This post isn't meant to make anyone feel like a bad parent. Neither is it meant to shine a spotlight on me or make me look wiser than the rest of the world, because I couldn't be farther from that. Let me be clear that what I want this post to do is open eyes and hearts. I want it to set parents free. I want it to set kids free. I want it to make people think, take a step back, reevaluate. I wrote this post to share what we are doing that has brought incredible beauty into our children's lives.
Maybe this post won't do anything for you. Maybe it won't stir anything in you or it just won't resonate with you. That's okay. We only need to change what we feel convicted about by the gentle leading of the Spirit. But if, as you're reading this or when you reach the end, those self-shaming thoughts start to creep in, promise me something. Promise me you'll throw them away. You don't have to feel guilty, you don't have to feel like you're a bad mom, you just need to get up and do something, go be better than you were before you clicked this link.
"I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better." -Maya Angelou
My husband and I are young, twenty-eight to be exact, and we have four kids. We grew up in the 90's, so you may be wondering what I'm doing writing a post about raising kids like kids were raised in the 1970's. I guess I wouldn't know exactly what that would look like, but there's a point to the title I chose for this post. The point is that in the 1970's, kids were being raised to play, to get dirty outside, to entertain themselves, to use their imaginations. They weren't sitting on a bench at a park on an iPad, or looking up YouTube videos on a computer while the rest of the family eats. Sure, a 70's kid watched some TV, and of course there were some parents who let them watch as much as they'd like. But technology wasn't behind every single part of their day; technology wasn't the center of their world.
Technology hadn't taken over childhood yet. Now, it has.
That thing I said about kids at the park on their iPads? Really happened. I've seen moms at the park checking on their older kid because they're watching a movie on the car DVD player while their siblings play. I've seen epic meltdowns caused by a mom saying "give me my phone back". Vitamin D deficiencies are worse than ever. Everyone has one. Adults with vitamin D deficiencies I can understand- we work, we stay inside cooking and folding laundry... not everyone gets outside with their kids and plays- but children with vitamin D deficiencies hurts my heart. They're not even getting twenty minutes of sunshine a day?!
What is happening?
I feel like I could write a book on all that's wrong with the typical childhood of today, but I'll stop there and get to the point of this post.
Brian and I decided a long time ago that we weren't going to go with the flow when it comes to raising our kids. We decided we want to raise grateful, competent, confident, imaginative, healthy, creative human beings, and that allowing them to be technology-obsessed would be the enemy to our goals. Here's what we're doing:
We keep our kids' technology use at a minimum.
When I say minimum, I mean like, the bare minimum. We own a tablet, but I don't think our kids even know we have it. We have a television in our living room, but it's called a living room for a reason. We do life in that room, and the TV is on [maybe] a few times a week. On the days when motherhood has worn my patience down to nothing, and the baby is teething and dinner needs to be started, yes, I turn on Netflix. But TV in our house is not a daily thing for the kids, it isn't their favorite thing to do or even something they ask for often. It's just there for when we want to have a family movie night, I need a little help sneaking a shower in or getting dinner on the table.
It's an extra in our house, not the most-used item or main event.
Our kids spend 75-80% of their day outside.
We don't own land [yet] or have a huge backyard. Our backyard actually kinda sucks, to be frank. It's mostly dirt and weeds, but Brian built a play restaurant and there's a swing set and slide, and in the summer time we get a plastic pool. Our kids use their imaginations and will spend hours in the yard playing made-up games and acting out stories together. The weather doesn't phase us much, as we live in Southern California, but if it's cold, I bundle them up, if it's hot, they wear very little, and they are still told to "go play" and they do it.
We don't entertain our kids.
Brian and I don't cultivate a need to be entertained in our house. The kids are always playing together, and they figure it out themselves because we expect them to. We don't take them somewhere fun every day, we don't buy them lots of toys or games, we don't have friends over all the time. As a matter of fact, we've taken on a minimalist lifestyle and have gotten rid of nearly all their toys, keeping only constructive play items (blocks, wooden trains and tracks) and books. Kids are experts at imagination and play. If you give them items that don't require either of those things, you're not giving them a gift at all, but rather robbing them of something beautiful and fulfilling. You're also instilling a "gimme gimme" attitude in them and setting yourself up for some rough teenage years.
We give our kids responsibilities and expect them to follow through.
I believe that not requiring kids to help out around the house does damage. It makes them bad spouses, lazy coworkers, poor students, superficial human beings, and hollow additions to society. When I hear things like "I want their childhood to be fun, so I don't make them do chores" I want to scream! Our children are given to us by God so that we can raise them up in the way they should go, and train them to be good people with strong work ethics, humble attitudes, and servant hearts. That won't happen without work. Our kids have to pick up after themselves, take care of the pets, make their beds, set and clear the table after meals, use their manners, and help with cooking and laundry among other things, and they're required to do it on their own. Obviously, that takes teaching and guiding them into those habits, which we happily do for them.
We are role models for our kids.
The saying goes "Do as I say, not as I do", but we all know that doesn't really work with raising kids! Brian and I want our kids to see us living out what we're teaching them, and that is so hard sometimes! When it comes to technology, it's way too easy to get sucked in, especially when Brian's job is all about technology and I'm a blogger with a love for social media. We have to have boundaries, or we'll just be hypocrites, and our kids will see that. During the week, when Brian is working and I'm at home with the kids, I have my phone time in the morning. I drink my coffee and talk to my friends about their days and check my email, then I put my phone down.
For the rest of the day, I only answer my texts if I've got a free second- waiting for water to boil, before I start folding a load of laundry, using the restroom- or if Brian's personal text message sound goes off. I have my off days, but for the most part I really try to abide by this. People don't need to be able to get a hold of me at the drop of a hat, whenever and wherever, despite what's going on in my day. I make it a point to look up and answer if one of my kid's needs me while I'm on my phone. I want them to know that technology is great, but it doesn't deserve a spot at the top of our priority lists. I spend about 40-50% of my day playing with my kids. I have set times for writing. I love Instagram, but I have set times for that too, and I pre-schedule my Facebook page's posts more often than not in order to avoid constantly being on my phone or laptop.
We fill our weekends with quality time and adventures, not TV.
Brian is off Sundays and Mondays, with one work-free Saturday per month [which gives us the gift of a three-day weekend every four weeks]. Since his days at work are much longer than most people's, we make sure our weekends are awesome. This is usually when we get out and do fun day trips and things like that. We are together, we're a family, and we are making memories. Sometimes this looks like hanging around the house resting, because our week was particularly exhausting. Sometimes it looks like a train trip to the beach or a long drive just to try a world-famous cupcake. The point is, technology is left behind and we are spending quality time together, talking, laughing, sharing stories, each of us 100% focused on each other, living in the moment.
Brian says that technology should be treated like sugar- it's a nice treat and fine in moderation, but that's it. I wholeheartedly agree.
Are you overwhelmed? Inspired? Disagreeing with me? Have a question?
Tell me in the comments.