Weaning your kids from their summertime electronics addictions
Author: Richard Singleton
If you’re like my family, we always dive into summer with great intentions. We plan to have days full of exhilaration, nights full of lingering laughter – a slow motion soaking-in of all things fun, refreshing, and rejuvenating. And, of course, I mean that we dreamily hope for it, but make the blunder of just letting summer steamroll us.
One thing we especially struggle with at our house during the summer is maintaining a grip on healthy boundaries for our kids and their electronics. I’m sure the electric company is preparing a life-time achievement award for us, but the reality is that if we let electronics boundaries slip in the summer – and most of us do – we have to work feverishly to restore good habits very early on in the school year. Those early morning breakfasts with sugar-laden spoon in one hand and game remote in the other, those all-day movie marathons, and those late night music download expeditions will have to give way to new and healthier habits if we and our children are going to have sanity and success in the new school year.
So if, like us, you woke up a week or so ago and exclaimed, “what have I done!” here are some practical tips to get back into the swing of healthy, measured electronics use for the school year.
Review. It’s important that we not just marshal our forces and make a full frontal assault on our kids’ bad electronics habits without clearly communicating to them about what went wrong. Take responsibility for your role in the way things got out of hand over the summer. Be direct and honest. Admit that good plans and firm limits were the intention but that they got lost in the summer shuffle. Validate the fun they must have had consuming all that electronics junk food, but remind them that healthier habits for you and for them are needed and coming.
Restore. Yes, we had good intentions going into the summer, but we didn’t have a solid enough plan and we didn’t follow it effectively. All hope is not lost. Salvage what was good about your intentions; rescue whatever singed slivers of your plan still remain and build on that foundation. You’ve learned some things. You’re wiser. You’re more
well-versed in what you want and need out of a healthy approach to the limits surrounding electronics use in your home. You’re leading the train, but don’t forget to discuss the plan and get input from the kids. Your hope is to have them follow a restored plan of action for your family. If you institute a scorched-earth policy, they’ll simply become frustrated (cue door slamming here). Always remember the old quip: rules without relationship lead to rebellion.
Reward. Extremes beget extremes. We let our guard down during the summer, so we want to erect Fort Knox in the fall. Don’t stumble into the trap of iron-fisted limits and untenable rules just because you let things get away from you the past several months. In fact, build into your revitalized plan a robust reward system. Kids need something to look forward to; they can’t just be expected to hear “no” but not “yes.” Find exciting, refreshing, and healthy rewards to show them how much you appreciate them and how you understand that following the newly instituted school-year austerity measures must be hard.
Catch your kids following the limits and lavish them with kind words and care-laden attention.
Relax. You can’t undo an entire summer of steady gaming, surfing, and vegging overnight. It will take time. Don’t trash your plans because they get a little scuffed up here and there. Give yourself some breathing room, but don’t give up. Make sure that you are communicating with your kids about how the expectations and limits are working or not working. If you slip, start right back up. Don’t criticize the kids or wallow in your own self-doubt. Just keep plugging right along.
Okay, relax. Breathe. You can do this. The kids will rally in defense of their summer slump, but remain strong. The school year will be so much better with clear, loving, firm expectations. Just know that you’re raising wonderful kids who will look back on your loving limits someday and will come to realize that you weren’t dousing the flame of their summer fun, you were helping them conserve a little fuel for the huge accomplishments that lie ahead.