’re certainly no Luddites. Our two laptops and my big desktop computer are usually buzzing during homework time (but forever and always password protected and never moved from the kitchen). Google is pretty much the best thing that ever happened to research papers and all my children list khanacademy.org as one of their hobbies. I downloaded Star Wars Angry Birds on my phone the day it came out and I consider Instagram the BEST social connection ever. My phone is pretty popular and gets passed around the family a lot; but I figure one smart phone is enough for all of us.
In fact, it’s probably because I love my phone a bit too much that I’m strict about most electronics. There was no internet when my boys were little, but plenty of game systems and cable TV. I felt a fair amount of pressure from other parents to invest in such things, but with my crazy household I felt I needed to be extra cautious because:
A. our household is probably already more violent than yours.
B. we are prone to addictions
C. I’m not as good at monitoring as other parents.
Interestingly, none of my kids has ever begged or pushed for any game or device. They simply know we don’t buy those things and they take a certain amount of pride in being different.
I’ll tell you what we do have– a wood pile at the side of the house, tools in the garage, art supplies, thousands of books, a playroom strewn with Legos (as valuable as textbooks in my opinion), blenders they can take apart, my camera equipment, musical instruments, cooking supplies and a mom who doesn’t mind a mess, music playing full blast in the kitchen, sprinkler pipes for making potato guns, board games, bikes and balls and baseball bats.
A few years ago someone gave us a game system. I grudgingly conceded to setting it up in the basement but made the rule we would never buy a game rated higher than T (teen). Last year, Stefan came home from school with his ears buzzing about a game called Skyrim all his friends were excited about. We looked it up, but when Stef saw the M (mature) rating he just said, “Oh well. Never mind.”
When Stefan moved into his apartment at BYU this August he said, “Thanks for not letting me play video games, mom. I think I would have become really addicted to them and missed out on so much of my life.” He then told me about the hours several of his school acquaintances spent on games.
I was confused, “But if they are playing games and doing homework and working at the car wash how do they have time to develop their character?”
Stefan laughed, “That’s exactly what they are doing. They spend hours developing their online character– can he jump 12 feet, shoot fire, progress to level eleven.” And then Stefan and his younger brothers joked about creating a video game where real life actions could contribute to online strengths: 100 pull ups equals 1 power point, reading two books earns a knowledge level, etc.
He wrote to Ben:
My friend isn’t enjoying college. He’s what I would be if mom and dad hadn’t made me be better. He doesn’t like people or making friends which is what I could have been if dad hadn’t taught me how to look people in the eye (when I’m talking to you!) or mom hadn’t taught me to be nice to brothers and to everyone else. He loves computer games and I feel like I would too if our family wasn’t so against them. So there. But he is a good guy.
Now, I’m at the point in my post where I’m ready to delete the whole thing and I’ve already deleted and reinserted the entire section on video games. I’m not judging anyone here. Plenty of families manage phones and game systems and television just fine. But we can’t. We spend too much time on computers and online already; my kids would surely kill each other if I bought Mortal Combat and none of my kids would do their homework again if we had cable TV. I really don’t think I’m mature enough for an iPhone and I often purposely leave it in the car to keep myself from compulsively checking my email.
As I’ve said before, every parent does what is best for their own family. I’m just presenting my opinion and an alternative for those who might want to go against the grain. Your kids won’t hate you for saying ‘no,’ they’ll probably thank you.