Tuesday, December 27, 2011

a minute about limitations

A few weeks ago I was in the room while a couple of other parents were discussing how totally obsessed their kids were with video games and tv. How they turn into zombies when they play them and how they cannot tear the kids away from media. I sat there and listened to them talk about all of the extreme limitations the parents had to place on these devices and wondered....why don't my kids do that.

A little background, I was pretty much raised by the tv. Shows like Family Ties and Cosby taught me lessons that have stayed with me all of these years. While growing up, I watched a lot of tv....A LOT.

The tv is a welcomed friend in our house, a censored, welcomed friend. We watch tv...we do. Our family's favorite show is America's Funniest Home Videos. What a horrible shame this causes to admit, but we never miss an episode. The children love it.

As far as video games and apps go, they are also welcomed in our home. We all play them together. The entire family is currently obsessed with this app called Where's My Water? Everyone has an account on the game and we sit and play it together. We help each other through the levels we've already mastered. It's been a really fun thing we do.

Inevitably every holiday or birthday Zander gets a new video game. He sits and plays it for hours for about a day...then....once in a while....then he moves onto something else. Other than the first day or two, I would never call Zander a Zombie. When I tell him to shut the game, he does. Zander spends countless hours building and destroying things around the house...like this gun he and his dad are building together.

He carves wood, he paints, he does oragami, he reads, he makes beyblades out of garbage around the house. Honestly on most days, Zander would rather do most things than be a video game zombie. The girls don't play video games...just a few apps where they make cupcakes etc. Likewise the tv can come or go too. They just don't really care.

So while listening to my kids friends parents talk about this my mind raced to as wether or not I'm in denial about how much time my kids spend with media, or if they just don't obsess and why. So I observed our household over the next few weeks and found that Elle is quite obsessed with tv. She requests it often, but if I say no or turn it off she scampers away and finds a doll that needs a bath. Mia doesn't watch tv at all. She reads....all day and all night, or she plays with her little girl things, dolls, polly pockets, clothes, earrings.... or writes stories. Zander doesn't watch tv ever. If it's on he may be in the room, but he's always busy with something else. He does play video games, I've seen him average about an hour and a half  through out a day playing different ones and computer games. Although when they weren't on Christmas break this was more like a half hour a day on devices.

I NEVER have to tell them twice to shut it off. I never have video game/tv zombies, and I never have to limit their usage. I do limit the what, not the how long though.

We had a few friends over for our Christmas dinner and I brought this topic up with them. My friend Heather told me a story about her grandma...or aunt...or someone who told stories about how in her house she had bowls of candy set out all of the time for any guests that may come over. She noticed that when her kids had friends over the bowls were emptied. The other kids just went NUTS over these bowls of candy. While her kids could care less. They were used to moderation and weren't heavily restricted so when faced with a yummy bowl of free candy they learned self control. I've noticed the same thing when our kids have friends over. They go nuts over all of the electronics our kids have. They literally turn into zombies and don't want to do anything but play on the ipad or ipods or gaming systems we have. I've seen this in a friend of Elle's too with the tv and snacks. It's so funny to me, also a little disturbing.

Sometimes because we are Mormon, I feel like people view us as very restrictive. We don't allow sleepovers, we limit WHAT they watch and play heavier than any other non-mormon friend we know. Our church has a little book called For the Strength of Youth that outlines the things we strongly enforce in our home with our growing children. To us, these are important matters. These are the not waiverable ones. These are the standards that the Lord has set for his children and this book is a guide for us as parents. I will fight for these...I will approach them in the same way we did media. Teach them how come and why not about it all. Teach them the higher laws and allow them to choose. If done correctly they will choose the right. They may stumble, but they will know. This is the Lord's way of instruction. Our non-mormon friends have warned us that we shelter our children but that could not be further from the truth. If you know me at all you know I'm frank and clear and often inappropriate. A child cannot grow up sheltered in this house. A child that goes out into public every day cannot grow up sheltered in this world. IMPOSSIBLE!

I think that's what we've done. Instead of the constant fight over these things, we've taught them appropriate ideas regarding them and set good examples for them, and in our house it's a non-issue. We never limited tv usage, our kids don't have ADHD, they behave in school, they all read well above their recommended levels. They are all socially healthy. They have always been allowed to watch and play as much media as they've wanted and they simply got over it. Old news...

We teach them with words not handcuffs. We don't force their hand in these choices. We allow them to learn how to use their free will. We've taught our children about how there are people out there who hurt children when we restricted sleepovers. Instead of just saying no, we told them very candidly why not. They have no desire to sleepover at friends homes. Now they do get tempted often, but they learned that the risk is not worth the benefit in that area. That is how we approach this. I assure you that our children through this approach will learn more about our world than most children, and they will learn about it from us. The most trusted source. Others will look at our family and say we are sheltering, but those people are not in our home during those moments of quiet parental instruction. My hope is that these lessons in small things over the young years will help them use this wisdom in larger things later when we are not there to catch them when they fall.


Kathleen Jackson said...

LOVE IT. Z and H, two peas in a pod!!! H did not even ask for a game of any kind. He asked for rocks to paint, a spy watch and zen magnets. I love creative kiddos!!

Melissa said...

Did you find the magnets?? Our kids are obsessed with them. I even catch myself playing with them. Our boys need to play more. They are too similar. Although Zander does love a good video game, but that's ok as long as its age appropriate and standard appropriate.

cori said...

Good food for thought for me. Hm. I may have to pick your brain on this more...