I can remember becoming a brand new mom, and naively thinking “my child will never become so attached to electronics!”
I was judgmental when I saw other kids playing iPads and video games.
I was convinced I would give my children strict electronic times and limits.
When Judah was born, I’m pretty sure he came out of the womb button happy.
Like myself, he loved electronics from a very young age.
When he was not quite two years old, he was teaching my mother how to use her own iPhone.
And so it began…
Fastforward almost 6 years, and I have found myself wishing electronics never entered our home.
All day long, it consumes their brains.
“Can I have my iPad? Can I play on the computer? Can we watch a movie?”
I was so tired of saying “no” all. day. long.
I wanted electronics to be for the times when they were needed.
On a long car ride.
When I’m in the shower.
In the lobby of the doctor’s office.
Not at 9 am just because. and 11 am. and 2 pm. and 4 pm. and 7 pm…
So this week, I came up with a solution.
Quite possibly the most genius solution I’ve ever had.
(I saw something similar to this over the summer on a blog, and I wanted to link it here, but I can’t for the life of me find it. So, if this sounds familiar and you know where you saw it, please let me know so I can give due credit.)
I sat down and came up with all of the things that were important, in my opinion, for Judah to accomplish daily.
Here is what I came up with:
- playing with toys – using his imagination and playing with his brother
- using the creative side of his brain
- being helpful around the house
And then I decided how much time I wanted these things to take. So I made this list for Judah.
I sat down with Judah, explained my concerns about how much electronic time he was having, and why it isn’t good for his brain. He agreed that he didn’t want to turn his brain to mush either. phew!
We also came up with a list of about 15 or 20 options for ‘creative work’. Things like:
- play dough
- listening to music
- playing piano
- making a collage
and many more…
Then we shook hands and he agreed to the terms of our new rules:
Complete this list every day, and you can have unlimited game time for the rest of the day!
I also told him that he was in charge of himself. He can choose when he does each task. He is welcome to take breaks whenever he chooses. He gets to be completely independent with this list!
Lastly, I told him the only thing that had to happen each day was school work. Everything else was optional.
He was ecstatic! He couldn’t wait to go to sleep that night so that he could have unlimited game time the following day!
The next morning Judah got up and immediately told me he wanted to read.
“I’ll do 10 minutes right now, and then come back to my book later for another 10 minutes”.
“Sure buddy. Sounds great!”
After he read, we ate breakfast.
“I’m going to do something creative now”.
“Awesome! Have fun!”
He chose to listen to music. He went in his room and turned on a new CD we purchased recently. After a few minutes, I heard him singing loudly. Dex proceeded to join him. They turned up the music, danced around the room, giggled wildly and emerged 50 minutes later.
“Am I done with my creative time, mom?”
“I don’t know bud. Are you done?”
“Um…maybe for now. I’m gonna go downstairs and do some play dough”
“oh…more creative time?”
“No…I’m just going to take a break and play with some play dough”.
Any other day, this would have been when he would have asked for some sort of electronics as a ‘break’. But he knew it wasn’t a choice.
An hour and a half later, he came up, asking for a snack. While eating his snack, he says,
“Mom, I don’t really want to do my chores”.
“No problem, bud”, I reply, “you don’t have to”
“But…I really want to play my iPad…”
he looks confused…
“Ooooh”, I say, shaking my head, “then you do have to do your chores”, I reply, with sympathy in my voice.
After lunch and school work, Judah invited Dex to go downstairs and do their non-electronic toy time. They played, uninterrupted, with no fighting, for two hours. That has never happened!
With very little griping, Judah’s list was complete by 4:00.
He spent about 30 minutes in his room playing his iPad and then we got ready for Soccer.
After soccer it was dinner time, bath time and he chose to watch 30 minutes of a show on the couch.
When I tucked Judah into bed, he said “Mom! I didn’t really have a lot of time to play my game today!”
“Yes, but did you have a good day?”, I asked.
“Yes! Dex and I built this awesome house with Lego’s and we made some people out of play dough to go with it. And I read some of my book about Spiders to dad! And I really liked that math we did in school today”.
“Well, then it sounds like a successful day, buddy”.
Since starting this new schedule, Judah’s play time and creative time has always, voluntarily, gone way over the 30 minute requirement.
He has had game time in the late afternoons while I’m cooking dinner, or cleaning up from the day.
He has had a sense of accomplishment and independence without me telling him all day what to do or when to do it.
And never once have I heard “can I play my iPad?”