As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


The kids and I had an interesting conversation over lunch.  We have a behaviour chart on our diningroom wall that I adapted from Dr. John Rosemond's book The Well-Behaved Child (which is just an excellent, excellent book).  Basically it works like this.  There is a list of behaviour targets that we expect each of the children to do (things that we've been having problems getting them to do).  Currently we have four items on our list...that might be a tad much, now that I think about it, but it's working for now.  I think Dr. Rosemond suggests three, and then waiting until one has been improved on to the point that it no longer needs to be there before removing it and adding another one (the idea being that as you improve on a few areas at a time, the others are bound to follow).

On our list is:

1. Listen to Mom and Dad the first time.
2. No jumping on the couches
3. No interrupting
4. No running upstairs

Whenever any of these rules is broken, the child gets a strike.  The first two strikes are freebies (Dr. Rosemond suggests starting off with three free strikes first, then bringing it down to two after you've seen an improvement in the behavior).  Any combination of rules earns an equal strike, so it's not that they need to break a particular rule two times, but rather any rule.  After the first two strikes, there are three consequences of escalating severity (in our house it's a loss of screens, a loss of going outside, and then going to bed early).  It's worked in our home from the time we started it, and is a good fit for us because it gives the kids a chance to know what's coming and change the course before all is lost.  I can count on one hand the number of times any of the children have gotten all the way to the bedtime consequence, it just doesn't happen.  And at the beggining of the day, everything is erased and we start with a clean slate.

So the kids and I were saying grace and without naming the specific infraction, a few of them earned a strike.  Once we had sat down to our meal, my oldest boy said, "You know Mom, when I have a family, I'm going to have a chart too.  But on my chart, there will be check marks as well for doing good deeds."

"Very good," I thought, "I love positive reinforcement."

"And then," he said, "If they have a day where they've gotten five check marks and no strikes, I'll reward them with some time playing video games."

"Awesome!" I said.  I liked where this was going.

"Yeah, they can play the Wii for two hours!" he said.

Ah, the mind of a ten-year-old.  Wouldn't that just be the best thing in the world to them?  There is nothing my son loves more than a good video game.  He would play them all day, every day if let him.  He talks about them all the time.  He makes up video games in his head, and composes music for each level (which he's really good at!) and he writes stories, draws pictures, and explains them out in minute detail.  He is obsessed.

"Well," I offered, "by the time you're a parent you might not feel so good about letting your children spend two hours at a time playing video games."

"Why?" another child piped up.

"Because it's not good for you," I replied.

"Oh, because you'd get motion sick," he reasoned.

"No," I said, "it's much more than that.  It's not good for your brain to be stuck in front of a screen for hours at a time. It's not good for your body, or your mood, your emotions, your friendships.  People, especially kids, need to be active.  They need to get out and do things, with people.  You'll probably find that when you're a parent, a half hour of video games is plenty of reward."

This seemed to satisfy them for a while, but it really got my thoughts going.  The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends no more than two hours of screen time a day for children aged 5-11 (less for children younger than that), and says that even less screen time is associated with greater health benefits among children.  Of course there's the obvious physical health benefits, but I'm thinking of the emotional health and development of children as well.  More and more we're noticing in our society that children (and adults) don't have normal relationships with each other.  Much of their sharing, chatting and conversation happens via a screen - texting, facebooking, email, etc.  People of all ages are becoming increasingly isolated, lacking in meaningful human interaction and replacing instead with this false relationship over electronic media, that often gives the impression that a friendship is more intimate than it really is.

Without a doubt the most common question I get from people about homeschooling is, "What do you do about socialization?"  But do you know what?  Nobody asked me that when we got a Wii for the first time.  And believe it or not, anti-social tendencies arose much more quickly with that than with our homeschooling.  In fact, we have never had an issue with socialization for our children because we took them out of public school.  But when we got our Wii, the problems were immediate.  We had settled on allowing a certain amount of screen time a day, but my oldest son came to depend on that, to the point that if he didn't get it there was a big meltdown.  And turning it off was always a fight.  We have gradually moved to the point that we don't play it every day, that it's a luxury and a treat (and not a right).  Sometimes there is still a fight to turn it off.  But it doesn't control us, and it's not a part of our everyday, and we like it that way.

I'm not saying don't have video games (or screens).  But I think we need to take a long hard look at the social impact they have on our kids, and move from seeing them as an essential part of our everyday life to a treat, something extra special to be earned and enjoyed on a limited basis, but not all the time.  In response to the question about socialization, it is very much a concern for me, but not because my children don't attend school.  It has to do with their human interactions, and limiting their screen time forces them to interact and relate to the people around them, and in their immediate environment.  My husband and I, their brothers and sisters, the neighboors.  They are not allowed to disengage from life and choose a screen over real relationships, so they don't.  And their lives are enriched for it.

Socialization is important.  But don't just ask it of the homeschoolers, ask it of everyone - what are you doing to make sure your child is socialized?

1 comment :

  1. I couldn't agree with you more! This is the issue of our age -- raising children in the digital era.