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A Big List of What Happened When I Banned Screens For a Week

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Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t have a TV, and I rarely let my older kids watch movies. Nevertheless, over the past few months, the amount of screen viewing (iPhone) kept gradually increasing, until one day, I realised that the older kids (8 and 6) were spending over an hour and sometimes two hours in front of a screen. And, my little one, who isn’t even 2, had used the phone enough that he could turn on the phone, open the app he wanted and play or watch something (and I’m so against letting little ones on screens)! Unfortunately, even he was spending 30-45 minutes in front of the screen per day. Things were really hectic for a while and I was using the screen as a babysitter to try and get stuff done.

But, what’s ironic, is that when I gave my kids the phone, even though I could get stuff done, the aftermath was never worth it! They would get bored, act crazy, whine and FIGHT and the hour or two of ‘peace’ backfired ten times and then we spent the day feeling all scattered and disconnected.

So,  I had had enough! We needed a break! It wasn’t a punishment, it was an agreement. Actually, my 6 year old was HAPPY to have the break. The older one wasn’t so much… but wait until you read the last dot point on the list.

Our screen ‘ban’ was not a total ban. That would have been too unsustainable. We were still allowed to use it for practical things, like looking up stuff on the internet, calling the grandparents on Skype, taking photos, etc. I also didn’t ban myself from screens… so oops! Probably this ban could have been better, but I definitely limited myself and only used the screen for work or for a short amount of time doing other brain numbing activities, like social media.

Almost all of these dot points are ones my kids came up when we talked about the results of our screen ban.

  • They virtually stopped fighting (actually, I heard one or two during the whole week, but we homeschool and they’re on top of each other all day, so fair enough).
  • They almost completely stopped whining.
  • They cooperated better.
  • They were less bored.
  • They stopped looking for distractions. My oldest is the worst with this. If she can’t watch her screens, then she asks for food, friends to play with, all in that order! But, during this week, all of that stopped.
  • They played more with their toys and stuff around the house.
  • I had more time! Yes, can you believe it?! I’m not sure how this worked… but I think it’s because I was more connected to them, and they weren’t as needy.
  • My house was more peaceful.
  • They ‘behaved’ better. Not that they’re out of control to begin with, but the biggest change was in my son. Little ones are so so super sensitive to screens! And, he would get all crazy if he watched even for a little while.
  • They ate better (presumably because they were more active and their minds were more settled).
  • We spent more time doing fun stuff! ‘Cause sitting on your butt around the house and watching shows on the iPhone isn’t actually that fun…
  • More time connecting, which = better behaviour
  • We were late less often! This one surprised me. If they ever got sucked into the screens before we had to leave somewhere, it would take so long to get them unglued and fully functioning for us to get out of the door.
  • They were more creative.
  • They played better together… held hands and did cutsie stuff that normally never do.
  • My son was less aggressive and destructive. 
  • My son’s speaking improved dramatically (in one week… really).
  • My son made it to the toilet more often.
  • They put on dance shows and did more craft. 
  • They fell asleep more easily and slept more peacefully. 
  • They read more books. 
  • Their reading improved dramatically. (In one week… really…)
  • At 22 1/2 months my son FINALLY started walking (could have been a coincidence, but still, it happened during the screen ban).
  • My 6 year old FINALLY learned how to swing herself (coincidence again? could be…)
  • They ENJOYED the break and asked for another week break in three day’s time!

It could have been a pure coincidence that all of my kids had huge developmental leaps during their screen break… but I have to wonder how screens were not helping anyone all that time. On the week that our ban was over, my 8 year old, the one who I knew would be feeling the screen ban the most, actually said, “Can we use the phones for three days and then have another week break?” My eyes nearly fell out of my head! I’m sure she might say something different after a few days, but her response was epic.

I think that taking breaks from screens are going to be a thing in our house from now on. While, I won’t ban them permanently, I will definite be more mindful and not use them as a crutch so often. We’re a tech friendly family, and I love how technology and screens has enabled us to do things we could never do before. I also DON’T feel guilty about the time that I let my kids use screens. At the time, maybe it was necessary to get me through a short period of chaos.

Timeliness: That Window of Opportunity That Mothers Can’t Ignore

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I know some dads get it too… but in our house, it’s me. I’m always the one with the master plan in my head.

I know exactly how many milliseconds we need to leave the house by, before someone has to pee again, or before someone gets hungry, or before someone spills something on their clothes, or before someone wants to start building an 800 piece lego masterpiece.

Don’t tell me to hang on a sec while you figure something out on the computer, or you that you need to spend 10 minutes in the bathroom. Because, the time to leave is NOW! Especially… ESPECIALLY, when I have a baby.

Ok, ok, I know I need to relax. There’s no reason to rush…

But, I’m not rushing! I’m simply a super aware freak mum, who knows more about how my children feel and more about what they need, than is probably good for me! They were with me for nine months in the womb, and I fretted 24/7 over them for the first year or two of their lives. I KNOW these little people too well.

I KNOW things like, if we don’t get out of the shops in exactly 4.38 minutes, then dinner won’t get started, then the baths will be late, then the kids will go to sleep late, then the middle one will have night terrors because she’ll be over tired. Yes, all this JUST from leaving the shops a little too late.

And, I know that if we don’t leave the house NOW, then the 2 year old is going to fall to sleep in the car, but it will only be a micro nap, and then the good nap is spoiled and then I don’t get a break all day and then not only is the 2 year old cranky later, but I TURN INTO A RAVING LUNATIC!

Planning falls apart, I know that. And, it’s good to be spontaneous! Yes, I get all that and practice it daily. But, I have to be in the mood for it… I have to have the energy for breakdowns and meltdowns and missed sleep and so on.

So, I know, I seem like I’m keeping a secret schedule, or that I have an hidden agenda to be in control. And it sounds like I’m a super anal freak! What it is, is that I’m sharp and alert and I need to keep this little family unit running as smoothly as possible. It’s my inborn, slightly perfectionist yet nurturing, nature, that keeps me on a schedule the way I do.

When that window of opportunity presents itself, I need to make a move! And, if I don’t, and you see me getting uptight, now you know why.

 

What’s With Kids These Days?

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You know what’s the problem with kids these days?

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

People can cry all they want about the technology, kid’s exposure to this and to that. How kids disrespect their parents and teachers (I know about the second one first hand).

Well, I’m not saying those things help. But, you know what? Kids are the same today as they were 50 years ago. They’re the same as they were 500 years ago.

Kids are all born amazing. They’re smart. They’re creative. They’re naturally friendly and cooperative (REALLY! more on this later). They’re free thinkers. In fact, I can’t think of any other time in history when we’ve had so many free thinking adults in our society, and those free thinking adults all used to be kids who one day grew up. Oh, and kids also all have the ability to drive us insane.

I bet you think YOU are a free thinker and reasonable adult, right? Yet once upon a time, some adult was sitting there thinking about your generation and wondering what was wrong with the kids from your era. The same people calling the kids of today ‘entitled brats‘ are the same people who were being called ‘entitled brats‘ 30 years ago.

So, then it’s the parent’s fault, right? That’s what’s making kids so rotten. Read the rest of this entry

I’m Not Trying To Replicate My Childhood for My Children

My childhood was great. It was American as apple pie (Sort of, except I was always a bit of the odd ball, but aren’t we all).

I played a lot outdoors, rode my bike everywhere. We lived in a tiny cookie cutter house, we had a yard, a cat, (a dog at some point). I played in the snow. Kids picked on me at school and I ‘toughened up‘ to get past it. I had plenty of friends, I went to school, (school that I wasn’t sure if I hated or liked, but there was no other option so I never even thought twice about it). I had friends, and with the friends came the drama and gossip. I played soccer, we played man hunt with the neighbourhood kids. I played the piano (barely). We ate pizzas on Fridays. As we got older, we were all encouraged to do well in school so that we could go university so we could get a job… There was no mention of an alternative.

And, it was fine! My childhood was perfect because it shaped me into who I am today.

But. my kid’s childhood looks radically different. And, although I had a great childhood, there’s no way I’m going to try and recreate my childhood for my own kids.

Not only do we live 10,000 miles away from where I grew up, but we do things different. And, this life for them, is perfect for them because it is what it is. The nostalgia of my childhood doesn’t mean anything to them and it doesn’t have to mean anything to them! My childhood is my story, it doesn’t have to be theirs.

As of now, my kids have only been homeschooled. They haven’t be part of a ‘group‘ at school. And, that’s fine. They’re off doing other adventures in life. Just because I went to school doesn’t mean they have to experience the same thing! Read the rest of this entry

Gentle Parents Lose Their Sh*t. It’s Ok.

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We all lose it differently. Some of us want to curl up in a ball. Some of us disengage on screens. Some of us cry. Some of us yell. Some of us explode. Some of us get aggressive. Some of us curse. Some of us use threats and bribes and say hurtful things that were said to us when we were children. Some of us do a combination of all of the above. It happens I tell you. Even professionals in the field of helping parents and children, react in ways that seem hypocritical of everything that they teach and value. It happens…

I was joking with my husband the other day, saying how young children can be like drunk people. Irrational, intensely irritating, incoherent at times, unable to do the simplest of tasks, etc. It made me laugh talking about it… but it also made me feel enormous compassion for myself and for other parents trying their hardest to be gentle, aware parents. Because it’s easy to go on parenting in ‘react‘ mode. It’s a challenge to become aware of our tendency to react, and if you’ve taken the challenge, you’re already doing amazing things!

Kids have the ability to unintentionally push every single one of our buttons and can trigger, in us, our absolute worst reactions! Read the rest of this entry

Don’t Just Survive Being a SAHM! The Thriving SAHM Checklist

I like to think that 50 years from now, somebody will be reading this and think how outdated this list is… But for now, it’s reality. We don’t need to just survive, we need to thrive!

Being a SAHM, is hard work, it’s never ending hours, often thankless and undocumented (expect for now we have social media as an outlet for our day to day woes). I once had some lady tell me I was lazy for being a SAHM, and I think my eyes almost fell out of my head! Not only is being a SAHM challenging, but often our pride and dignity get squashed when we compare ourselves to mothers who work. When we see photos on social media or know what our money making friends are up to, it can make you feel pretty worthless somedays. Here you are calling it a triumph of a day for wiping poo off the floor and baking some cookies… and what other people are doing at work, might seem much more glamourous.

And, there are lots of reasons why one parent ends up staying at home with the kids!

But, no matter what our reasons for being a SAHM (stay at home mum or SAHD, stay at home dad), or part time SAHM, these are the things over the years (going on 8) that have helped me thrive. After giving a short poll to my readers, they resonated with a lot of the same… Read the rest of this entry

Children Under 7 Have No Concept of Time: Helping Kids Understand ‘Time’.

Have you ever said to your kid, “We’re leaving in five minutes!” The time comes and they totally blow you off? Or, they legitimately ask you 399 times in the car “are we there yet?” even though you told them that the GPS says 10 more minutes?! Or, thirty seconds before you leave the house, they get involved with imaginary play? Even though you’ve been telling them all along that we’re leaving “in a few minutes“?

It’s because young kids have a very limited concept of time. For babies and young toddlers, you can just about forget about it. They live so much in the present moment, every moment to them is new and fresh. This is why kids can be crying one minute and laughing the next. It’s very beautiful, but can be super frustrating for us adults who are stuck in the world of time!

Don’t you remember, as a kid, how long everything felt? I remember summer vacation feeling like an eternity! And long car trips were torturous because I thought I might die of old age before we ever reached our destination. Or, the reverse. I would go out to play in the backyard, and get lost in time, playing with sticks and leaves and mud. Read the rest of this entry

The “Stop Judging Me” Epidemic

Some parents have become so defensive in their parenting practices, that they sincerely believe someone else’s triumphs are a direct attack on their way of living.

A home birth story turns into you judging another mother for having a c-section story. A photo of your kids enjoying a day of homeschool turns into a dig against kids who go to school. A photo of a smiling mother, happily breastfeeding, instantly becomes an insult to those women who couldn’t breastfeed. A proud photo of babywearing becomes an attack on parents who use strollers. A parent who openly says they will never do ‘cry it out‘, because it goes against their heart and against what all the research says, is dragged over the coals for judging other mothers who do ‘cry it out’.

It’s out of control. It’s ridiculous.

Since when have parents become so incapable of appreciating others experiences? Since when have parents become so unwilling to gain something useful from someone else’s life stories? Since when have parents become so defensive to the point that rather than admit they may have something to learn, they scream out, “You don’t know what my life is like, stop judging me!Read the rest of this entry

Parenting With Less Wasted Words

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When my first was little, I used to talk to her all day. Almost a steady stream of explanations, questions and observations. I felt like it was up to me to deliver an experience of the world around her, through my eyes. When I watch old videos of us together, I wish I could have lovingly told the ‘me‘ of seven years ago to just be quiet and let her enjoy the new things she was discovering.

I used to say, “Oh, look at the moon! Look at the doggie! Wave bye bye!” ect. Interestingly, she went through a period where she was scared of the moon and of dogs! It was almost as if me pointing these things out to her and drawing artificial attention to them made her anxious! I also started to realise that it gets tiring always explaining, asking and talking!

This post is about my journey in the way I speak (or choose not to speak) to my kids and other children. I don’t want anyone reading this to think that I’m obsessed over every little thing I say to my kids or that I count my words or something crazy like that! It’s been more about the general awareness level and breaking free of the ‘record player‘ (the way we’re programmed to speak to children from our own past experiences). I feel I have a much deeper connection with my kids when I stop ‘talking at‘ them and really consider if what I have to say is actually helping the situation, or if I’m imposing my ignorance or my past, on their new experiences. The journey of awareness of speech is gradual and on-going.

Now, she’s 7 years old, and the other day, she was braiding a belt for her pants that kept falling down. She was putting in a considerable effort into the task that she had initiated herself. But, I could see straight away that the yarn she had cut was too short. For a second, I wanted to ‘save‘ her from making a mistake. I could have told her to stop and consider if the string was long enough. But, I didn’t. I watched. She finished. She realised it was too short. She simply said, “Wow, this is WAY too short!” and bounced away from her project and didn’t try to make another one.

In the short term, my intervention would have meant she would have been successful this time, but what about the next time and the time after that? I guess I could have encouraged her to make another one, right? Wasn’t she disappointed that she hadn’t succeeded? No… Her final product was only a failure in MY eyes. She didn’t have to know about the dialogue in my head! Who am I to say what learning experience she had gained? She had completed her activity and wasn’t attached by the outcome, only I was attached the outcome.

I found that most of the time when I ‘talked at‘ my children (explaining, asking questions, being unaware of their learning journey), I was interrupting a really important learning processes.

My four year old recently learned how to scoot really well on her scooter. By accident, I told her twice how awesome it was that she was scooting so well! (Cheer leader style). She rolled her eyes and said, “Why do you keep saying that?!” Oops… sorry. They’ll catch you in that moment of unawareness and let you know how irritating you are!

Kids complain. We try to reason with them. Instead of hearing them out.

Kids cry. We talk and distract, rather than listen to their hurts and frustrations.

Kids are sad. We try to talk them out of being sad, instead of allowing their hearts to be heavy (with kids, the heaviness usually only lasts for a few moments)

Kids discover something new! We try to explain their discovery even deeper and accidentally make it seem like they might not be able to learn all the answers on their own.

Kids get scared of something. Again, we try to distract or won’t validate their fears, telling them to stop being silly, or to be a big girl, instead of holding them in their space and allowing the fear to express itself.

The same goes for getting kids to cooperate. Let’s says it’s time to leave the park, I say we need to get going a hundred times, but they know that the first 99 times I say it, that we’re really not ready to go. So, I’ve literally wasted my breath. Same goes for put on your shoes, brush your teeth, etc. Unless the sound honestly does not reach their ear drums… they heard you the first time! Whether or not they cooperate is another story.

Over the years, I’ve gotten so so much better at responding, rather than reacting, but it’s hard to break out of ‘react‘ mode! Even people who have practiced some sort of self help/self discipline for years, suddenly find themselves spewing out words of unawareness from their past experiences when they become parents. Children bring out the best and worst of us!

Kids usually don’t need lengthy explanations on life. They get it. But, sometimes they DO need extra explanation. For example this morning, miss. 7 was bouncing on the bed doing flips and splits. Instead of telling her to ‘stop it‘ a million times, I told her “I need you do do your flips and splits in the other room because Marty is getting distracted by all your noise!” So, she went off in the the other room.

While writing this, my 4 year old came to me complaining about her sister. I listened. I told her in a few words that I understand how she is feeling. She left, happy that she was heard. I didn’t have to explain for ten minutes about another course of action she could take that would make everybody happy. I mean, if she had asked me for some advice, I would have given it to her. But, really, she just wanted a shoulder to cry on.

Young children live in the present moment, so there’s really no need for too much explanation, planning ahead, pondering, etc. If they’re ready to absorb it, they will. If they’re not ready, the event or phenomena will simply pass them by.

Although I do talk now with more awareness, I’m not so serious and rigid that I won’t sing a silly non-sensical song to the baby and do silly fart jokes with the 5 year old. I still talk and explain things and point things out. It would be really unnatural and stiff not to! The key is to be natural with my kids and leave those past experiences aside to make room for something new!

If after reading this post, you feel like you want to speak with less wasted words to your children, but you’re not sure of how to get them to cooperate, there’s a fantastic book that I highly recommend, called ‘Attachment Play’ by Aletha Solter. 

I Hate Having Kids

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Sorry if I hold your hand too tight when we cross the street. Sorry if hover too much. Sorry if I ask you, “are you alright?” a few too many times. Sorry if I check all night long that you’re breathing. Sorry that I over react sometimes when I think you might get hurt.

What’s that cough? What’s that bump? Am I saying and doing the right things? I know I have to let you go and I have to have faith that you’ll be safe. But deep down, there’s always that nagging thought… I’ve learned to quiet that thought, but it’s still there. I’m not an anxious person, but you do something to me that defies everything I thought I knew about myself.

The same thing that brings you joy can also make you miserable. I KNOW this. If you told me this knowledge on life about anything else, I can get it. A new car that brings you joy, makes you miserable when it gets scratched. An exciting new job can get mundane after some time. A new love will turn old. A young beautiful body will get old and wrinkled. I know all this and accept it… but when it comes to my babies, it’s so different. I love you, I worry. I can’t help it. I love you so much that I hate it!