Parenting with abundance vs. scarcity

Published by Lori Pickert on May 18, 2013 at 07:42 AM

This week I shared how we use generous limits as a way of dealing with screen time and how that approach reflects an abundance vs. scarcity mindset.

When I owned a small Reggio-inspired school and worked as an educational consultant, I often ran into this type of problem, where emotions are high and adults and children are in opposition. No one is happy and the overarching goals are not being met.

Scarcity situation:

- Conflict arises because of a scarcity situation (or a perceived scarcity situation).

- There is intense focus around the item or experience that is felt to be scarce.

- The adult is frustrated by the child’s intense focus.

- The adult wants to “teach a lesson” through scarcity.

- Much time is spent arguing, bargaining, and complaining (the ABCs of scarcity).

Scarcity issues typically arise directly from how the adult has organized the situation. Once conflict occurs, the adult usually maintains the scarcity for a reason: because they want to teach a lesson.

Here’s a reenactment of a mentoring session I did with a preschool whose teachers had visited us. All names and details have been changed.

Sunnyside: We want our kids to be working on projects and collaborating like yours do, but all they do is fight all morning.

Me: What are they fighting about?

Sunnyside: Well, there are a lot of boys in this class and only four kids can use the block center at a time. They fight constantly about who is in the block center, whose turn it is, how long they’ve been in there, and so on. Then, even when they’re in the block center, we have two wooden trucks and they fight over who gets to use those.

Even the girls who weren’t even interested in blocks are demanding to play in the block center and demanding their turn with the trucks, just because they see the boys fighting about it. All we do all morning is referee arguments. No one is working on any projects. All they do is fight about this.

Me: What have you tried so far?

Sunnyside: We want the kids to use all the centers instead of just staying in one place all morning, so every half-hour we have them move from one center to the next one. And we have an egg timer to keep track of whose turn it is with the wooden trucks, but we get busy and sometimes we forget to check it, then they fight even more.

Me: Okay, you need to do two things.

Sunnyside: Tell us!

Me: You need to drop the limit on how many kids can be in the block center and you need to buy more wooden trucks.

Sunnyside: What?! But they won’t all fit into the block center! And giving them what they want seems totally wrong — shouldn’t they be learning how to share?

Me: Just try it, then get back to me in a week.

So here’s what happened:

- When the strict limits were taken away, all the kids did try to crush into the block center at once. There was a lingering residue of “the block center is the desired place to be.” Sixteen kids pressed around one small table and a limited number of blocks didn’t work, and the kids figured that out on their own. It was boring to stand in a crowd with hardly any blocks to play with, so after awhile, some of the kids wandered away. The ones who stayed began to negotiate how they would share the blocks.

- When the new wooden trucks arrived, the kids ceased arguing about them and started playing with them.

A week later:

Me: How’s it going?

Sunnyside: Much better. But we still have more kids who want to play in the block area than the block area will accommodate. They are crushed in there together and they’re doing pretty well, but there isn’t enough room.

Me: Make the block area bigger.

Sunnyside: Wha— [sigh] Okay.

When you have a scarcity situation, the first thing to look at is:

What am I trying to accomplish by using scarcity?

These teachers had good goals for their students:

- They wanted them to use the whole classroom and not just one center.

- They wanted them to collaborate and not argue all the time.

- They wanted them to work on long-term projects.

But their choices had made the exact opposite happen.

Instead of valuing all the areas of the classroom (art studio, library, science area, etc.), the kids were all hyper-focused on what they couldn’t have: the block center.

Instead of collaborating, they were arguing and bargaining and complaining all morning.

Instead of working on long-term projects, they were being rotated through the centers, so that even if they were involved in what they were doing, they were interrupted to move on in the name of variety. Whatever a child was building in the block area, someone else knocked down a half-hour later. Whatever a child was painting in the art studio, he had to drop it and leave — so why ever start anything complex or ambitious? Whatever book two children were looking at together, they had to put back on the shelf and move on — so no deep interests ever sparked.

The teachers were accidentally training the kids NOT to focus, NOT to invest in big ideas, and NOT to work on long-term projects. They were accidentally training them to have the opposite traits than they wanted: developing short attention spans, seeing each other as competitors rather than collaborators, and so on.

The work of figuring out how to share can’t start until children are given the responsibility and freedom to do that work. When you create a scarcity situation, you aren’t teaching them how to share, you’re teaching them how to compete hard for what’s rightfully theirs. When they are given the tools, the opportunity, and the support, they can begin to build those character traits and habits of mind you want for them.

The work of figuring out how to self-regulate can’t happen until children have enough elbow room to make some of their own choices. You aren’t teaching kids how to restrict their own screen time when you restrict it for them. There is literally not enough white space for them to give them any control or decision-making, so they aren’t building any skills. They’re just reacting emotionally to a situation that you control. How can they learn to make good choices if they don’t get the opportunity to make bad ones?

With generous limits, children find that they have to make decisions — Do I finish drawing this comic, or play Minecraft? Now they’re beginning to make choices and deal with consequences. They may make what you think are wrong choices, but mistakes are the pathway to understanding and eventual success. If they don’t have room to make mistakes, they don’t have room to learn.

Let’s check in with Sunnyside one more time:

We doubled the size of the block area and suddenly the boys started working together on a large construction. It was like magic. They started building a city, and they used all the trucks to build a garage. Once their project got going, the girls became interested and began to make suggestions and work on it as well. They are making signs in the writing center and they are using the art studio to make people and animals. Some girls are painting a backdrop for the wall; they all sat down together and talked about what it should include. They are even using the materials in the science center to make trees and bushes. We’ve put books about cities and garages in the library and they are using them for reference.

We finally have a project going, and the kids are doing the work we wanted them to do instead of fighting all the time. And we are helping them work on their ideas instead of being referees. It is wonderful. Thank you.

By the way, we had to throw away another rule. Before, they had to clean up the block area at the end of the day. The day we took that rule away, they started to build their city.

As a parent, you need to think about what you really want. Then you need to look at your choices and see if they are getting you the results you wanted or if they’re getting you something else entirely.

What parents want when they set strict screen limits (or strict limits on comic books or anything else) is for their kids to play outside, read, build things, develop intellectual hobbies, play, enjoy their family, collaborate, do more worthy activities. They want screens to be a small part of the children’s lives.

What they get is often a child who is hyper-focused on the exact thing they wanted to be least important. Suddenly the limited thing looms large and taints every other hour of the day. It’s all the kids talk about and all they think about. Arguing, bargaining, and complaining ensue.

When you employ generous limits (focusing on abundance — there is enough time for everything), focus can shift away from arguing and bargaining to what the child wants to accomplish. The focus can leave the screens. There’s no need to argue and fight, because there is enough time.

Note: “Generous limits” does not mean “no limits.” Generous limits take the pressure off and eliminate anxiety and bargaining. No limits can actually increase arguing, bargaining, and anxiety because every single thing you want to do during the day is opposed to screen time. Do you want to go to the park? No, it’s park vs. screens and screens win. Do you want to make a cardboard robot? No, it’s robot vs. screens and screens win. No limits can actually be a more fraught situation. Generous limits make time in the day for everything: outdoor play, art studio, library, reading aloud, cooking together, playing, etc. These things are not directly opposed to screens; screens have their own generous part of the day. And generous limits mean that even during the time when screens are allowed as a choice, there is enough time to choose other things as well. Note: choose other things, not have them chosen for you.

Now, I’m anticipating that someone will say, “Oh, you’re just giving in to the kids! You’re giving them what they want!”

If you are arguing with your child for no reason other than to control what they do, does that really fit with your overarching values and goals? If you get stuck in an oppositional pattern, are you helping them learn how to articulate their goals, negotiate fairly, collaborate as a team, and make their own decisions?

When you approach a situation with the mindset that there has to be a winner and a loser and as the parent you should always win, you are going to experience a lot of conflict and a lot of unhappiness. You are creating scarcity: scarcity of power, scarcity of freedom, scarcity of autonomy, scarcity of choice. You are putting your attention and your whole family’s focus on something unpleasant.

If you approach a situation with the mindset that you want to live your values, focus on your priorities, and consider your child’s goals along with your own, you can find solutions that are win-win. But you have to be willing to experiment, gather data, and revise. You have to be willing to examine your own prejudices. You have to be willing to let your child have both freedom and responsibility. They go hand in hand.

Flip to an abundancy model and flood your life with your priorities, your values, and your goals. Make room for your children to stop thinking about the rules and infrastructure and start creating, building, thinking, playing, making, and doing. Envision a life where everyone in the family gets to have their own interests, their own meaningful work, and each other’s support.

What is the end goal of extremely limiting a child’s screen time? Presumably it’s a young adult who knows how to live a balanced life, who has various interests, and who isn’t addicted to screens. What is the outcome of extremely limiting a child’s screen time? Sometimes it’s a child who is absolutely riveted on what they can’t have, who can’t enjoy their screen time because they’re tense and watching the clock and who can’t enjoy their non-screen time because they wish they could play Minecraft instead. When they’re a young adult, what’s going to happen? When they finally get freedom and control, what are they likely to do with it?

Employing generous limits helps a child live a balanced life now, a life that is much closer to how they might live as adults. (My sixteen-year-old son pointed this out to me — credit to him.) Employing generous limits allows a child to begin learning today how to make good choices, how to manage his own time, and how to prioritize his goals. If he falters, you are there to help him get back on the rails. If he makes poor choices and suffers for it, you’re there to help him figure out how to fix it.

Whatever it is that you are tightly controlling, it’s an emotionally loaded issue for you, and you may be making it an emotionally loaded issue for your child. Wherever you are causing scarcity, you are probably feeling scarcity. You feel your child’s outdoor time, project time, or reading time is scarce, so you clamp down on screens. Instead of dealing with a feeling of lack by tightly controlling something else, try abundance instead. Fill that lack with all the things you’re missing. Consider that the situation is not oppositional after all, and there is room for all the good things.

A day holds much more time and potential than you might think. But you have to hold it gently.

There really is enough time. Focus your attention on what you want to grow. Focusing it on the thing you don’t like is not going to get you what you want. Forget about that, take some deep breaths, and then focus on what you want to see more of. Let it bask in your attention and love. Try it, and see what happens.

See also:

Why I Don’t Worry About My Kids’ Screen Time, Part 1

Why I Don’t Worry About My Kids’ Screen Time, Part 2

The Sliver, or How to stop fighting about screen time

 

Parenting with abundance and simplicity

 

Abundance and sharing: How children learn to be generous

 

 

33 comments

Comment by dawn on May 18, 2013 at 10:21 AM

yes. oh, YES!

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 18, 2013 at 10:43 AM

:o)

Comment by Louise G on May 18, 2013 at 11:29 AM

I am really loving your posts and they're just what I need to be reading now that we're on the cusp of deciding to take out eldest out of school to homeschool (unschool). I found you and your blog as you contacted a group I belong to who are attempting to establish a Reggio inspired primary school here in the UK. But as a spin off I am also planning to homeschool from September so your blog is a double whammy for me. I will definitely be ordering your book from Amazon. My son is a very visual, right brained learner who is getting nothing close to what he needs from school. He is hooked on playing playstation and I have real concerns about this taking over when we unschool but having read your posts on this, I am feeling far more confident in striking a balance. He's just been gaming for 2 hours and I could feel myself twitching as usually I set a timer for 1 hour. But I didn't today and after 2 hours, I casually suggested it might be time to play with his brother and instead of the usual arguing they are now constructing an awesome imaginary game outside in the garden, very willingly! Thank you so much x

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 18, 2013 at 12:35 PM

 

wonderful, louise. :)

consider joining the forum! i look forward to talking with you more as your adventure continues. :)

Comment by Heather on May 18, 2013 at 02:02 PM

I love what you say about oppositional patterns. My kids like to blow bubbles in their drinks with their straws. This used to drive me bonkers and I would make them stop. Then I remembered that as a kid, I was never allowed to do this, and I remember thinking (as a kid) "What's the big deal?" and feeling that it was a totally arbitrary rule. Why the hell was I reinforcing a rule I hated as a child? The rule at our house now is that you can blow all the bubbles you want, but you have to attempt to keep the liquid in the cup. They blow bubbles a lot less now - (grin).
I want to talk more about screen time, though. For me, with a 2 and 4 year old, the issue is not so much that I am worried that they will spend all their time doing screens if I let them (which they might, I never really gave it much thought) but that there is reams and reams of research that says screens are not healthy or developmentally appropriate. The research is solid, and comes from all perspectives and disciplines - there are just so many ways in which screen time is detrimental. In our family, we strictly limit and supervise screen time, just as I would strictly limit and supervise playing in the street with cars - because they are both a threat to health. An exaggerated example I know, but pretending that screen time (at least at young ages) is healthy or beneficial does us no good. I'm interested to hear more of your thoughts on this.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 18, 2013 at 02:36 PM

 

arbitrary rules are so .. arbitrary. :) now that i’m a grown-up and i get to make the rules, no one has to make their bed and you can read at the table during meals. ;o)

I want to talk more about screen time, though. For me, with a 2 and 4 year old, the issue is not so much that I am worried that they will spend all their time doing screens if I let them (which they might, I never really gave it much thought) but that there is reams and reams of research that says screens are not healthy or developmentally appropriate. The research is solid, and comes from all perspectives and disciplines - there are just so many ways in which screen time is detrimental. In our family, we strictly limit and supervise screen time, just as I would strictly limit and supervise playing in the street with cars - because they are both a threat to health. An exaggerated example I know, but pretending that screen time (at least at young ages) is healthy or beneficial does us no good. I'm interested to hear more of your thoughts on this.

i think you should do what YOU think is right, and you should immerse yourself in the literature and make the decision you feel good about as a family.

for us, when our children were small we just filled our day with other things. when they got older, we didn’t demonize tech (we were highly unlikely to — my husband is a software engineer ;o) and it was just another entertainment choice. we are all voracious readers, but we watch movies and TV together (and, now that the boys are older, separately), too.

and we didn’t only use screens for entertainment; they were an important part of our learning lives, too. the kids watched documentaries, films, and tutorials; they created blogs, books, stop-motion films. they shared their photographs on flickr; they e-mailed experts and asked project-related questions.

basically, we folded technology into our children’s lives the same way we folded it into our own. having a full and balanced (and laid-back) life is a very important value for us. we wouldn’t give up the outdoors and we wouldn’t give up technology. you’d pry my books and my laptop from my cold, dead hands. ;o) 

for a different perspective on the health and development aspects of screen time, you might check out these links:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201201/the-many-benefi...

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/04/the-touch-screen-gen...

our sons are teens now and we are very happy with how technology fits into their lives. more importantly, they are, too. :)

Comment by Sarah on May 18, 2013 at 06:22 PM

This. This is what I needed to read. Time to rethink about what I actually want for my kids and examine if my decisions match this. I bet I can find areas where I think I am being open to abundance, but I'm not really.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 18, 2013 at 06:54 PM

excellent. i’m glad you joined the forum so i can keep up with how it’s going! :)

I bet I can find areas where I think I am being open to abundance, but I'm not really.

i bet all of us could find areas like that!

Comment by amy21 on May 18, 2013 at 07:14 PM

I have a kid who has fallen apart at even the *idea* of watching TV. So yes, he rarely gets screen time. But when he does I don't set a timer or anything like that. I'm just really, really careful. And he generally doesn't beg for it either... I don't know, it's a fine line and I walk it in the way that feels most right for right now. His maturity level is still below his age in years, but as it catches up, I expect we'll change things.

I don't, in general, hurry my kids from one thing to the next. Your anecdote about forcing kids to leave "centers" after 30 minutes is sitting with me; it's one of the things that's wrong with a typical school setting. The bell rings, and off you go, never mind if you were in the middle of something.

I'm going to be putting deep thought into where I might be unthinkingly imposing scarcity...

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 18, 2013 at 08:04 PM

 

Your anecdote about forcing kids to leave "centers" after 30 minutes is sitting with me; it's one of the things that's wrong with a typical school setting. The bell rings, and off you go, never mind if you were in the middle of something.

real life is like that, too — how many really big chunks of time do kids get? in the book i talk about having as few transitions as possible and stacking free time after project time — just so kids can relax and focus and stay with what they’re doing longer.

I'm going to be putting deep thought into where I might be unthinkingly imposing scarcity...

it makes me happy that so many people are saying they are going to look for these places and reevaluate!

Comment by amy21 on May 18, 2013 at 09:48 PM

real life is like that, too — how many really big chunks of time do kids get?

well, in general, or in my house? ;)

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 18, 2013 at 09:56 PM

in general of course! ;o)

Comment by Sanfrantigger on May 18, 2013 at 08:00 PM

Your post reminded me of a parenting fable I once read about food. It's about a pair of fictional twins who were separated at birth, and later tracked down by researchers who interviewed their adoptive mothers. When asked how each child ate, the first mother said, "He's a terrible eater. We have fights all the time about him wanting to put cinnamon on everything. It's driving me crazy."

The second mother when asked about her child's eating habits said, "He's a great eater. As long as I put cinnamon on it, he'll eat it." I remembered it today as my toddler would only eat broccoli with ketchup. (Hello? He's eating broccoli!)

The story has always stuck with me, and now I understand it illustrates the scarcity (first mother)/abundance (second mother) paradigm. I've always been against screen time for children, even after reading all the unschooling articles. But after reading this and the "sliver" article, I can see the issue in a different light. I'm going to test the waters and see how technology can potentially support my four year old's learning...But I'm still limiting screen time for my toddler :0)

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 18, 2013 at 08:06 PM

 

that is the BEST STORY EVER. i love it.

and not only does that demonstrate the scarcity vs. abundance mindset, it clearly demonstrates that it’s the parent’s need for control and their perspective that controls which is in play.

thank you so much for sharing! :)

Comment by Heather on May 18, 2013 at 08:18 PM

I guess maybe I didn't read carefully enough...are you trying to say we shouldn't put limits on things? For instance, we should just let our children watch as much TV as they want to? Just trying to figure out what the message of this is, that they will figure out that watching TV isn't fun to do all the time?

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 18, 2013 at 09:26 PM

mm, i do think you should reread.

Comment by Sarah M on May 19, 2013 at 09:51 AM

This type of reading helps me so much by way of homeschooling and parenting...it's like I was looking for a box and you're over here waving a multicolored flag around a black hole in the opposite direction. HA!
I had a 'scarcity' thing for screens when my kids were really small. I don't think my kids watched tv until they were nearly 3, and I think that has carried over into their later years...just by habit (feeling that it's something I need to 'restrict').
Sarah M

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 19, 2013 at 04:20 PM

 

ha! that’s a great image. i kind of want a cartoon of myself doing that now. ;o)

*thank you* — i’m glad it helps in any way.

the reason i wrote these articles (“the sliver” and this one about abundance vs. scarcity) is because i hear from so many parents who are upset fighting with their kids about screen time. obviously, if you have a routine in which screens don’t figure much and everyone’s happy with that and busy doing other things, there’s no problem! :)

Comment by Sarah M on May 20, 2013 at 07:16 PM

Both of my kids are really into computer games. We have a family rule of tv only on Fridays, and they don't even remember to ask for it most weeks. I restricted TV to once a week for my family mostly for myself...so I wouldn't use it as a babysitter (read: it's *really* tempting for me to do that-my husband works long hours). It's the computer time that they really love, and these two posts have really helped me re-evaluate my thoughts on this.
Sarah M

Comment by sarahdh on May 20, 2013 at 08:19 PM

I loved this piece and the sliver one. I was talking about them with two friends, separately today, and each had the same question for me -- OK, so how do I eliminate scarcity when I have two children and only one iPad? Right now both use a timer system, but that doesn't work with what you say here -- not allowing them to finish at times. I have two kids under 5, so not a problem for me...yet. I wonder, too, how to have kids share something when it doesn't work (financially, e.g.) to just buy more trucks/iPads. Thanks for any thoughts I can pass on.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 21, 2013 at 08:51 AM

 

each had the same question for me -- OK, so how do I eliminate scarcity when I have two children and only one iPad? Right now both use a timer system, but that doesn't work with what you say here -- not allowing them to finish at times.

as to the first question — two children, one iPad — i would repeat: generous limits isn’t the same thing as no limits. and a very natural limit is two children, one computer. or four children, one computer. or five family members, two bathrooms. or six kids, two swings. and so on. you are never going to have infinite materials or resources for everyone. learning how to share resources fairly is a good life lesson.

your second point is a lovely one. there is a new (well, it was new to me) kindle commercial where the mother sets an automatic timer so a little boy is playing a game and suddenly the kindle shuts down and says “that’s all for now!” or something cheery like that. the kid sighs and shrugs, then goes and looks out the window to see his sister playing outside; he smiles and runs to join her. my 13yo saw that commercial and guffawed — “oh, yeah, THAT was his reaction when his game shut off in the middle!” not very realistic! :)

if you want to give each child a chance to be deeply engaged and finish what they started, a timer system might not be the best. i can think of many different things a family could try — they might have to experiment to find the system that works best for everyone. i would take the kids’ suggestions into account as well. i would ask them what they think would work best. they might want less than you would expect, and they might have interesting ideas about how to make it fair.

one truism — if one child sits down to use the computer or iPad, the other children will immediately say “*i* wanted to use it — i’m next” and then arguing can ensue. a system in place can avoid this kind of thing. everyone knows how it works; there’s no reason to argue because it is what it is.

tangential suggestion — i would suggest allowing the kids to “watch each other” when they have computer time, although this is something that can drive adults batty. it seems like the watcher is being completely sedentary. however, kids learn from each other, teach each other, and just socialize while they use the computer. i like to see two, three, or four kids gathered around one computer talking Minecraft while one plays. just make sure the computer user is in control — he or she gets to decide if s/he wants anyone to watch.

the easiest way to use generous limits while sharing limited resources would be to give larger chunks of time.

i did not remember how we used to do this (!) so i asked my younger son; he said that during the part of the day when they were allowed to use the computer, they would alternate hours (i have two sons) and if one didn’t want it, the other could keep playing. i do remember them asking permission from each other to finish things up before they handed off!

I wonder, too, how to have kids share something when it doesn't work (financially, e.g.) to just buy more trucks/iPads.

we’ve already covered the one iPad, so when it comes to things like wooden trucks, i would urge you to provide PLENTY of one resource rather than small amounts of different kinds of resources. so, a LOT of wooden blocks rather than a half-dozen random toys. there isn’t much you can do with a small set of wooden blocks — and there definitely aren’t enough for two or three children to play together. everyone ends up with a random toy; there’s more chance for arguing and they can’t work together. but if you have a LOT of wooden blocks, not only can they work *together* on the same project but they can build something much more complex.

in the summer you might buy ONE butterfly net along with a random assortment of other outside toys. then you’ve created a situation where only one child at a time can use the butterfly net. they will fight over it, but even when they win, it’s not super fun to hunt butterflies all by yourself. if you buy fewer *kinds* of toys and more butterfly nets, suddenly they can all play/work together.

so as a general rule, be judicious about how you spend your budget. try to get fewer types of toys/tools/materials but a really generous number so that the children can all work together and do something very complex. forgo variety — it seems like the kids have more but really they have less.

and when you’re just stuck and you can’t get more, always have the kids sit down and discuss the situation and suggest what *they* think is fair.

thank you for your great comment! good things to think more about.

Comment by sarah-dh on May 21, 2013 at 08:12 PM

Thanks so much. This is helpful. Appreciate your time answering my query. I'll pass it on. -Sarah

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 21, 2013 at 08:41 PM

we had some good chat about this on twitter today, too! :)

Comment by Elizabeth on May 20, 2013 at 09:10 PM

Well me and my husband have experimented with giving only the sliver and now we will experiment with the abundance model. To outsiders it might look as though the 30 minutes of media time we were giving my 10.5 dd was working. She was very motivated to do her schoolwork and chores in order to sit down at 5pm to get her 30 minutes in. But she was exhibiting certain troubling behaviors, like pushing her playmates out the door 20 minutes after they arrived so she could hurry through her chores in time to sit down and watch Word Girl. Or her fretfulness that brought everyone's mood down when we were away from home that she was going to miss her media time. And her chores and math work would sometimes be done shoddy and she'd be in tears because she didn't think she'd be able to finish her math assignment before 5pm rolled around. She's usually very willing to play a game or help us out with her brothers but NOT during that assigned 30 minutes. I also have to wonder if that's why she talks about shows NONSTOP! I DO know that I tried to stifle her love for movies by not meeting her halfway in conversation but I realized then that I wasn't connecting to her fully. You see, when media entered our house, it also entered her heart and by me trying to stifle something she holds dear, I was unintentionally suffocating our relationship. And when I began to engage in deeper conversations with her about movies...well, magic happened. I now have a child who loves hanging out with me. So, now I'm going to go further and after talking to my husband we both agreed to allow her free media time starting at 4 IF she's done her math and chores. (I would've made it earlier but we have our afternoon family gathering time from 3-4 where we have faith and read books together). I'll let you know how it goes but after day 1 I can say that it's already going better. She sat down at 4 to watch a movie but she also worked illustrating her chapter book at the same time. And she willingly did her math AND corrected it without me having to ask her.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 21, 2013 at 09:00 AM

 

she was exhibiting certain troubling behaviors, like pushing her playmates out the door 20 minutes after they arrived so she could hurry through her chores in time to sit down and watch Word Girl. Or her fretfulness that brought everyone's mood down when we were away from home that she was going to miss her media time. And her chores and math work would sometimes be done shoddy and she'd be in tears because she didn't think she'd be able to finish her math assignment before 5pm rolled around. She's usually very willing to play a game or help us out with her brothers but NOT during that assigned 30 minutes.

this is such a lovely example of how scarcity can backfire.

I DO know that I tried to stifle her love for movies by not meeting her halfway in conversation but I realized then that I wasn't connecting to her fully. You see, when media entered our house, it also entered her heart and by me trying to stifle something she holds dear, I was unintentionally suffocating our relationship. And when I began to engage in deeper conversations with her about movies...well, magic happened.

and this is a perfect example of how our prejudices against certain interests can affect our relationship with our kids!

i have seen mothers whose faces just slam shut when their kids talk about video games — and then when the child runs off, they are quick to mention their other interests. it’s clear they’re embarrassed that their child likes video games. but as you know, elizabeth, if you refuse to engage with an interest, it doesn’t usually kill the interest — it just shuts down the engagement. your child stops talking to you about what they love.

I now have a child who loves hanging out with me.

<3

I'll let you know how it goes but after day 1 I can say that it's already going better. She sat down at 4 to watch a movie but she also worked illustrating her chapter book at the same time. And she willingly did her math AND corrected it without me having to ask her.

that is great. i hope it keeps going well! :) but you know if it doesn’t, you can reflect & revise. the important thing is to not be afraid to change the rules and experiment to find something better for your family.

thank you so much for sharing your story!

Comment by cordelia on May 21, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Elizabeth/Lori,
I love this

You see, when media entered our house, it also entered her heart

I love me some perfect words, and this is one packet. It makes me think about how much of watching our kids grow is learning to share their hearts with all of the people, things and ideas they will love. I think about this every time I see adults who can't resist the urge to tell their kids to "look at this!" just as the child begins to get interested in something else. There they go, looking at things we didn't show them, loving things we didn't give them, laughing at jokes we didn't make, listening to things we didn't tell them.

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 22, 2013 at 03:28 PM

thank you, cordelia :)

Comment by mike on May 22, 2013 at 03:00 PM

“Employing generous limits helps a child live a balanced life now, a life that is much closer to how they might live as adults. (My sixteen-year-old son pointed this out to me — credit to him.) Employing generous limits allows a child to begin learning today how to make good choices, how to manage his own time, and how to prioritize his goals. If he falters, you are there to help him get back on the rails. If he makes poor choices and suffers for it, you’re there to help him figure out how to fix it.”

I am interested to hear what you consider a generous limit? We currently employ the " one hour a day" screen time limit and it is the model of scarcity as you describe with all the trimmings. We are interested in trying the abundance model with TV and see where it takes us. Is a generous limit three hours? five? We have one child that might just watch for 5 hours a day if allowed and would eat nothing but bread, butter and candy if we allowed it. (We tried the no limits food thing and that is the way it went). My point here is how do you draw the line between genrous and scarcirty?

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 22, 2013 at 03:40 PM

 

well, for us a generous limit was free choice starting at 3:00 when they were younger and at 2:00 when they got older. our 16yo is in control of all of his time now, and our 13yo self-imposes a limit because he worries he wouldn’t have enough time to write and draw otherwise. :)

there is a tipping point as you move the needle from scarcity to generosity, aiming for abundance. too little time, and they focus on it like gollum on the ring: “my precious…” too much time, and the child may resist ever doing anything else because you’re taking him away from his favorite activity. (in other words, the child who has NO limits says no to going swimming in the morning because he’d rather play minecraft, says no to the park in the afternoon because he’d rather play minecraft; but if you blocked off hours in the day for non-screen time, he would know he’d have plenty of time later to play minecraft.) the happy middle ground respects what you want for them and what they want for themselves; you build the bulk of your day around the life you want for your family, but you give them enough time to meaningfully engage with their interests and hobbies, even if they’re electronic.

take a look at this comment i wrote on the sliver post:

http://project-based-homeschooling.com/camp-creek-blog/sliver-or-how-sto...

what you are feeling for here is a schedule that gives YOU plenty of time to include all the activities and experiences you want your kids to have and gives THEM plenty of time to do the things they like to do, too. you want them to have time to produce as well as consume.

do be aware that if you give them more generous limits, there will probably be a honeymoon period where they want to just binge on games or TV. they’ve been dying for more time, so that’s to be expected. you’re going to have to let things settle a bit to see how it really goes.

but as long as you’re flooding the rest of their time with great choices, great experiences, great raw material for learning, making, and doing, you’ll probably be okay. :)

let me know how it goes!

Comment by heather.caliri@... on May 22, 2013 at 08:52 PM

What would you say about money/allowance? I am struggling with the allowance we give my eldest, and extra $ she earns doing household tasks. (The whole chore/earning thing is another headache and problem, but ONE AT A TIME). The allowance is small. The $ for chores adds up a bit more quickly. She invariably spends the $$ on candy. We argue about the $, the candy. Sickness in the house the last month and lots of $$ on her last dentist visit make me really dislike the candy. I swore when I started an allowance I'd let her make her own choices but argh, it's hard when the rubber hits the road.
Partly, the allowance was an exercise in math (as well as power, choice) and it has done that.
Clearly there's scarcity here--candy and money. I wouldn't buy more candy with my own $$ for health reasons, but I can understand why she's fixated on it. If I give her even more $$, she will buy even more candy, which even in the short term I'm having trouble imagining being okay with. Argh.
I think I'm having trouble seeing where a natural limit would be here--any insight?

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 22, 2013 at 09:21 PM

i think i have very little insight into this particular issue, but as usual i am certainly willing to natter on anyway…

 

well, just as an aside, i personally don’t like tangling up allowance with chores. a long time ago (a REALLY long time ago) i read something about this that stuck with me — basically, it said that as members of the family, children should get a little spending money and they should also have responsibilities, but the two shouldn’t be tied together. you get your money no matter what (no taking it away if you forget to take out the trash) but you also help out no matter what (no saying you don’t want the money so you won’t do it).

the only rule we had about spending money was that the kids had to wait a week after saying they wanted to buy something. (i guess that would be a little overboard for candy. ;o) this eliminates impulse purchases completely and they learn pretty quickly when they REALLY want something vs. when it’s just a momentary thing. other than the one-week waiting period, they could spend their money on whatever they wanted.

obviously you can’t give her infinite money. she has to live within her budget like we all do. ;o) as for the candy, that’s a puzzler. i *totally* spent my allowance on candy when i was a kid. :) but if she has health/dental issues, then … hmm. if it was me, i’d sit down with her and voice your concerns and try to negotiate something fair re: how much candy she buys/eats and even how she takes care of her teeth. if you can reach an agreement that satisfies both of you, maybe you can put a stop to the arguments.

if you want to increase her allowance and avoid the candy issue, you can always give her a book or clothing allowance to work with. that gives her experience making choices and being responsible and avoids the cavities. ;o)

Comment by Sarah Southcombe on July 14, 2013 at 03:11 PM

We have a 3 yo that is obsessive and with addiction in the family I am trying to encourage balance and temperance. We have no computer at the weekend but up to 2 hours per day during we week. If she is consistently on it for more than one hour her behaviour is negative; less than that she is fine.

She doesn't nag so much now as she knows the guidelines and she engages and initiates other activities that we have 'scattered' or introduced.

When she is older I hope to loosen the leash and help her learn the negatives aspects of obsession and addiction and teach her that moderation is something she can apply and live by.

Comment by Lori Pickert on July 14, 2013 at 03:45 PM

that sounds like a good plan. :)

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