Wednesday evening I was talking with Roger about our children. They are good kids, but lately I've been noticing attitudes that I don't like. And some of the younger children don't seem to have a clue about some basic obedience issues.
Here's an example: We'd gone to the store and I'd talked to the kids about the behavior I expected from them while we were shopping. This used to always work with my kids. They might "forget" for a moment, but a look or a reminder would usually suffice and they would stop running up and down the empty aisle, hiding in the clothes racks, or whatever other shenanigans they were up to. Sam, our 3 yr old, has had a different response. "I get one more chance." Whoa. That would be my fault for ever letting him get a second chance. A friend of mine put it well today at the park. Her son told her no to something and she got up and said, "I'm sorry son, we have a zero tolerance policy." Yep, that's what I need to get back to.
But how? It's gotten pretty bad when a 3 yr old doesn't have a clue what obedience is. He just understands saying sorry when he's caught (Roger says he thinks it's a "get out of jail free" card) and expects multiple chances before ever being disciplined.
I realize that all the books on discipline say you should be 100% consistent and yada yada yada. The thing is, I'm human and I just can't do that. Sometimes I don't notice things they do wrong even when it's right under my nose. You know how it goes. You're thinking about something else and just plain don't notice. Sometimes I notice and I'm too pregnant to deal with it--or busy nursing a baby who is finally falling asleep. Sometimes it's easier to turn on the tv and ignore them for a while. Does that make me a failure? Yes and no. What do we teach kids when they make a mistake? Do we tell them they have failed and that's the end? Of course not. We tell them to get up and try again!
It's the same for parents, don't you think? So, I've decided that there are some issues around here that need to be dealt with. But what? How?
So, I was talking with Roger about it and praying silently at the same time, pleading with God to show me WHAT I am doing wrong these days. I believe I know how to be a good parent because I have done well with the older kids, but somehow I'm really struggling with the younger ones. What am I doing differently? Just then Joy ran up and asked to watch TV. That's when it hit me. It's the TV. Roger reminded me that I used to let them watch a maximum of 1 hour a day. They're watching WAY more than that these days and it can't be good for them. There were always times, like right after having a baby or a rainy day, that I would make an exception, but we'd make up for it with less TV later. Well, it's time for less.
So, starting this past Wednesday, we are not turning on the TV for a week. Then we'll go back to our old limits. The only exception being they are allowed to watch the Math U See videos. They don't count. The younger kids are having a pretty hard time with it. And I have to admit that in the evening when the kids go to bed it's hard for me too.
I've always told the kids that the TV kills their brains. I didn't make it up. I read a study years ago that explained something or other about the television hardening the brain and not allowing new creases to develop as well or something along those lines. I just put it in my own words so they could grasp the seriousness of it. And now I'm seeing that they certainly lose their imagination. It's like they don't know what to do anymore unless they can watch a movie (most of what the kids watch is stuff we have on dvd or video. Some PBS shows are okay, too. I still have standards even if I am allowing too much quantity. No commercials either if I can help it. What parent needs their kids to be told that their parents don't know anything? So we avoid commercials as much as possible.) or the "Why Why's"--also known as Super Why on PBS.
It sure seemed to be making life easier for me. Turn on a movie and they all get quiet. I can do something else for a while. But when it's over, there's a rebound effect. They are wilder and louder and less responsive to me. So when they ask for another movie it's harder to say no. In between movies there's more fighting (and we don't watch violent stuff) and arguing and certainly more whining.
And I have to admit, without that electronic babysitter going I pay better attention to what they are up to. I hadn't noticed the change in myself, but I am definitely more attentive when the tv stays off. Maybe I'm just more aware of them because I don't assume they are quietly watching tv. I've taken back my responsibility instead of delegating it to a box with magic pictures and sounds.
The whining got worse at first, but I'm seeing a difference already. We have a way to go, but there's improvement and that is encouraging. It's been a hard couple of days and we have 5 more to go, but it will be worth it.
Maybe we'll even blog a bit more often now.