Episode 124: "I need a summer survival guide I can stick to."
Question of the Day:
Summer is coming and I can already anticipate my kids wanting nothing but to sit on their devices all day. Without the structure the school year provides, there is just too much down time and in my house, boredom always leads to video games, youtube and Netflix.
The problem is I have a love/hate relationship with their devices. I LOVE that they leave me alone! When they are on their devices, they stop complaining about being bored, they stop asking for snacks a million times a day, and they stop bickering and fighting with each other! Life is peaceful when devices are on.
HOWEVER, after they have been on their devices too long, I start feeling guilty. I get annoyed and start yelling at them to turn it off, go outside, call a friend. They ignore me so I threaten to chuck their ipad or cell phone out the window. It’s not pretty.
Can you help me come up with a game plan or survival guide I can stick to this summer so I don’t go insane?
Parent Educator Answer: A Summer Survival Guide for digital devices
What works for creating a simple system you can stick to for managing kids digital devices?
A clear and consistent schedule.
There is a reason why teachers follow and post a clear, predictable schedule for students. We like to know what to expect. It helps us relax and enjoy the moment. In the beginning there is lots of testing and pushing boundaries from kids wondering…”Do you really mean what you say?” “Are you going to stick to this or is there wiggle room?” But if you hold firm to your established boundaries, they will stop asking and simply obey the structure you have created.
Your schedule can look like “No devices before noon”
“Internet access is only available between 12-2pm and 7-9pm.”
“Free access all day except for the hours between 4-6pm.”
“You get no more than 4 hours of play time but you choose when you use those hours."
Following through on rules could mean putting devices in a central location in your house where you can monitor, setting the wifi router or cell phone to shut off at a particular time, or using an app or chart to track screen time access.
Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way from creating a simple schedule and sticking to it?
- Feeling like a “bad mom”.
- Inconsistent summer schedules.
- Persistent and/or sneaky children.
- Perfectionistic fantasies.
- An absence of calm, leadership energy.
1. "Bad Mom"
When our kids have spent too much time on devices, the guilt that creeps in usually comes from a voice in our heads whispering mean things like,
“You aren’t doing it right.”
“If you were a good mom, your kids would be creating art and engineering feats in the backyard.”
“Your kids prefer video games to reading books, you are a failure as a mother.”
We KNOW we aren’t bad moms! We are working our butts off to do the right things for our kids! So when this mean voice creeps in, we have the urge to kick it to the curb. The desire to yell or chuck the xbox out the window is really a desire to toss this mean voice out the window.
Instead, meet this voice with confident compassion. “I know you think you are helping me by telling me I suck. Your opinion is noted but not welcome. I can get my kids off devices while still believing I'm a good mom.”
It takes some time and focused attention to become aware of this subconscious voice in our head so don't feel bad if you aren't aware of it or you don't feel in control. Managing this inner critic is really hard to do on your own. It helps to have a life coach or therapist there to help you separate from it.
2. Inconsistent summer schedules make it really hard to schedule consistent screen time. When you’ve got swim meets on Wednesday nights, play dates with friends and camping trips on the weekend, how are you supposed to stay consistent?
The solution is to take it one week at a time, or one day at a time. If your kids know that their screen time will be monitored everyday, it doesn’t matter if you say “today you can have devices from noon to 2:00pm”, “tomorrow 5-7:00pm”. It’s not a problem to be consistently inconsistent. Just make sure YOU don’t throw in the towel when things get dicey. The rewards of consistency are kids who know the rules and follow them without arguing and pushback.
3. Speaking of arguing and pushback, the next obstacle that keeps us from creating a schedule is argumentative, persistent and sneaky children. Some kids love a predictable routine, other kids find rebelling against routine (and mom) exciting entertainment. They get to test their manipulation skills and turn it into a competitive power struggle. If this is your scenario, the best strategy is boredom. Be consistent, follow through everyday, but don’t give it your energy and attention. Turn off the device with a yawn saying “You know the rules” then challenge them to make 10 free throws in a row. If excitement and attention are your child’s motivation to misbehave, give them something else to get excited about.
4. Perfectionistic Fantasies are these dreams we have of summer time with our kids running through the sprinklers, happily playing outside, entertaining themselves with their imagination. We think, “If I was a good mom, my kids wouldn’t be interested in screens” or “If I was a good mom, I would provide fun and stimulating activities everyday.” These perfectionistic fantasies make us feel like we are constantly failing because they never come true! Instead, expect summertime to be really hard, expect your kids to want to be on screens and get a game plan in place to take care of yourself, as well as the kids.
5. An absence of calm, leadership energy - Kids can sense when you are standing in your power, they feel your confident energy and do what you ask. If you are asking them to follow the routine from a disempowered energy, they won’t feel compelled to listen or obey. When you are afraid of their pushback, or annoyed that you have to police these devices, or exhausted from too much kid time, it’s going to mess with your leadership energy.
Lots of things get in the way when you are trying to implement parenting systems that are good for kids. Screen time feels harder to monitor because we didn’t grow up with the availability of devices like today’s kids have so we don’t have an example to imitate. Think of managing devices like brushing teeth. Eventually, it will be your kid’s job to manage on their own but until then, we can remind them and hold them accountable to a boring, consistent routine.
Supermom Kryptonite - May Crazies
The end of the year crazies are upon us. School picnics and field trips, graduation ceremonies, teacher gifts and parties. SO MUCH extra stuff gets piled on at the end of the year it can make a Momma barely have time to breathe. Give yourself grace during these months. It’s survival time. Reduce your expectations, drop a ball or two, half ass it wherever you can. Revisit your game plan once summer is in full swing and you have a little more time.
Supermom Power Boost - Diversify your joy
If you only get ONE DAY A YEAR to celebrate your awesomeness, it’s a recipe for disappointment. If Mother’s Day is the only time your family asks “What do you want, Mom?” then it’s never going to feel like enough.
I remember coming home late one night after teaching Time for The Talk. I loved teaching at night. Most nights I was exhausted by the time dinner rolled around but teaching gave me a burst of energy. I got to do my hair and makeup, hang out with amazing parents and kids, have some fun doing what I loved, then come home and the kids would already be in bed. No dinner, no bath, no bedtime routine! Coming home after teaching was my favorite! I would heat up some dinner, curl up on the couch and watch Survivor.
One night I came home and SOMEBODY messed up my DVR recording. I was so looking forward to my favorite Monday night routine but when I found out my favorite show was not recorded, I LOST IT! Total exploding doormat: tears, yelling, temper tantrum. What that taught me is that I need more than just one evening a week of JOY. I need to diversify so that when something goes wrong, my sanity doesn’t go down the toilet.
Last Wednesday, I made plans to go golfing with my husband after work. It was the warmest day we’d had in 7 months and I wanted to enjoy it! It took longer than we thought to finish up work and get out of the house, by the time we got to the golf course, it was too late. Even though the sun was shining and the weather was warm, they were still on spring hours, not summer. No problem, we’ll go to another course nearby. Turns out the sprinklers were going on soon and we wouldn’t be able to get 9 holes in. Fine, we’ll just hit some balls at the driving range. Guess what? The driving range closes early for cleanup on Wednesdays. Fine, we’ll go for a hike. My husband’s allergies kick in before we get to the trail head.
In the past, this would have sent me into a tearful rage because it was my one and only opportunity to get away for a golf outing. But because I now have more time for me than ever before, I was able to roll with the punches. I didn’t feel scarcity around this day, so I was able to enjoy sitting in the sunshine, just having a beer and watching other people golf.
Be sure to diversify your joy, especially in the summer. Have it come in from more than one place. If food is your main source of pleasure and self indulgence, it will leave you hungry for more. If your partner is your sole source of sanity and companionship, when they go out of town you may come unhinged. Think about getting your happiness from a variety of sources, building in lots of time for fun, relaxation and pleasure, so you can avoid the “Exploding Doormat Syndrome” when your kids aren’t following the screen time protocol.
Quote of the Day:
"Our children are counting on us to provide two things: consistency and structure. Children need parents who say what they mean, mean what they say, and do what they say they are going to do.” Barbara Coloroso