The advice and guidance about how to handle tech limits with kids is incredibly helpful, and my husband and I work hard to adopt the best practices. We use contracts, time limits, periodically monitor texts, follow our kids on social media, etc. I’m on board. It’s just that it makes my head spin! I swing from wanting to let my children stare at their iPads all day, to wanting to smash them into tiny bits in front of their eyes! It’s exhausting. Sometimes I find myself locking all of the devices into a safe and shouting, “why is this so hard?”
Recently, though, I read The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson and was practicing ways to help the kids engage with their upstairs brains. Of course, it created a chance for me to reconnect to what keeps my boat from being tossed from shore to shore—the traits I want my children to have as adults (aka, my long-term parenting goals.) So, during our latest tech challenge, I got mindful of my instinct to smash stuff and replaced it with a focus on a few traits I wanted to grow in my children. And that helped me demonstrate them myself! Simple? Yes. Easy? No. And practice makes progress.
Trait #1: Integrity
We found our 13-year-old texting with his smartphone in bed at 10:30 PM, which was in violation of our contract. This was the fourth time in about as many months, on a school night, and he lied. I was angry, so I walked away. The tape in my head was going…“tell him whose boss.” And then self-doubt, “maybe the contract’s unfair?” No. I didn’t have to listen to the tape. There was a reason for our contract, and though adjustment might be needed, this wasn’t the time. What did I want to teach? Integrity. A limit that’s worth setting is worth upholding.
Trait #2: Courage
My husband and I were clear on a direction. All that was left to do was tell our son. That’s when I shrank. I felt a pit in my stomach. I was afraid—of my son’s reaction, of being the “bad guy,” of being wrong!
When I was a teen, my dad cancelled MTV the day he saw Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ video. Would I have turned out ok if he hadn’t? Sure. There’s no such thing as perfect, only what helps to align us with our values (I forgive you, Dad). I’ve been told that bravery is doing something without fear and courage is being afraid and doing it, anyway. I summoned the courage to be imperfect.
Trait #3: Faith
Yes, I was discouraged. After what felt like the hundredth time, we still got pushback. What did I expect? I guess I wanted our efforts to result in content and compliant children. Seriously? It’s their job to push back. How many times did we move this kid’s hand away from the VCR eleven years ago? Close to a hundred… And he learned. Yes, we needed to uphold the limit again, and that didn’t mean it would never work. Faith kept me gently and firmly moving his little hand…
BTW, our solution was to give our son an old flip phone until Thanksgiving. It’s working, for the moment. Upholding these limits might never be easy. What I’m appreciating, though, is that when I choose to step back and use my parenting goals as my compass, I stop rocking my own boat and uphold whatever limits we’ve set with more respect, acceptance, and love.
Cover image courtesy of Flickr.