Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Doing what works

I was reading in a parenting magazine the other day about media time. This is a big thing in our house. I grew up with almost no media time - we had no video game systems at all, the TV didn't go on at all during the week, and the only computer time we got was a short time on educational games.

But then I got married and had 3 boys, and discovered the boys are COMPLETELY different than girls, and that my perfect philosophy was going to need some adapting. I still try to limit media as much as I can, but I realize that with a husband who loves movies and video games, and a society that also embraces media, to unequivocally take it out of the house isn't realistic for us.

The first technique that really worked was our TV time. The boys get to watch 1 episode each day, when they first get home from school. We assign the days to the kids, so there is no fighting on whose turn it is to pick the episode. The shows are all on DVD, so I have complete control of what they watch and how long they watch for. We set the rules very clearly and adhere to them strictly. And it really works.

I was really against any video game system, but I lost that battle to James when his Dad offered to give us his Wii system for free. So instead we have limited this to Saturdays only. This one we have not been so successful at. Somehow "special Wii days" crop up waaaay too often. The result has been a lot of disagreement, fighting and tears over when they can play. It is obvious how our lack of discipline in a schedule has created confusion, especially for Caleb. In his eyes, he doesn't see any rhyme or reason as to when we let him play and when we don't. We must do better here.

This week is March Break, which meant thinking about the rules more closely. I didn't want it to be a free-for-all media blitz just because the kids are on vacation. (This will also be a good test run for the summer!) I sat down and thought about a couple of things: 1) our circumstances, like me being so sick and having all three boys home all day 2) my goals for how the boys spend the day, like wanting them to get outside in this beautiful weather!

The plan ended up looking something like this:

No Wii except on Saturdays. That one just has to be in stone for now, so Caleb can see the parameters of it.

Instead of just an episode, the boys can watch one "long movie" (feature length) in the afternoon while Benjamin and I nap. We have hired help for the mornings, but I'm on my own for the afternoons. Benjamin needs quiet in order to rest, and I really need to lie down as well. I can't say this will always be the rule for movies, but it works for us right now.

When faced with no Wii, the boys then slyly asked about computer video games. There are only two or three that we actually have for them to play, and they never seem to get so addicted to the computer games as with the Wii. (read: no tantrums and tears when we turn it off.) So I made a deal. Each day they could earn 30 minutes of computer time by either a) cleaning or tidying for 30 minutes or b) spending 30 minutes outside. This fit nicely with my goal of trying to get them outside more. Because I've been pregnant and sick, or nursing a newborn for the last 6 years, we haven't been able to spend as much time outside as I wish we could have. Believe me, that will change once this little darling comes! At any rate, it's no surprise that they chose to play outside rather than clean up, so I definitely won that one!

In the end of all this, I've really learned that what's most important is doing what works for us, for right now, and being okay with that. There's no use in comparing our habits with anyone else's because everyone's needs, desires, children and circumstances are different. We just need to do what works.

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