screen time

Recently I was contacted by a mother who told me she was upset and frustrated because she was trying to introduce PBH to her sons and they were resisting.

She had been trying to share her own work with them in an attempt to make her own learning visible and start building a family culture of making and sharing.

And what happened?

“They act like my work is boring and not important. They don’t want to listen. They roll their eyes and change the subject.”

I asked her what her sons’ interests were — and things got very quiet.

“Well… I’m not sure. They used to be really into video games. But now… I don’t know.”

What happened with their interest in video games?

“Well… I didn’t like it. I thought they were spending too much time on the computer. The games seemed stupid. I told them they were wasting their time…”

Her voice trailed away.

When her sons had shared their authentic interest, she had reacted by

- saying it was boring and unimportant,

- not listening,

- rolling her eyes, and changing the subject.

Now her sons were reacting to her interests in the exact same way.

When we share our true interests, we are sharing part of ourselves. When we get back disdain and criticism — or when we’re simply ignored — then we learn to hide that part of ourselves. Maybe we drop that interest — or maybe we just stop talking about it with that person.

We might stop sharing other interests with that person because we want to avoid that negative reaction. We might even stop sharing our interests with anyone. Why open yourself up to ridicule?

It’s easier to just do what everyone else is doing — that way, no one will call you a dork or make fun of you. No one will look down on you. Keep your real interests to yourself — or just stop having interests altogether. They’re probably stupid anyway and it’s not like anything’s going to come of them.

Whatever you do, don’t reveal your true self to someone who didn’t like that little bit you already showed them.

Our family is our first community. Our first friends. Our first colleagues. Our first audience. Our first mentors.

We learn our first lessons there, and we carry them forward when we meet and interact with the larger world.

If we learn at home that our interests are no good and not worth having, it’s very hard to overcome that lesson in the larger community where we’re even more nervous about fitting in.

If we hear “what you care about is stupid and worthless,” it’s easy to convert that to “you’re stupid and worthless.”

It’s never too late to reverse this. It’s never too late to say, “I was wrong.” It’s never too late to say, “Tell me about what you care about. I really want to know. Because I am interested in you.”

It’s never to late to listen, to support, to invest in your child’s authentic interests.

The child who is listened to will listen.

The child who is supported will support.

The child who is mentored will mentor.

The child who is believed in will believe in himself — and you.

If you give trust, respect, and attention, that is what you will receive in return.

It’s not about whether you like video games or not. It’s about whether you want your child to know what HE likes. It’s about whether you want him to trust his own feelings. It’s about whether you want him to be capable of developing his unique talents and gifts. It’s about whether you want him to tap into his deepest motivation and be willing to challenge himself.

When you support his ability to know what he likes, you’re putting him on a path of self-knowledge and meaningful work.

Diminish what he loves and you diminish him.

 

See also More thoughts on dismissing children’s interests and ideas

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Friday link round-up

Published by Lori Pickert on May 25, 2013 at 08:02 AM

The best thing I have to share this week (with permission!) was a post in the forum by a mom who worked past her initial misgivings about Minecraft in order to support her son’s deep interest — and had a great outcome:

“I’m new to pbh and still anxious about how it will all work; especially since both my boys love minecraft. The other day during our project time my 10 yr old was simply building on minecraft and I had to continually bite my tongue b/c that little voice in my head was telling me, “this is not education!”. However, I persevered. :)

I grabbed a notebook and just started asking him what he was doing. Lo and behold he was building giant forks, shovels, question marks, dollar bills, etc. I made the observation that there are artists that create actual sculptures just like that. Before I knew it, both boys were looking for images on google, discovered the artist was Claes Oldenberg, and we were talking about what was interesting about the art. That led to a discussion of art in context and I posed the question of what giant sculpture would be appropriate in the context of our house. They came up with several ideas, but decided they would build a life-sized Steve from minecraft. I asked what they needed, we gathered supplies. I jotted down ideas they came up with. They came up with the idea to hide binary code in their statue since steve is created by code. We went to the library and they worked with the librarian to hunt down books on Oldenberg. My oldest also got several books on architecture as well for inspiration for building and has immersed himself in that and has built some awesome buildings and is learning a ton about architecture.

I truly see the value of journaling. It is eye opening how much they learn. The math concept of median was used in the building projects. They were measuring and figuring out scale. They were working together and not fighting. As I write all they are doing I see all the different directions they could take this. It’s very exciting to watch. Thanks for all the encouragement and advice this blog provides.”

I love hearing these stories. If you’re a member of the forum, we share them in the small wins thread — it’s important to take a moment and celebrate your successes as you learn to mentor yourself and your kids to your best lives. Even a small change — like taking a pause and getting out your journal, asking a few questions — can make a huge difference in your learning life.

And have you seen O’s amazing Minecraft project on PBH Kids? If your kids have project work they’d like to share, let me know!

I liked this article on project-based learning (as manifested in schools) mostly for this teacher’s reaction to helping kids direct their own learning:

“‘[E]ngaging kids in project-based, deep-thinking types of learning that I saw in Finland … that’s what we tried to replicate in our state,’ Paine said. And not coincidentally, just the kind of pragmatic, complex, collaborative problem-solving that companies say they need in the 21st century workplace. …

“The first [project-based learning] project I did — after it was done — I said I would never go back to the old way of teaching, because it was that valuable.’”

I wanted to cry because I could see how much progress they had made from beginning to end.’

You might want to follow my project-based learning board on Pinterest. I think we can glean some insights and ideas from what traditional education is trying to accomplish with PBL even though we homeschoolers have the freedom to take it so much further. (The board is a mix of PBL at school and at home.)

Last week I wrote a post called The Sliver, or How to stop fighting about screen time. In that post, I suggested using “generous limits” (as opposed to strict limits or no limits at all) to make it possible for your child to go beyond just being an irritable, frustrated, passive consumer and actually be in the flow, learn, and create with media.

In the comments, someone brought up studies on brain development and asked how I could dismiss those. I wrote a lengthy response, but a friend sent me a link to this article, which I think is a great addition:

“Diagnosed with moderate to severe autism at the age of 2, Jacob spent years in the clutches of a special education system that didn’t understand what he needed. His teachers at school would try to dissuade Kristine from hoping to teach Jacob any more than the most basic skills.

“For a parent, it’s terrifying to fly against the advice of the professionals,” Kristine writes in her memoir, The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius. “But I knew in my heart that if Jake stayed in special ed, he would slip away.”

‘I operate under a concept called “muchness,”’ Kristine said. ‘Which is surrounding children with the things they love — be it music, or art, whatever they’re drawn to and love.’

By the time he was 11 years old, Jacob was ready for college. He’s now studying condensed matter physics at the Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis.” — Boy Genius Diagnosed with Autism has IQ Higher than Einstein

And a quote from the boy himself, from his TedxTeen talk that appears at the end of the article:

In order to succeed, you must look at everything with your unique perspective and not settle for accepting the straight facts.” — Jacob Barnett

The talk is great, and your kids might enjoy it, too.

Since we’ve been talking a lot lately about screen time on the blog (posts, comments, and in the forum), I thought this was worth sharing:

“My work with children, teachers and computers over the past thirty years has been focused on increasing opportunity and replacing ‘quick and easy’ with deep and meaningful experiences. When I began working with schools where every student had a laptop in 1990, project-based learning was supercharged and Dewey’s theories were realized in ways he had only imagined. The computer was a radical instrument for school reform, not a way of enforcing the top-down status quo. …

Used well, the computer extends the breadth, depth and complexity of potential projects. This in turn affords kids with the opportunity to, in the words of David Perkins, ‘play the whole game.’ Thanks to the computer, children today have the opportunity to be mathematicians, novelists, engineers, composers, geneticists, composers, filmmakers, etc.… But, only if our vision of computing is sufficiently imaginative.” — Technology Is Not Neutral @ for the love of learning

When Gary says “only if our vision of computing is sufficiently imaginative,” I think he means only if teachers take the time to fully explore how computers can be used by students in school. At home, I would say “only if our vision of computing is sufficiently imaginative” to see what powerful tools computers can be for mastering skills, creating original works of art, building community, and so on. If we demonize tech, we’re taking away so many of the hundred languages children can use to learn and build.

In the inspirational area, this week, I loved what Michael wrote about focusing on what we can do:

“I might dream of Sustainably Creative becoming one of the top 100 most read blogs in the world, being offered a publishing contract worth hundreds of thousands of pounds, and Oprah relaunching her chat show just to interview me. However all of those dreams require actions by other people, lots of other people (and Oprah). I can’t make those people act in the ways I might like.

However I can work on my half of the equation. I can show up and write posts regularly for Sustainably Creative. I can work on book proposals and publish my own ebooks. I can approach agents and publishers. In short I use what energy I have to focus on the work that at least puts me on the right track to fulfill my dreams.” — Achieve (almost) anything you want with a pen, paper, and a pot of tea @ Sustainably Creative

This is what it’s all about — just starting. Doing what we can. It changes your life, even if you don’t end up with what you originally thought you wanted.

Thank you for hanging out with me on PBH and being part of this community!

I have to say that being a PBH mom has helped me tremendously to see that while being there for my kids, I can support my own work and make my dreams a reality. Learning as I go. — PBH forum comment

Thank you for challenging us parents the way you continually do and sticking up for the rights of children. You know why PBH rocks above all other educational methodologies? Because it’s the only methodology I’ve encountered that requires parents to try to become the best possible version of themselves in order to walk the talk. — PBH parent e-mail

Allowing children to learn about what interests them is good, but helping them do it in a meaningful, rigorous way is better. Freedom and choice are good, but a life steeped in thinking, learning, and doing is better. It’s not enough to say, “Go, do whatever you like.” To help children become skilled thinkers and learners, to help them become people who make and do, we need a life centered around those experiences. We need to show them how to accomplish the things they want to do. We need to prepare them to make the life they want. — Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

Parenting with abundance and simplicity

Published by Lori Pickert on May 23, 2013 at 12:33 PM

This is a follow-up to my previous post, Parenting with abundance vs. scarcity.

A few people had questions for me about how abundance fits in with simplicity and even minimalism, thinking those concepts might be oppositional. Actually, they work together. Let me explain how.

Abundance requires simplicity — because in order to have abundance in one area, you must reduce something else. You can either use your toy budget to buy a roomful of random toys or you can decide to focus on investing in only two or three open-ended toys: say, wooden blocks, a wooden dollhouse, LEGO.

If you have a lot of random toys, children might fight because they all want to play with the plastic dinosaur at once; then when they tire of that, they suddenly all want to play with the nerf gun. They can’t play *together* with one plastic dinosaur. However, if you have a basket full of plastic dinosaurs, they can all play together. They can take them to the sandbox or get out the clay and make a dinosaur world. They can collaborate and cooperate and build something complex.

If you have a couple dozen wooden blocks, not only can children not play together (there just aren’t enough to share), but even one child is limited in the complexity of anything he can build — there aren’t enough blocks for complexity. He can build a small, simple structure and that’s it. He quickly reaches the limits of what he can build and he can go no further. A large variety of materials or experiences can make it seem like we’ve given our children more, but really we’ve given them less.

If you have fewer random toys and a LOT of wooden blocks, suddenly you can build something big and complex. Multiple children can work together, and there are enough materials for everyone. There are enough materials to go beyond simple ideas and simple constructions.

But this abundance requires simplifying — you can’t offer an abundance of everything. You have to choose what matters most and invest there. To offer abundance, you must thoughtfully simplify.

PBH requires focus. In order to support your child’s deep interest and help him stay with an idea longer, you have to forgo some random, unrelated activities. They might be perfectly fun activities, like a homeschool field trip to the petting zoo. But you might instead take him to the planetarium so he can stay with his interest on space. They might be perfectly fun crafts, attached to the current season or holiday. But you choose instead to help him stay focused on making planets out of recycled materials. You are forgoing variety, novelty, and width to focus instead on depth, on mastery, on becoming an expert in something he really cares about. You’re letting go of some things that are mildly fun and interesting for everyone to focus on something that your specific, unique child finds deeply engaging. You are helping him move beyond the surface of learning and dig deeper, learn more, and build new skills.

If you want your child to be able to work deeply and meaningfully, you might pare down your extracurricular activities. Another family might be doing swim lessons, tae kwon do, soccer, and ballet, while your child is goes to one art class a week at the local museum. You are making a choice for simplicity (more white space, more project time) that is simultaneously a choice for abundance (a deeper exploration of art, more time for his specific deep interest).

The main point of abundance vs. scarcity is that if you limit materials, opportunities, or experiences too much, you are ensuring that your child can only be a passive consumer. You haven’t given him enough time and support to become an active creator.

“Abundance” doesn’t mean an enormous pile of materials or a huge number of activities or a never-leaves-the-basement obsession with a particular interest. Abundance means thoughtfully paring away the less important so you can invest more time, energy, and money in what you really care about.

What is the point of simplifying your life, if it’s not so you can do more of what matters?

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

 

 

The Sliver, or How to stop fighting about screen time

Published by Lori Pickert on May 15, 2013 at 08:08 AM

Sub-subtitle for this post: Why you need to move from a scarcity to an abundance model.

One of the most frequent things I’m asked is how to deal with the struggle between parents and kids over limits on screen time.

Parents want something better for their kids than TV, movies, and video games — they want their lives to be full of better-quality activities, like playing outdoors, reading, playing, and building.

Many parents approach the subject of screen time — or other kid activities they don’t like, like reading comic books — by placing a strong limit on it. They say to their child, “We want our lives to be lovely and full of all the good things, so we are cramming all the stuff you love that we don’t like into this sliver.”

The child hears, “Blah blah blah, you love the sliver.”

Then the parents get to experience the ever-burgeoning frustration of having their child riveted on that sliver of time. The kids want to talk about it. They want to bargain for more of it. They want to argue about whether they got their fair share of it. Why? Because the sliver is where all the good stuff is.

What we need to do is flip it around. Instead of making the sliver the garbage chute on Star Wars that everyone dives into for blessed escape, we need to allot the sliver to ourselves instead.

We say, “We want our lives to be lovely and full of all the good things, so we are going to allot a portion of our day to the stuff that really matters — the stuff we think is important.”

Now put it all in there. Make time every day to read, to play outside, to play a board game together, to build with LEGO or blocks, to spend time together in the art studio. Work on your projects together, side by side. Go for a hike, fly a kite, sit on the steps and eat an ice cream cone. Read aloud to one another.

As if by magic, the stuff you care about is now part of your everyday life. Magically, your kids are no longer riveted by the tiny sliver of time when they get to do what they want — therefore, they are free to enjoy all the good things instead of bitterly resenting them. Magically, you have just negotiated a life that respects both what is important to you *and* what is important to your child.

When you set up a scarcity situation, you are always going to whip people into a frenzy to get whatever it is that’s hard to come by, whether it’s a dancing Elmo, a Beanie Baby, or a half-hour playing Minecraft. That’s just human psychology. Make it rare and people want it desperately. And when you limit what your child wants to do and push them toward something else, saying THIS is better than THAT, you create conflict where there doesn’t need to be conflict. They should be able to love books *and* TV, computer games *and* playing outside. But because you have put these things in competition with one another, they have to choose — so they end up rejecting the very things you want them to embrace.

When you force your child’s interests into the sliver, you are denying them the opportunity to get good at what they care about. You are denying them the chance to relax and enjoy themselves. And you are saying, flat out, “I don’t care about this thing you like. I don’t like it.” That’s a path toward having them not talk to you about it anymore. You are forcing them away from you just when you should be pulling them close.

If they love Minecraft or playing a video or computer game, they can’t accomplish anything in a tiny slice of time. The way these games work, it usually takes a lot of time just to learn how to play and then it takes a lot of time to slowly progress to mastery. The games make you put in the time; they don’t let you jump straight to the fun part. And the kids are willing to do the work — but if they don’t have enough time, they can’t do the work.

It takes a lot of time to understand, grasp new concepts, figure out rules, learn, practice, and master. Kids whose screen time is limited are living in constant frustration because they can’t build their skills, they can’t watch the YouTube tutorials another kid made, they can’t learn what they want to learn, and they can never relax while doing the thing they enjoy most because they always have one nervous eye on the clock. They can’t experiment, they can’t explore, and they can’t practice — and those are the key steps of learning that you want them to experience, even when it’s doing something you yourself aren’t interested in.

Some parents say they’re really frustrated because their child seems to spend all of their available screen time watching *other* kids play — and they’re tempted to reduce the amount of computer time even more. But watching others is a crucial step in learning. What’s the fastest way to learn to ride a bike — reading a booklet about it or watching someone else ride? Plus, watching tutorials and watching friends play are community aspects; that observation helps them learn how to teach and mentor, how to collaborate and socialize. If you only get X minutes a day and you really want to learn, you are going to forgo playing yourself in order to try to cram in more learning time — and learning requires observing. So cutting back on their computer time actually forces them to do less hands-on experimentation. Learning by doing takes a lot of time, and they just don’t have that luxury.

One of our higher goals as parents should be to help our children become independent — not just physically, but intellectually. If we reject their interests because they seem stupid or because we don’t understand them or enjoy them ourselves, we are rejecting our kids themselves. Do you remember what you liked when you were 11? I’m pretty sure that’s the summer I played Monopoly nine hours a day, six days a week. On the one hand, it was very sedentary. On the other hand, I do own some real estate now. I haven’t built a hotel yet, but don’t count me out. I also watched a lot of “Love Boat” that year. Yet I still managed to start a company, open a school, and write a book. If “Love Boat” can’t kill your intellect, believe me, nothing can.

In our home, we limited screens naturally when our children were little by having a routine that just didn’t include them. When they got older, we employed generous limits. We didn’t use screens for entertainment (our family word for this is actually “sloth time”) until 3:00, which made their morning and early afternoon the focus of project work and play. As they got even older, we shifted that time to 2:00, but we also allowed computer use for project-related work because the boys were now researching independently, making films, writing books, and so on.

During the day, we worked on projects, played outside, read, played LEGO, took photographs, made art, and all the other good things. The kids never watched the clock; they never dropped a book or a squirt gun to dash to a computer or a TV set. They experienced balance and they enjoyed everything they did. There was no competition between computers and nature or between books and TV. Screens were fun, but the kids never riveted on them because there was no need to. If they wanted to get to level 47 of some game, they had plenty of time to do that. Employing generous limits means you have plenty of time. You don’t worry — there’s no urgency. You aren’t hyper-focused on it, and your mind is free to focus on and enjoy other things. And we made sure they had plenty of other things to focus on.

We need to shift from a scarcity model (there’s very little time for you to do those things you love to do) to an abundance model (there’s plenty of time for us to do all the good things, including that stuff you love to do).

You can’t really fix the sliver problem by, say, making the sliver a little bigger. It really takes a complete flip-flop. You have to stop curtailing what your child loves and instead focus on building a routine and a family culture around the things you believe are most important. Get those things in there — do them every day. But if you want your child to see them, appreciate them, and relax enough to enjoy them, think about getting rid of the sliver.

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

Parenting with abundance vs. scarcity

 

When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need, it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have. — Lynne Twist

This week on Facebook, some great links about project-based learning…

“As far as project-based learning is concerned, it may well be that those who were forced to sit in neatly aligned desks all day every day during their school years will see this approach as “nonsense.” They were accustomed to having information force-fed to them only so that they could regurgitate it on tests. But anyone who understands child development — and brain-based learning — knows that pursuing one’s interests results in truer, deeper learning. That hands-on, inquiry-based approaches stimulate the mind and the soul and will serve our children, now and in the future, far better than the expectation that there is only one right answer to every question.” — What If Everybody Understood Child Development?

and

We say that we want creative, passion-driven students, yet we reward the opposite. Standards-based education stifles engagement and passion in students. While drop-outs are considered to be lazy and unmotivated, many are simply not interested because they don’t understand the relevance of what they’re being taught. We’re rewarding students who are best at obedience, memorization, regurgitation, and compliance. And those who do succeed in school often don’t know what to do when they get out. We need to prepare kids to be successful in the real world, not just while in school.” — Nine Tenets of Passion-Based Learning @ Mind/Shift

Another quote from that article:

Being around passionate people is the best way to become passionate. A passion-driven teacher is a model for her students. … [S]tudents work harder with people who matter to them.” — Nine Tenets of Passion-Based Learning @ Mind/Shift

This is why we need to be active, engaged learners pursuing meaning and purpose — so we can help our children do the same. (Check out the PBH for Grown-Ups series — now with 15 articles to help you live the life you want to help your children live.)

And now some lovely PBH-related posts…

It literally took me years to trust in children’s genuine, deepest desire: to learn and discover. Once I got over the mentality that learning could only take place with a teacher hovering and a worksheet presented, I finally noticed the magical learning that had been taking place before my eyes in a more quiet and natural way.

And once I did let go of my fears of trusting my children in their own exploration of life, they flew.” — Letting Go… and Learning @ The Sleepy Time Gal

Michelle is continuing her great PBH series:

“I try not to let my mess or lack of space or natural lighting bother me too much. Ok, it still bothers me, but I don’t let it stop me. That’s the key. Look at your mess. Acknowledge your mess. (It has feelings, too, you know.) Tell your mess, “I hear you; I see you,” and MOVE ON. Clear a tiny space for five minutes today. Throw five things in a giveaway bag tomorrow. Baby step your way to a better environment, but don’t wait for the perfect creative space to get started!” — Project-Based Homeschooling Q&A: Supplies & Environment @ Raising Cajuns

And

[F]ocusing a little attention on your environment is worth the small investment of time. It breeds creativity and inspiration. — Project-Based Homeschooling Q&A: Supplies & Environment @ Raising Cajuns

This is the upward spiral — you don’t have to do it all at once. Just get started.

Carrie is sharing great project work by her young daughters:

“One of the things that popped out during my first read of Project-Based Homeschooling is Lori’s advice not to take field trips just for the sake of taking a field trip. … It’s simply not necessary. It’s more important to tailor our days to meet our kids where their interests are, and to give them long stretches to occupy themselves and develop their own interests, and to work on their projects. Time to wonder, imagine, dream, scheme, and make.” — Bugs & Bones @ Carrie Mac

Finally, a nice article on the topic of screen time, which I know is still a hot topic for many:

“[S]ometimes you’re watching because you meant to, with an intent to learn. … And that feels different. And you do all KINDS of different things on the computer, right? … This ‘what are you thinking/planning’ question has since become a staple of our family conversations around screentime. And Mr. D has started to make the case that sometimes, his screen time is not only not in the junk food category, it’s actually in the brain food category. … Once we started leaning towards thinking about screen time in these more specific terms, then we started talking about lots of things in terms of whether they represented a brain workout or not, and which kind of workout was more challenging.” — Junk Food, Brain Food, Soul Food @ Connected Learnings

Have a great weekend, and see you next week!

Be a part of the PBH community. Project-Based Homeschooling isn’t for only one kind of homeschooler — whether you’re a classicist or a radical unschooler or somewhere in-between, all kids deserve some time to direct and manage their own learning while pursuing their deepest interests. Read the posts on project-based homeschooling. Check out the book. Look over the 10 steps to getting started with PBH. Join the forum. Chat with me on twitter. Follow me on facebook. See my pinterest boards on learning, authentic art, play, and more. Come make friends, get some new ideas, and brainstorm about your challenges.

“To learn how to do, we need something real to focus on — not a task assigned by someone else, but something we want to create, something we want to understand. Not an empty exercise but a meaningful, self-chosen undertaking.” — Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners

“My kid is just a regular kid, and neither he nor I do this PBH stuff perfectly. But I’m so impressed with how well it’s fallen together, and how much he’s been able to learn, and how it really does work like it says in the book.” — from the PBH forum

Design the life you want

Published by Lori Pickert on November 15, 2011 at 03:22 PM

hi there. i followed the link from a friend for your first "Why I Don't Worry" post. awesome observations, and so relevant to me — a curmudgeony Luddite who very reluctantly has given in to the dvds for me two kids, who are just 2 and 4. i have often, in my attempts to accept the new screen age, compared it to books. i bet the old timers were outraged when books came along and people had their noses in them instead of engaging with the world and their family. same same.

everything you say rings so true in my ear, and i hadn't heard anyone else saying it, so it feels revolutionary. 

but here's my question. movie watching and computer games are addictive. as in, they can suck you in and keep you there beyond what even actually feels good sometimes. when my kids just watch an hour or two of movies in a day, and they seem happy, i'm okay with that, but some days it's like once they start they can't stop, and by the end of the day they have spent 4 or 5 hours slack-jawed and stupid looking in front of the screen. i am prone to channel-surfing binges whenever i am around cable tv, and i know the feeling of too much. 

you're comparison to sugar vs. broccoli is perfect, because screen time bothers me the same way sugar bothers me. it provides something to us that we naturally crave on an animal level, but in a form concentrated way beyond natural. i feel that our species hasn't had time to adjust, to learn to self-regulate. i could be wrong, but i am pretty confident that someone raised on all sugar and junk food wouldn't be interested in broccoli, because that all that sugar would have messed up their body so that it could no longer act in it's own self-interest. likewise, i think when someone watches too much tv, the idea of getting up to do something else sounds less and less appealing.

then again, maybe that's just the way that i myself feel about tv, because i was raised by tv haters/secret lovers. so i got the exact message you are talking about drilled into me. and now i'm drilling it into my kids. motherhood: i'm doing it wrong.

this is all not to diminish your posts which are truly wonderful and profound! but this issue is one that haunts me and i feel like i need help sussing it all out from someone who sounds as on top of it as you. so, what's your take on the addictiveness? am i making it up? — Calamity Jane

Thank you for the great comment.

I think you're absolutely right. Someone who is raised on sugar and junk food probably won’t be drawn to broccoli. They have no idea how good healthy food can taste, how good it can make you feel, how much more energy you have, etc. etc. etc.

In fact, it would be pretty silly for a parent to raise their child on Cheetos and Mountain Dew and think that they would just naturally gravitate on their own toward fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Therefore, if you think these things are important — if you think they are the key to a healthy lifestyle — you should incorporate them into your life and put them front and center. (And Jane, I'm talking general “you” from here on out — not addressing you specifically!)

In the same way, it’s easy to zone out and just become one with the couch. If your life is a big empty space with nothing else compelling or interesting going on, if you have no routine that regularly puts you outside, in the art studio, at the library, or with friends, you are probably going to be a lot more likely to just stay where it’s comfy and entertaining. With Cheeto dust on your fingers.

The key is to actively design the life that you want.

If your children grow up in a family culture that loves books and reading, that loves the outdoors, that values making and creating, those things will shape their day, their week, and their life. Your values determine (or they should determine) how you live your everyday life. You set the tone. Your life sets the example. Your choices set the example.

If you create a structure to your days that openly declares what is most important to your family (whatever that is: reading, writing, art, togetherness, the outdoors, science, travel...) and prioritizes those things, then TV and video games will be the small rocks and not the big rocks.

I don’t worry about my kids’ screen time because their days are full of reading, writing, creating, making, thinking, sharing. Video games become one of the ways they play, one of the ways they enjoy their hobbies, like history and science fiction. The video games fit in with the rest of their lives — not the other way around. Their priorities are already set. I don’t worry about movies and TV because my sons approach the media as adept storytellers themselves. They enjoy TV and movies, and then they take ownership. They like a TV show; they appropriate the characters for a comic book. They read a mystery; they want to write a mystery. They watch a movie; they want to make a movie. Their big rocks are in place. They are writers, filmmakers, artists, and big thinkers.

Everyone sinks into the couch now and then. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if I saw my kids getting off track, I would stop and examine our lives. What is happening with us that is allowing this to take over? What is not happening? Then I’d make a change.

When your kids are young, you have the wide-open opportunity to make your best life. As they get older, they’ll be much more resistant to change — they’ll want to cling to the familiar. So now is the time to think about your family culture — how you can make your daily life reflect your values. How you can make sure that you are spending your time on the things that are most important to you.

It’s true — TV and video games can be addictive. Bad food is definitely addictive. There are downward spirals wherever you look, and they lead to a passive, overweight, consumerist lifestyle. But the good stuff can be just as addictive. Healthy eaters crave healthy food. Kids who play outside every day crave sunshine and wind and trees. Readers crave books. Makers crave time to make. Artists crave time to create.

The antidote to sleepwalking through life is to wake up and realize you’re in charge. You get to decide what today is like, and tomorrow. You’re steering the boat.

One of the best lessons we can teach our children — slowly, over years of family life — is that they are in charge of their own lives. Learning is for them, so they can do whatever they want to do. Problems are inevitable. We are capable, and we can figure out a solution. We’re in charge of our own lives.

That feeling of control is the essence of happiness. So take control, and make your life the way you want it.

 
 
 

Trusting the process — trusting the child

Published by Lori Pickert on November 10, 2011 at 02:41 PM

Thank you for your great comments on the posts about screen time.

This issue — adult discomfort with kids and electronic media — reminds me of some teachers I worked with who were trying, and failing, to get project-based learning to work in their classrooms.

These teachers lacked fundamental trust in letting children choose the starting point for their project work if it was outside their comfort zone — and it often was.

The children would be on fire to learn about something imaginary (e.g., fairies), something inaccessible (e.g., dinosaurs), or something nowhere near the school’s location (e.g., sharks). The children’s excitement and interest unfortunately meant less to some teachers than the topic’s obvious and narrowly defined educational merit. One trumped the other, and the children’s enthusiasm was ignored.

Those teachers couldn’t trust the children to fold in all the necessary elements. They couldn’t trust the learning process — they lacked faith that you can get from point A to point B, let alone the fact that point A actually links to everything.

Children doing authentic investigation connect the exotic to the familiar; they connect the far-away to the near. It’s making those connections that enriches their learning and makes it more complex, more personal, more sticky.

Over and over again, I would watch as a teacher, in knee-jerk reaction, would push aside her students’ intense interest and replace it with something she felt was more “appropriate”. Her choice would inevitably bore them silly; it would be trite, banal, overly common, impersonal, dull. Instead of working with their intense interest to make it educationally relevant, the teacher would unintentionally kill it. You can’t start a bonfire with wet wood.

Then she would either ask plaintively for help or leap to the conclusion that project-based learning doesn’t work. 

In the same way that teachers trying to adhere to rigid rules about how children should learn can actually prevent learning, adults prejudiced against electronic media can accidentally reduce the number of ways their child might access their own interests — and, by extension, learning itself.

No one minds if a child takes a hike in the woods then looks up salamanders on Wikipedia, but many would strongly prefer that their child does not begin their interest on the computer — or playing a video game. But the end result can be the same. The road runs both directions.

Adults often leap to a value judgment when it comes to children and their interests. If a child is immersed in a book, that’s great. If he’s immersed in a video game, that’s bad.

But it’s really our job to get out of our comfort zone and explore what is interesting our child. It’s our job, as his learning mentor, to help him dig into it more deeply and explore it from every direction.

We shouldn’t discount strong interests — period. No matter where they come from. Encourage it, and see where it goes. Make the experience as complex and layered as possible. Have a little trust that your child can start learning anywhere.

Why I don’t worry about my kids’ screen time, Part 2

Published by Lori Pickert on November 8, 2011 at 08:02 PM

Yesterday, I wrote about one reason I don’t worry about my kids’ screen time — because reading, the outdoors, and video games are not mutually exclusive.

Another reason I don’t worry about my kids’ screen time:

What they consume, they produce.

Project-based homeschooling is about working actively with knowledge. When they were small, my boys dug into their interests and drew, painted, built, constructed, played, wrote, read. Now that they’re older, they still approach every interest with the same mind-set — a mind-set of ownership and control.

Their reaction to their favorite video games and movies? “I want to learn to program my own games.”

“I’m writing a story about these characters.” “I’m writing a comic book.” “I’m going to make a movie about this.”

They don’t just passively consume — they actively produce. They take ownership over ideas and work with them, build with them. They take what interests them, what they enjoy, what they love, and they make something new.

They treat the producer of the content as a partner and an equal, the same way they treat their learning mentors and their peers. “That’s interesting — now watch what I do with it.” They even get into a dialogue with some of those producers — writing and e-mailing some of their favorite writers and artists. They put their work out into the community and share it with other people. They actively participate; they make a contribution; they’re part of the big conversation.

My younger son used to watch the Star Wars movies on videotape on a tiny little TV set we had at our office. He would advance the tape a short distance then laboriously draw the scene. He filled reams of paper with drawings. He’s grown into an artist and cartoonist, a writer and filmmaker. He still loves Star Wars; he creates stop-motion LEGO films using his own Star Wars-inspired characters. He writes chapter books. He spends hours making stop-motion films.

My older son has always been a history nut. At age six, he stumped a friend with his spontaneous history quizzes — a friend who had a master’s degree in history. It was a deep interest, and he’s sustained it over many years. He loved the computer/video games Civilization and Age of Empires. After playing Civilization (which was too complex for me to figure out — I apologized for buying him a game beyond his years, and he waved me away and taught it to himself), he said he needed new history books that were specifically about the different countries and people in the game. He wasn’t just consuming the game; it was engaging him in a dialogue that sent him running to the library for more knowledge.

I know that not all children have this ability, this tendency to work with knowledge, think critically, and apply their own spin. But if it’s important to us, we can help all children develop it. There’s nothing a homeschooler can do at home that schools can’t replicate with their bigger budgets and long days. Schools can be havens of reading, writing, making, producing, and critical thinking; they can offer up natural playscapes and organic gardens and long-term projects. They can do everything I’m doing at home. If they don’t — if it’s just not an important enough priority for us as a community — then it’s a little hypocritical to expect the kids to make up for it during their very limited free time.

My kids’ ability to confront ideas actively rather than passively is what project-based homeschooling represents to me, and the way my children react to their ever-changing world is what reassures me that we’re on the right path. 

The technology is always going to be changing and evolving. If our children are active learners and creators, they’ll master it, they’ll control it, and they’ll make it their own.

Read part one here:

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

Also: 

 
 

Why I don’t worry about my kids’ screen time, Part 1

Published by Lori Pickert on November 7, 2011 at 09:08 PM

There’s a billboard in my town that makes me grind my teeth into dust. It shows a kid’s hands holding, on the left, a video-game controller and, on the right, a turtle. Then it says something along the lines of “unplug”.

I was ranting about it the other day and one of my sons rolled his eyes (nicely) and said, “Mooooom, they’re just telling people to, you know, go outside more.” And yes, I get that. But they are doing it in a way that makes me crazy.

The whole either/or mentality is what gets to me. By positing the game controller against the turtle, the message is “video games: bad, playing outside: good.” Why isn’t this a good way to get kids outdoors? Because if they reject the left side of that equation, they may automatically reject the right side. This kind of shaming argument runs a serious risk of turning kids off the outdoors.

It won’t bother my kids — they’re die-hard readers and campers. But I worked for years in a school environment, and I constantly had to take kids and convert them into readers — convince them that they were wrong about hating to read, about not wanting to read, about wanting to do anything but read. When you try to promote something good (reading, playing outside) by pitting it against something kids love (comics, video games), you REDUCE the chance they will approach that good thing with interest and an open mind.

I tie this to the “books are broccoli”* approach. Imagine a cartoon where a teacher is handing two parents a sheet of paper and saying, “Now, the way we introduce children to hating learning is to first get them to hate reading. So require your child to read 30 minutes every night and then fill out and initial this form.”

If you want to suck the fun out of anything that your child enjoys doing, I suggest you force them to do it for 30 minutes every night, fill out a form, and have you initial it.

What is the message there? Reading is broccoli. It’s good for you. You won’t do it unless we make you. Eat your broccoli. Read!

The kid who liked to read sees reading turned into an assigned chore. He gets the message: Reading isn’t cool, dude. It’s something no one would do if they weren’t forced to do it — or rewarded for doing it. And by the way, you don’t get to pick out what you read anymore. That book is too young for you; that other one is too old. And neither of them are leveled readers. Here, read this flat, melba-toasty book for a half an hour and then I’ll initial your form. Make sure you get your form signed or I’ll make you read it again. It reads or it gets the hose.

Who is that billboard for, anyway? And does that method work? If parents love the outdoors, if they hike and camp and garden and play outside, their kids are likely to be spending time outside having fun. Many parents, however, seem to be of the “do what I say and not what I do” camp. They are indoors on the computer, watching TV and movies, maybe even reading (!), and they are waving their kids outside. In this scenario, no wonder the kids are bitter, their pale little faces pressed up against the window watching Dad play Halo and Mom skype to Grandma.

The billboard seems to be a vague scold toward parents. “Tsk, it says — make your kids go outside. It’s good for them.” But would the billboard work if the kid on the left were holding a book? Or homework? Or art materials?

Adults want to control kids. They want them to do the things they want them to do, and they want them to enjoy the activities they want them to enjoy. In the 70s, bespectacled children everywhere were being told they were “reading too much” and they needed more fresh air. Banished to the outdoors, they might climb into a treehouse with a copy of “Treasure Island” in their back pocket only to see an angry parent down on the ground, yelling at them to get down here and put that book away, mister. You will run around and play whether you want to or not. Childhood: You’re doing it wrong!

These days, parents research on their iPhone for ways to get their kids to read more and limit their kids’ screen time as though it were a magical alchemy: Less Minecraft = More Jack London. Either/or. You can’t read and play video games. You can’t play outside and watch TV. By pulling this string, I cause the reading activity level to rise.

You’re never going to convince an adult gamer that video games are bad for kids — not because he’s clinging stubbornly to his addiction, but because he’s amassed enough anecdotal evidence to know you’re wrong. Kids who play video games read (sometimes they learn to read so they can play the games), they problem-solve, they have raucously good fun with their family and friends. Trying to explain that it’s all bad, bad, bad just makes you sound like the Luddite codger you are.

Does it ever work to encourage activity A by denouncing activity B? Books are broccoli and kids need their broccoli so that makes TV and video games candy. Sweet, delicious candy. I’m in my 40s but even I know: candy good, broccoli bad.

The either/or approach focuses on scarcity. The glass is half empty, your day is almost gone. Your free time is as scarce as hen’s teeth. Don’t waste it on things you enjoy! Invest it in these more intellectually valuable pursuits instead!

An entirely different approach would be to present books as candy, the outdoors as candy. Wow. I think I just blew my own mind.

How different it would be if, instead of scolding children to stop doing A and go do B whether you like it or not, we just shut up and took them on a hike in the woods, then came home and read “Treasure Island” aloud while drinking hot chocolate.

How different it would be if, after playing video games together as a family, we read “The Hobbit” aloud.

How different it would be if we read a book together then watched the movie version. Together.

Part one of why I don’t worry about my kids’ screen time? Our glass is three-quarters full. We have plenty of time — time to read, time to play, time to hike and camp and garden, time to play video games and watch a movie together.

Exposed to all of these activities, my kids love to read. They like to camp and hike and play outside. They like to take long dog walks. They like to play video games, and they love family movie night. They like TV.

I don’t worry about their screen time because it doesn’t negatively affect their love of literature, and they will happily “unplug” to play catch in the yard or go on a walk in the woods.

This is partially due to the fact that we have structured our life to allow time to enjoy all of these things. We haven’t pared their free time down to a thin shaving and forced them to decide how they want to spend their spare half hour per day of relaxation. It’s also partially due to something I’ll discuss tomorrow in Part 2.

Whenever you make it about “give up this thing you really love,” you are probably going to lose. Even if you win on paper, you are still losing in the ways that count. You’re losing credibility. You’re losing their attention. You’re losing their trust.

You are sending all kinds of subtle, between-the-lines messages about what’s broccoli and what’s candy. You’re sending those messages every day when you choose how to spend your free time, too. Before they learn how to velcro their shoes, kids know when your words don’t match your actions.

We have to change our entire approach and start saying, “If these things are really important to us — as a family, as a community, as a society — then we need to start enjoying them, together.”

We need to show our kids by example and as cohorts that reading and playing outside and all the other healthful things we value are the absolute bee’s knees, the epitome of fun, the best possible way to spend a Thursday night or a Saturday morning. We’re unlikely to convince our kids if we don’t believe it ourselves.

So step one really is: Rearrange your life to match your values. Then you won’t have to preach anymore, because your kid will already know.

*Once again, I am using “broccoli” as code for “something good for you that you personally don’t like”. Feel free to substitute spinach or brussels sprouts or whatever doesn’t suit your fancy. Just remember whatever it is, it has to be good for you as well as something you have to choke down against your will.

Read part two here.

The Sliver, or How to stop fighting about screen time

Parenting with abundance vs. scarcity