(Part one of a two-part series)
Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t rave to me or my husband, Tony, about how great our children turned out.
Honestly, I don’t think we can claim all the credit. First and foremost, they’re really great kids. In addition, I believe our faith has a lot to do with it.
With that said, I think Tony and I did a lot of things right. Because I believe wisdom hoarded is wisdom wasted, I’ll share a few tips this week and more next week.
Based on our parenting experience, I recommend setting limits on your kids’ daily screen time.
To ensure our kids had plenty of time to read books, create crafts and play outside, every day we limited each of them to two (30-minute) television shows, 60 minutes playing on the computer and one family-friendly movie.
Three-ish hours a day on screens may seem excessive, but according to cbsnews.com, “Kids and teens 8 to 18 spend an average of more than seven hours a day looking at screens.”
In my opinion, if you can keep your kids’ screen time under three hours a day, you’re winning.
I know I may get some pushback here, but we never had video games in our house: no Gameboys, Xboxes or PlayStations. Remarkably, it was never a huge issue. I don’t remember if we ever verbalized “the rule.” We simply did not provide the devices.
The kids were, however, allowed to play video games when at a friend’s house as long as the ratings were age-appropriate. In time, all three of our kids admitted they were glad we didn’t have video games. They saw how some friends became obsessed with gaming and were glad it didn’t happen to them.
The most prevalent device with a screen these days is a cell phone. I’m thankful our kids were all at least 13 when they got their first phone. We provided them once each child became involved in extracurricular activities and needed to coordinate transportation.
Our house rule was “no phone usage after 10 p.m.” Even so, there were a few occasions when we had to confiscate a glowing phone from a dark bedroom.
In addition to limiting screen time, we also established a few rules regarding family spending.
For starters, we tried not to use shopping as entertainment. When our daughter, Cody Brook, was in fifth grade, she asked if our family was poor. She thought that since many of her friends went to the mall every weekend and came home with a couple of new outfits.
I reminded her that we did other stuff for fun: hiking, biking, going to the movies.
To make sure gift-giving didn’t get out of hand, we established a few boundaries. Our per-person birthday budget was $100. A person could ask for a bunch of $5 and $10 items, or one $100 item. No one ever complained. In fact, the kids often researched prices and made out their wish-lists accordingly.
We also used the $100 rule at Christmas. This practice, along with me tucking at least $20 into a “Christmas Club” envelope every week, greatly decreased our post-holiday debt burden.
Our first trip to Disney prompted us to try a similar tactic. At the start of our vacation, each child received $50 to spend. On our first day in the park, Cody bought a character pin which she traded several times a day throughout our vacation. I’m pretty sure she came back with $43.
The other two kids eyeballed various toys all week, then made their final selections on our last day.
The easiest way to live with boundaries is to establish them early on. However, if you are already a number of years in to your parenting experience, consider calling a “family meeting” to discuss the areas you want to limit and why.