Is This the End of Proper Parenting?
Parenting is a HARD job. One could argue that it’s the toughest job. The scope of work is ever-changing, the reward is invisible, and the demand for your attention is ever-present. Each generation of parents marches forward into uncharted territory. They armor up, grab their best-known parenting approach, and head into the unknown. Often, as new obstacles arrive, old parenting tactics go stale and parents are left scrambling. Our most dangerous and difficult obstacle today? The battle over technology.
Parents vs. Screens
Parents are losing the war with screens, and feel powerless over endless watching, swiping, and scrolling. This has been made worse by shelter-at-home orders, cancelled summer camps, and suspended activities. According to UNICEF, 90 percent of the world’s education population is out of school, meaning that more kids are sitting in front of screens. And no, not with educational content and history lesson, but with uninterrupted all-day gaming and Netflix binges.
The ugly truth is that technology has given parents an escape. It’s the modern-day “super” pacifier for kids who are no longer teething. When we don’t feel like dealing with a nagging kid, we stick an iPad in their face or hand over our phone. Unfortunately, the stress of COVID has left parents more exhausted than normal to argue with the whining kid. So, they hand over the screen and whisper under their breath. Fine, just take it.
This is not the answer, and it's far from a healthy solution. Consider this: Kids ages 8 to 18 spend an average of 7 hours per day on screens. That is more than half of their waking hours. What are we doing?!
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Since the kids and I have been home for 80+ days we’ve taken advantage of this opportunity for 3 a day workouts. They push back and of course don’t want to do it but I’ve heard my 14 year old say how he’s noticed improvements in his athletic performance. The kids are starting to buy in. When you stick to something long enough and notice the results, it’s that feeling that becomes addicting. That’s what I’m going for. Plus my kids get to torment me too from time to time.
Setting Clear Boundaries
Now, more than ever, we must be clear on our values around screens and set the rules accordingly. Technology is here to stay and, more than likely, it’s only going to get worse, as software engineers get more and more savvy with addictive tactics. If our goal is to raise healthy, dependent, resilient kids, we must do better. And, perhaps most importantly, WE MUST BE THE BOSS.
It’s an easy excuse to blame the tech industry and offload responsibility onto the big wigs in the app boardrooms. But the team behind Instagram isn’t sitting at home with your kids. YOU ARE. And I get it: Life is hard, and so is this job. But we didn’t opt into parenthood so our life could be easier. We opted in because we believed that we could contribute to the world by raising resilient and badass kids. So let’s do more of that and less of this.
We’re supposed to parent and guide our kids to make productive decisions and operate with intention. We must approach this war with technology with a greater stronghold. It is essential that we PARENT UP — set the rules, guidelines, and boundaries around technology to ensure that we don’t continue down this path of parental collapse.
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Dr. Leonard Sax, the author of The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups, believes that the parental collapse is at least partly to blame for kids becoming “overweight, overmedicated, anxious, and disrespectful of themselves and those around them.” Unacceptable.
Listen, we're not a screen-free house. But, if my kids want to watch Netflix, they have to earn it by either practicing math, speaking Mandarin, or doing something physical. Screen time is not a God-given right; it is something that they must work for, by first demonstrating that they have an investment in other things that contribute to their well-being.
Maybe we have to go BACK some centuries and learn from those before us. In ancient times, every culture had a rite of passage. In Mongolia, the Khan's warriors prepared as young boys and girls. They participated in horse racing, wrestling, and archery. All could shoot accurately while riding horses at high speed, and all could handle weapons. When they were adults they were resilient, independent, and had purpose. Sounds like my kind of approach.
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Parenting in a COVID World
In a COVID world, parents have to step up. We need to instill strong work ethic, resilience, and commitment within our children through action and discipline. We do this by teaching our kids to look UP at life, not look DOWN at screens. Through setting strong ground rules and teaching them limits and hard work, we get them prepared for the tough stuff. Be the boss. Set the guidelines. Be consistent. And don’t waver in your commitment to their well-being. They will be better for it, and the war on technology doesn’t stand a chance against Spartan grit.
Will you step up? It's going to be exhausting ... but well worth it. If you have any questions on parenting, text me at 917-924-3002.