family · home · parenting · relationships · technology

How Less Tech Gave My Family More

Parents: we have a problem. Technology is changing our kids.

Of course we know this. Extensive research is conducted. Long-range studies are published. But recently, I witnessed the impact on my own family firsthand. Please realize this is not some comprehensive or organized experiment. It is simply real life – my life – and to be honest, the outcome would vary based on individual situations. But I will say this:

My son has changed. For the better. And it is all because we took his phone away.

Our kid is a good kid. He is smart, kind, hardworking, shy, witty, and an incredible blessing. But at the beginning of February, something occurred in our family that led to a revamp of rules for our son. Access to technology is a privilege not a right in our household which means he has to earn the ability to have and use. And while the trigger for this decision is not important, the results are.

WHAT WE DID:

  1. NO PHONE. Not at school. Not at home. Not anywhere. No calls, texts, internet, music, gaming. Nothing. He does not have access.
  2. NO COMPUTER. He must use a chromebook for school, but he is limited to homework and assigned internet searches.
  3. NO EMAIL. Personal email has been blocked, and school email must be related to assignments.

WHAT WE NOTICED:

  • more conversation
  • more interaction
  • more connection
  • more focus
  • more patience
  • more consideration
  • more creativity
  • more inspiration
  • more laughter
  • more joy
  • more peace
  • more love

Our son has always been amazing, but now he is like a different kid. There is less arguing and mood swings. He plays outside more. Free time is spent reading and writing. If he wants to talk to someone, he must do it in person. If he wants to learn about something, he needs to ask. We have never allowed social media apps but perhaps just the pressure of texting, emailing, and being in the know was too much.

Like many teens, he was addicted. But I also think he was fearful. Of not being cool. Of not keeping up. Of missing out.

These rules might seem harsh but they were necessary for our end goal: a reset. And though there was reluctance by our son, they were agreed upon as a family. It has now been one month, and we are planning to reinstate phone privileges slowly and with time limits. [Note: It would be unfair to abruptly change the rules for a child without thought, discussion, or a valid reason. But if the opportunity arises to make a meaningful change as a way to guide or teach a lesson, take it.]

We are not perfect parents. We are ever-learning. But this experience has taught us to disconnect so we can reconnect.

With the horrors of recent current events, it might feel harder than ever to parent, especially teenagers. But when the outside world begins to overwhelm our children that is a sign for us to take charge of what is happening on their inside. We must not be afraid to follow instincts, make tough decisions, and say no when everyone else seems to be saying yes.

Our kids can do without and survive, but we must take the initiative. More importantly, we need to lead by example – that means logging off more and going screen free as well. There is much to be found online but in the end, the best of life is lived offline.

We have the power to power off.


Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

family · home · obstacles · parenting

A Simple Life, Complicated

I am a self-proclaimed minimalist which means I like to simplify my surroundings, tasks, and schedule. But I am also a realist. I understand that sometimes in life, we need to complicate things.

Case in point: Our son has been asking for a dog for a solid year. From last year’s birthday to Christmas to this year’s birthday. It was obvious he was not giving up, and it would likely be the first item on his upcoming holiday wish list.

My husband and I did not want a dog as much as our son did. In fact, we have had a dog in the past and know what is involved. However, after much parental discussion, we came to this conclusion: We would get a dog.

After searching and inquiring and finalizing all of the necessary steps, we adopted this sweet little guy.

He is old enough to understand the rules yet young enough to keep up with our family. He is a power snuggler and master at stealing hearts. He came from a rescue organization, was in foster care, and needed a home.

He needed us. But perhaps more importantly, our son needed him. He needed things only a dog can give.

Responsibility – Our son is at that magical age (13) where he should be held accountable for more than good grades, sports practices, and lawn mowing. Thus, he has already been designated Head Dog-walker.

Companionship – As an only child, our son has friends at school, in sports, and around the neighborhood. And while he is excellent at being in his own head and enjoying alone time, he deserves a reliable buddy.

Understanding – Our son has already bonded with the dog which will hopefully put him on the path toward unconditional love, patience, and compassion for those who do not always treat him right.

I admit I will struggle with the extra time, effort, and general stuff that comes with dog ownership. But as a parent, we often have to bypass our wants so our children might get what they need.

I will try.

Try to treasure the moments when my son is sad, and the dog makes him smile. Try to cherish the times my son feels alone, and the dog provides company. Try to appreciate the moments when my son seems unsure, and the dog gives him confidence. Try to value the times my son requires comfort, and the dog provides that and so much more.

And hopefully one day far in the future, I will look back and remember how much I tried. Tried to do my best to help my son along. Tried to be patient. Tried to shine as a role model. Tried to teach my son the challenging parts of life can bring the most joy. Tried to show he is strong enough to navigate this difficult world.

I will never stop trying. And because of this, I choose to complicate my simple life with a small dog who will change our everything in a big way.

 


Spread a positive message: COMMENT above, SHARE this post, and LIKE on Facebook.

~Inspired ME, Joyful BE


Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

family · goals · parenting · self

The World I Want For My Son

My son starts school today. There is little fanfare when you are “middle school, been-there-done-that.” And yet, we still had an exciting morning of early alarms, first day photos, hurried breakfasts, good-luck hugs, and rushing to the bus stop. There will be old friends and teachers to see, new friends and teachers to meet. Familiar hallways, different classrooms.

It is a time when anything – and everything – seems possible.

In reality, it is the calm before the storm. Within days, we will rush through homework and dinner to attend sports practices. Weekends will be filled with more practices and games. There will be deadlines to meet, schedules to follow, and stress to bear. But within the chaos, all will seem predictable and safe.

At least I hope so.

More and more as a parent, I find myself wishing for an easier time. When I was my son’s age, life seemed simpler. Yes, there were problems. After all, it was the early eighties. The war on drugs was beginning. Jobs were lost. The Cold War was in full swing. People were abused, abducted, and killed in senseless crimes. Families were broken. Yet the troubles then did not seem so great compared to what we face now.

Maybe it is because I was just a kid myself. Maybe it is our globalized worldview or the pervasive 24/7 news cycle. Perhaps the blame can be put on technology and social media.

Maybe, just maybe, it is the same as it ever was.

All I know is this: I worry more. About human trafficking, opioid overdoses, nuclear war, economic instability, cyberbullying, hate groups, terrorist attacks. Everything seems so intense right now. And though I am typically optimistic, I feel stuck in a never-ending state of frustration. Frustrated the fear of what might never happen is taking over the joy of what is actually right in front of me.

I wish my son could experience a world free of heartache or pain. One void of ideological division and without violence or war. But in truth the world has never been like that.

As parents, we are tasked with so much it is easy to become trapped in the sheer overwhelmingness of it all. Advice comes from every side, as does the criticism. We want to be informed, do everything “right” so we might avoid mistakes and judgment. That, of course, is impossible. We will never know everything. We will fail (a lot) and sometimes be judged. That is parenting.

In the end, our sole purpose is to raise compassionate, self-sufficient, productive adults. And while we do that, we are to provide a soft spot to fall.

And so, this school year I will focus on bringing peace to my own little world. I will allow my son to be a kid awhile longer, to linger in the innocence of a life where the only worry is whether his baseball game gets rained out. There will be plenty of time to fear things when he is an adult, a parent.

For now, I will simply continue to …
-provide a haven, a safe place where he can freely discover who he is and who he hopes to be.
-encourage him to open his wings and spread them as wide as they go so he can explore.
-show him there is more good in this world than evil even when others try to convince us otherwise.
-set an example by treating people with patience and respect regardless of what they do or believe.
-remind him to be kind, embrace differences, and lift others up.

I will continue to tell my son … 
-when everything seems wrong, seek what is right.
-if something bad happens, counter it with good.
-when someone else runs from a challenge, walk toward it.
-if others are selfish, give of yourself.
-when seeking direction, be the leader.

Show this world that you will not give up. You will not give up on yourself. You will not give up on others. You will not give up on happiness. You will not give up on peace. You will never give up. Because even though life outside may seem cruel and unfair, the world you create inside – for yourself – can be one of joy.

CREATE YOUR OWN WORLD. One where you feel …

SAFE. Surround yourself with people who care about you.
LOVE. Give your heart to those who cherish you.
CONFIDENCE. Spend time with people who encourage you.
VALUE. Be with those who appreciate you.
PRIDE. Find the people who support you.
WORTH. Determine your own standard.
CONNECTION. Share your time and energy with people who deserve it.
ACCEPTANCE. Befriend those who respect you.

In the quiet moments, when I wonder if I am doing too little or making the wrong choice, I will be sure of one thing. I loved my son more than enough. I loved him without question or condition. I loved him with my whole heart and beyond. I loved him so much that I wanted him to thrive in an imperfect world so he might one day be the change and the light to drive out darkness whenever it came.

The world I want for my son is the one he creates.


Spread a positive message: COMMENT above, SHARE this post, and LIKE on Facebook.

~Inspired ME, Joyful BE