As a Parent Coach and Radio Host, I am often questioned by “experts” and other parents in regard to my feelings on the latest “Hot Topics” of Parenting. These days, the hottest of them all are: Electronics use, Getting kids off the couch, Chores and Discipline. In my opinion, they all kind of intertwine, and how we handle one of them is how we handle all of them. And I think I handle them pretty much the way mom did.
I have a rather matter of fact opinion on electronics (as I do with most parenting topics) and I think we are blowing this whole thing way out of proportion! I also think Parents need to stop waiting for “the data” before they decide to make rules and limits around the overuse of ANYTHING in their child’s life. I believe that kids spend as much time on “screens” as we allow them too…and I believe that screens today are like phones and arcades were for us, back in the day.
My mom let me talk on the phone for HOURS as a young girl. I stayed inside while I did it and I knew tons of kids who had their own phone line so their parents didn’t have to give up the “home line”. We had inappropriate conversations and we even bullied people over the phone. We made crank calls and planned secret meetings, we participated in contests and we ordered stuff to be delivered to our houses and slid our parent’s money under the door to pay for it. Really, it’s not a whole lot different from the stuff kids are doing today, except for the level of monitoring and disciplining parents are WILLING to do these days. My mom would pick up the phone and listen on the other end, and if the conversation got out of hand, or she didn’t like it, she made me hang up and I was grounded from it until she felt like letting me have it back. If I got into too much trouble with certain friends, mom grounded me from seeing them too. In some cases, she had their parents over for a visit just to discuss our shenanigans and how they would handle it. There was no negotiation or concern over my “self esteem” or “lessons in autonomy”…Mom made a decision, and we honored it.
That was also the case when it came to playing outside. It wasn’t a democratic process…my ass got kicked out of the house! It didn’t matter if it was hot, or rainy or humid or overcast, her kids played outside (and KIDS included anyone under the age of 18). We didn’t text or instant message our parents everywhere we went, if we had a curfew or time to be home, we had three choices: GO HOME, go to a friends house and CALL HOME, or deal with the wrath of our parents when we GOT HOME…that’s it.
Many of us got our butts whacked, but even those of us who didn’t still respected our parents discipline, because “grounding” was not a “stay-cation”, it was a work order! When we got grounded for a week, it lasted a WEEK! And Mom had PLENTY of stuff to do around the house before dishwashers, swiffers and “wrinkle free” settings, so it was not unheard of to be on “dish duty” for 3 hours… “or however long it takes for you to get it done!” Once we were released, we couldn’t wait to get the hell out of the house…and that was all part of her master plan.
So, how do I feel about kids and electronics, and play and chores? I guess the answer is: “The same way I feel about kids and anything…we are bigger and wiser and we have the most leverage, so we make the rules.”
Just like Mom used to say, “You can stay in here and I’ll put you to work or you can go outside and play, but you will NOT sit around and do nothing. Why? because I can’t, and you have too much youth and energy to waste it being a bump on a log.” Mom was brilliant!