By Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
The age of the electronic parent is upon us. There can be no question about that. It only takes a brief walk through a local department store or mall to notice that the preferred gift for any child older than the age of three is electronic. Parents are buying computer games, i-pods, TVs, videos, and cell phones at an ever- increasing rate. In addition, parents now purchase electronic "toys" that help their children learn to say words, count, write letters, and even read. One toy manufacturer went so far in extolling the virtues of a tutorial device that he claimed, "It is simply the best way to help your child learn to read."
Why are no alarms going off? Why has no one produced an electronic device to warn parents of the dangers ahead? Hasn't anyone created an electronic program to signal that our parenting power pack is getting dangerously low?
Make no mistake about this---electronic purchases are changing the face of parenting. The role of parenting is being turned over to the electronic world, and this does not benefit the child or the parent. Let's take a closer look.
It's not new or even surprising information that children in America now spend, on average, 6 hours a day exposed to electronic media that includes TV, computers, listening to music, and playing video games. What is surprising is that so few parents seem to care or are willing to do anything about it.
Consider that young children are now regularly hearing an electronic voice pronounce words to them instead of hearing their parent's voice reading aloud. Preschoolers and kindergartners are getting a jump-start into color identification and letter writing with computer programs instead of drawing and coloring with Mom or Dad at the kitchen table. School-age children are occupied for hours by hand-held video games instead of an engrossing paperback book. Adolescents and teens are listening to hours of music on i-pods or Nanos instead of communicating with the family. Does it occur to anyone that something is missing here? It's called connectedness and family interaction.
The expanding use of electronic media as a substitute for involved parenting has created the Great American Family Disconnect. Increased emphasis on TV, the internet, and video games is creating an emotional gap between parent and child and severely limiting family interaction. The electronic takeover of parental responsibility is creating family distance, isolation, and a decrease in feelings of belonging and connectedness. Disconnecting from family is currently growing in direct proportion to the strength of connection our children feel to their favorite electronic device. Simply put, electronic media in a child's life increases isolation.
It is time for parents to pull the plug on the electronic takeover and put the human touch back into the parenting equation.
It is time for parents to realize that 6 hours a day of being plugged into media leaves children little time to plug into their family.
It is time for parents to recognize that there is no healthy reason for a child to carry a video game with him wherever he goes, or for a parent to make a child's bedroom so attractive and so media friendly that she wants to spend most of her time there by herself.
It is time for parents to accept their parenting responsibilities and make a commitment to active, "hands-on," parenting.
While riding in the car, unplug the headphones, turn off the DVD player, and tell your children a story about the day they were born or about a mouse that lives under the deck. Shut down the computer, turn off the x-box, and play a game of chess, checkers, or monopoly together. Stand up, walk away from the TV, and go shoot baskets, skip rope, or ride bikes with your child. Build a snowman or go on a nature walk. Invest time in your children rather than in the newest electronic device.
Don't wait until your parenting power pack goes dead. Make a commitment today to be the best parent you can be by being present and interactive in your child's life on a regular basis. Take back the sacred role of parenting children from the electronic world. Be the parent you were called to be.
4. Article: Parenting Goals for 2006: Two Words of Advice
By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
Want to get your parenting efforts off to a great start this year? Are you serious about including some mothering or fathering resolutions in your 2006 goals? Do you plan to make family a top priority during the next 12 months? If so, why not consider these two words of advice: passion and grace?
This year I resolve to increase passion for my family by firmly holding in my consciousness my desire to succeed at home first.
I resolve to demonstrate grace in my family by taking the stance that mistakes are permitted here. I intend to see errors not as errors but as opportunities for growth and as data that can be used for learning.
I resolve to increase passion in my family by demonstrating my belief that the single best thing I can do for my children is to love their mother (father).
I resolve to increase grace in my family by focusing on fixing problems rather than on fixing blame. To that end, I will be solution oriented without attacking character or personality in the process.
I resolve to show passion for my family by strengthening feelings of connectedness through the creation of family rituals, preservation of the family history with photo albums and scrapbooks, and the repeated telling of stories that reveal our family traditions and uniqueness.
I resolve to bring grace to my parenting role by seeing my children as unfinished. I know that God has not completed His job with any of us, myself included. I will keep that in mind as my children move down their own path toward becoming who they were intended to be.
I resolve to increase passion for my family by increasing my presence. I will increase both the amount of time I am physically present for my family and the level of emotional presence I bring to those times when I am there.
I resolve to show grace in my family by not making my children wrong for their actions, even as I hold them accountable for those actions. I see implementing consequences as one of the most loving things that I can do as a parent, and I will perform that role with an open heart.
I resolve to show passion for my family by demonstrating physical affection through hugging, kissing, holding, nurturing, smiling, and using caring, sustained eye contact with all family members.
I resolve to demonstrate grace in my family by seeing it all as perfect. If my children are choosing appropriate behaviors, that is perfect. If they are choosing inappropriate behaviors, that too is perfect. It is the perfect time for me to allow them to experience consequences and to teach some new behaviors. If these resolutions are working for you, that is perfect. If they are not working, it is the perfect data needed for you to create the necessary adjustments.
Put passion and grace into your family during this coming year. Use them to make 2006 your best parenting year ever.
Happy New Year.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. They are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. They publish a free monthly e-zine for parents. To sign up for it or obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your parenting needs, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com
5. We Get E-mail
Hello Thomas and Chick,
I have 3 children, ages 2 (girl), 5 (girl), and 8 (boy). I have a hard time every day with them picking up after they are done playing with things. I have tried taking things away if they don't pick it up, but they don't really seem to care. One time I actually boxed everything up from my son?s room except his bed and dresser, but he didn't seem to care. He had other toys from his sisters? rooms to play with. I told him he could earn his toys back one by one, but he just commented, "I don't care."?
The 2-year-old will get things out I think to just make a mess. And the 5-year-old just cries and says, "I need help," and won't do anything as far as chores unless you're helping her which before you know it she?s gone and you're left picking things up.
Christmas is coming and I feel why should they get more things that I have to clean up every day? But how can I deprive them of Christmas? I know you're going to say that I don't have to do anything. That I'm choosing to pick up after them if they won't, but I choose not to have a cluttered house and if they won't pick things up then I guess that leaves me to pick things up.?
What can I do to get them to see that I have my own responsibilities with working full time, and cooking, and cleaning, and taking them to their extra activities and that I shouldn't have to pick up after them too?
Children 2, 5, and 8 years old will not fully see and appreciate the adult responsibilities you handle daily. They are so immersed in their own world that they do not have the maturity and insight to put themselves in your shoes. You say they don't seem to care. They probably don't.
Two-year-olds do not get things out just to make a mess. Their minds do not operate like that. They get things out because it is fun to get things out. Then, because their attention span is from 3-5 minutes, they see something else and move on. They do not do this to purposefully frustrate you or make more work for you. This child is simply being two years old. That is what two-year-olds do.
It sounds as though you see yourself as a victim here. You can create a lot of resentment and frustration for yourself if you continue to take that stance. It's time to get empowered and take control of this situation. Begin by containing the mess. Young children will make a mess, so your best hope is to contain it. Keep messes in one area only, a bedroom or play area. Make the other areas of your home off limits for toys and other playthings.
Instead of spending your time dealing with messes after the fact, invest your parenting time on the front end, before messes occur. When a child gets something out, nothing else gets taken out until that is put away. This will take some front-end monitoring on your part for several weeks until the new norm becomes a reality. You will have to stay on top of this and watch for children to wander off without putting things away. Catch them immediately, remind them of your home rule, and see that it is enforced. Invest the time in teaching your children how to make an effective transition from one activity to another. If you are lax here, they will learn to be lax in putting things away. You can care on the front end and work there or you can care on the back end and work there. Those are your two choices. Sounds like you don't like doing the back-end work. If that is so, you only have one choice if you want a clean home and responsible children.
Good parenting is not time efficient. This will take a commitment on your part. You have to be the one to decide to make it.
Thomas and Chick