Every free minute there was a request to watch something, listen to something or play something. I wanted to get rid of all the distractions, yet I knew it was important teach moderation and not just throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Here is what has worked great for our family:
Monday, Wednesday and Fridays are non-electronic days. Yes, exceptions are made for work and school but no online surfing, news, music, etc.
The first few weeks caused struggles of defining what that really meant –
- Can we listen to praise music?
- What about audio books?
- What about e-readers?
Finally, we reached the conclusion that we would allow e-readers, since those encourage reading but nothing else. We realized that we all really need time to learn to be still and be able to think.
My kids (ages 2 – 11) are all figuring out how to entertain themselves while remaining “unplugged.” I love to see their creativity shine. All agree that it was hard at first yet is more fun now. The noise from electronics is now replaced with the giggles, acting, and adventures that emerge. I would take that any day.
Four other days a week electronics are allowed but there is a catch – the time must be earned.
As long as chores are done, school finished and good attitudes are shown, each child starts with 1 hour of time. If he or she would like to earn more they have to see what else needs to be done:
- Playing or helping a younger sibling;
- Picking up random clutter;
- Doing a non-assigned chore.
The great thing for me is that they have to come up with this extra idea on their own (even my 2 yr old comes in and tells me he helped big sister clean up).
Once they are ready to “cash in” the extra help given, I tell them how much time was earned. It is amazing how careful they are with their earned time and really think through if they want to watch a movie, listen to music or play a video game.
If it is a family activity such as pizza and movie night, that doesn’t count against electronic time; or if we have had a sick child there have been occasionally movies on a non-electronic day.
Warning: Parents you may be surprised at how difficult this is for you; we learned that after the kids go to bed, we are always on the computer or flip on the news. Now we enjoy games or reading together. Overall we have really done well sticking with this new found freedom.
Take time to unplug your family, enjoy time together and also just “be still”.