If you’re new to this blog in the last day or two, you might want to start with the first installment of this 3-part series of posts. I started with The Media Dilemma, then followed that with media in the home being a Work in Progress for us.
I ended the last media-related post mentioning that Hubs and I had an eye-opening, or rather brain-opening evening hearing from Kim John Payne. I have not read Simplicity Parenting…yet. However, I have spent several years around a few parents who have either read the book or others like it and who are far more “unplugged” than even we are at this stage. The children from these families do not see screens in the home, at all. No computer access, no TV access, no phones or tablets for them to play on.
None of that really had a huge impact on me because parenting is a lot of “to each his own” unless you plan to “follow” a friend’s lead on every single decision. I admired them for their tenacity in keeping up the commitment, but that was about it.
Once I became more aware of what Sensory Processing Disorder really is and how my child struggles with it at some level is when I felt I should begin to think about that type of “home life” a little more seriously. I certainly could argue that screens, most especially the television screen, should be limited to young children if for no other reason than the commercials and the content of the various shows. Most of my mom-friends were in agreement about which cartoons were off-limits, for example.
To be honest, had I attended the Simplicity Parenting lecture and had my second child as my only child, I really don’t know that I would have been so quick to implement the suggestions that were given. As I’ve mentioned, L does not seem persuaded by the screens to the level that D does and he is a far more active child by nature than D. I don’t think the struggle with the TV would be as prominent if L was an only child.
However, that is not the case. We have two children, one of whom is very impacted by screens in the home. Hubs and I could not ignore the potential hazard this could wreak on his mental health and his behavior in general if we did not take some serious steps at controlling the screen access.
So for us, it all literally changed overnight. The new plan:
Zero TV screen time during the school week. If Friday is a “good” day at school and there were no behavioral problems at home, then D is allowed 1 show after his rest time on Friday afternoons. He also gets 1 show on Saturday mornings. That’s it. Yes, there are moments for him to “watch” TV if Hubs needs to check a sports game at some point, but sports really doesn’t draw his attention (yet) so, we aren’t worried about that. Plus, we are making changes that will allow Hubs to view his sports in a separate room to allow for the TV in the living room to only be used for D’s shows on the weekend.
Other changes we made:
- Our home computer is turned off most of the day. We had already invested in an armoire that allows for us to keep the computer behind closed doors, so now, they just stay closed most of the day! If the computer is on, it’s only to allow me to play books on CD or music for the boys. I keep tabs with what I need on email and such with my laptop elsewhere in the home.
- I did my best to remove half the toys from the home and half the amount of books. We were already a family that tried to keep things to a minimum in that regards, both for the sake of how small our home is as well as the “un”-necessity that tons of toys are for kids. Yet when the speaker mentioned books…that one struck me. His whole point was not the books themselves but the amount that bombards the child on a regular basis that can become negative. I won’t go into detail about it here, but it did make sense to us. Some items were donated and others – especially the books – are kept in bins in the garage to be cycled out with the books I left on the bookshelves.
- We started spending a lot more time outdoors. We already did our fair share of outdoor time, but now it’s been a lot more intentional and a lot more focused on play and activities that help with D’s sensory integration needs. It helps that I’m learning new games and such that he enjoys while he’s at school. I’m also finding the book The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun to be helpful with ideas as well. And really, the activities in the book are things any child would enjoy doing!
The “big picture” or goal that we are shooting for is to simplify, believing that by simplifying the amount of influence in our home life will result in a calmer, more productive, more intentional, more creative, more authentic life as a family.
We began these latest changes on September 20th. That was 3 weeks ago and let me tell you a few of the things I’ve taken notice of since then:
- The boys do not miss their toys or their books. I have yet to hear from either child where a certain toy or book is. Not even a curious look at each other. They didn’t even notice it!
- The boys actually do play a lot more together. This is something I expected to happen in time but certainly not within the first week. And yet, it really has become a lot more about creative play and less about quarreling over a particular toy. I do make an effort to find “new” puzzles for them or activities to do together, but other times they very much devise their own creative play. Like pumpkin coins; they each have a plastic pumpkin to gather their Halloween candy with and they found a a jar of coins. They thoroughly enjoy dumping out the coins, dropping them into their pumpkins, dumping them out, looking at the various coins…I’m not even kidding you. Come on. Pumpkin coins!
- D does not ask for the TV, much. This was the one thing I thought would drive me over the edge to turning the TV back on and letting him be a couch potato: the whining. I told him our new house rules about the TV and the computer. That first week he asked for it a few times, but not every day. The second week he asked when it would be Friday, knowing he could watch his shows. The third week he asked once about it. Last Saturday he did not ask for a show AT ALL. It was after his rest time and I needed to get some grocery shopping done and L was still napping. I offered him a show and of course, he took it, but I mentioned it first. He did not ask for it at all that day!
- My productivity has improved. I have a lot going on right now. Too much, actually, but I’ve made some commitments and I’m sticking to them. Because I have various commitments that means I really need to stay on task in the evenings if I don’t want to be spending my weekends holed up in my bedroom to get my work done. It used to be that I would try and get things done during the day. I really feared that having the home computer off would really bind me up even more. However, I’m finding that I get a lot more done with the TV off and it’s a more focused time in the evenings because I have had more ability to focus on my children during their awake hours. This is a benefit I did not expect at all!
- Hubs and I get more quality play time with the boys, both individually and together. Instead of sitting in front of the computer playing games or watching Youtube clips of Thundercats, the boys are outside with their dad as he plays “baseball” with them, “stop thief”, hide-and-seek, and other fun games that get them all tired out. After rest time in the afternoons I’m outside with them kicking the soccer ball around, doing yardwork together, or taking a walk while they ride their bikes.
I realize the bad weather season is approaching us, which means more “forced” indoor time. I realize that there will be an entire 3 months of no school during the summer which means ALL DAY with both of them. I realize there will be sick days ahead (for me, not them).
I guess I’ll have to dig down deep and get more creative on those days. Either way, I’m not making any plans to turn the screens on in our home more than they already are anytime soon.
And thankfully, I think that will be just fine for everyone that lives here.