I have had multiple conversations with my fellow parenting friends over the years about how to maintain balance with our kids’ screen usage. My wiring has a difficult time micromanaging (especially four kids) with timers, charts, daily check-ins, etc. It’s very difficult for my personality to do the same thing every day – except breathe and that’s involuntary. I’m more of an “ideas” gal, so I came up with a little saying that I’ve generally stuck to. In the spirit of raising balanced humans, I typed, printed, and hung a little diddy that says:
“Read, work, and clean before you play or screen.”
Yes, I did just make “screen” a verb and the idea has evolved a bit since then.
Before we turned on the Olympics tonight (because we’ve been watching it for hours almost every night!), the kids had to read a (good) book and tell me something interesting that they learned, write a prayer for our Lenten Prayer jar, and clean up the areas that they had messed up during the day. Nothing like a screen to motivate you to do normal things!
And these ideas have evolved into a philosophical conversation with my teenager (and now the younger kiddos) about BALANCE.
As a people, we have never CONSUMEd more than we do now. And the quality, significance, and morality of the music, videos, books, etc. that we are swallowing whole are often mediocre at best. It is incredibly easy, there is a glut of content at our fingertips, and our stressful lives practically demand that we “unwind” and “escape” the moment we have a moment. But I am trying to teach my kids (and live out myself) a better life balance.
So before my kids go on their screens, I want to encourage them to CREATE – to draw, write, make, build, color and so on. God is an amazing creator and because we are made in His image, we are creators too. I don’t want that base desire of consumption to usurp the important and enriching activity of producing something good and beautiful.
I also want to make sure that my children CONTRIBUTE. Being hard workers has become one of my highest values for my offspring. They often treat the requirement of household chores as if I am torturing them, but I promise you, they will make it. And becoming hard working contributors will put them in an unfortunately small minority of this generation whose eyes aren’t mostly on themselves. I am training them to generously contribute to our household, community, world and Kingdom of God.
Finally, I want them to CARE – for themselves and others. Self-care is a relatively new term and our children need to grow up practicing spiritual devotion, exercise, being in creation, rest, and more. And they need to care for others through service, kindness, encouragement, and gratitude. This alone could keep you off of screens for a full day or more!
Our children have many interests, but they could easily be stunted by relegating the majority of their passions’ development through screens. I challenge our kids to experience the things they are drawn to in ways other than consumption, to develop new interests that don’t involve screens, and figure out how to make choices toward better balance in their lives. Hopefully, engaging them in this important discussion and giving them the opportunity to give input will make it easier. I believe our future depends upon this important balance. May God help us to lead our children well and for them to grow in maturity, selflessness and truth.
How do you and/or your children wisely use screens?
I love that it’s not just a list of “things to do” before you get to do screens, but rather the way to become a whole a healthy person with a world view that reflects the heart of Jesus. So well articulated!
Thank you, Jane! I’m not naturally good at micromanaging to-do activities, and I want to teach my kids to think and live well, not just “do” well. My guess is that you have a lot of ways that you have raised your boys to become whole and healthy people too!