As we nestled in for Family Home Evening this week I had big plans.
Often we don't have a plan for our "lesson," we kind of think of something on the spot or the kids share a thought (I know, some day we'll be more organized), but this week I was ready. We were going to work through our family technology contract (back HERE) and revise and streamline it to meet the needs of our changing family at home...and ever-changing technology bombarding that home of ours (sometimes in a good way, sometimes not-so-good).
My plan was to get some great input to help with my Mom Conference interview I have coming up on Friday entitled, "Monitoring your kids' screen time and smart phone use (without making them hate you)." As a side note, I'm hoping we can actually change the name (just something they came up with) because guess what? Sometimes monitoring stuff like that brings in some pretty negative feelings. Maybe "hate" is a strong word, but if us parents really follow through as we should on guidelines we set up...even those our kids help us create, sometimes it makes for some pretty mad, stomping, emotionally charged kids.
And that is ok!
We are not here to be our kids' best friends. We are here to train and guide them...which sometimes they're not overly happy about in the moment. But I'm very confident that they will be in the long-run if we can set healthy guidelines with love and serious follow-through...which is often so dang hard to do!
Ok, but back to Family Home Evening.
I figured I'd start with me. I mean, bottom line is that kids are like little sponges. So if I walk around with my phone attached to my body 24-7 they feel justified in doing the same thing, right? So I told them how I challenged my sister to join me on a little "no-technology-when-kids-are home-from-school" experiment for a week leading up to our interview. That way we could talk in the interview about how that felt and what resulted. I mean, duh, right? Why in the world would I waste my precious moments with kids glued to my phone?
I figured I'd let the kids and Dave in on my little challenge so they could help me stay on track, and that we'd move on to their technology problems next.
But we never got to any contract revisions or any of their "problems" because right then and there when I mentioned my challenge Claire said, "oh good, because you're always on your phone!" Lucy joined right in, and Grace launched into examples of when she needed me and I was too distracted to pay attention.
Oh boy, that was a fine how-do-you-do! So apparently I'm the one who needs to sign a contract ;) I'm the problem, not my kids. And if I can't control how much I look at that thing, how do I expect them to?
It is true, my smartphone is on task a lot. To be clear, it's not that I'm playing games or perusing the Internet, I'm generally on there for things like organizing carpools and writing a grocery list, or turning on some music so we can jam out to do our jobs. But man alive is it ever easy to get distracted on that thing! There's always an email to reply to or some new Instagram posts to comment on so friends will know I'm thinking of them. All good things, but I believe that we live in a world where we are too "tuned in" a lot of the time. I love to stay connected, but we survived just fine back in the day when we sent hand-written thank you notes and only called people when we were standing in one spot attached to the wall with a cord.
I have such a love-hate relationship with technology. I love it because with a few taps I can let a whole group of young women what we are doing for an activity that night. Grace can text me in jubilation that she got 100% on her test at school and I can see Elle in Hawaii sitting on a beach with new friends while I'm whipping up dinner in my own kitchen. The wife of a past missionary in Max's mission can send me a picture of my boy sitting with some beautifully ancient Chinese ladies that her husband's friend posted on Facebook. There are ideas that motivate me, there are articles and posts with ideas that have changed our family culture for the better. Technology is miraculous!
But just as easily as technology can lift us up and help us celebrate the beauty we are surrounded by, it can deftly distract us from the most important things in life. We are too "accessible" in so many ways. It's like we have to hurry and answer a text so we don't hurt someone's feelings even when we're in the middle of a real, face-to-face conversation, or we feel the need to answer some phone call even when we have a whole slew of kids in the car we could be listening to or interacting with. A teenager can be sent something inappropriate filling their screen without any warning and know every detail of a party they didn't get invited to.
There must be a balance. I want my kids to learn that balance. I want to train them right here while they're under my roof to seek out the beauty and set limits on the distractions. And obviously I need to keep working on that balance myself.
So I think it's pretty great to have a chorus of your own children to keep you in check at Family Home Evening on a Sunday afternoon :)
Needless to say, it's been a good couple days looking my kids in the eye and engaging deeper with them without my cell phone coming between us!
We have had a whole bunch of triumphs and failures over the years with parenting with technology, and I think it's something that has to be worked and re-worked over and over again. We are in an interesting position being the first generation to raise kids in the midst of all this hoopla and I have a lot more to say, but I'd love to hear ideas from blog readers of what we should include in this interview coming up (click HERE for more information about that). Questions as well as things that have worked and not worked. If you have input please send it along!
And next Family Home Evening I hope my kids will have a better report on how I'm doing! I will share what we come up with as a family.