This blog is part of Educating My Boy: Chronicles of a Free-Schooler
Change Number 1: No Screens
The day I had my meltdown one thing became very clear to me: I couldn’t continue the way we were doing things. For starters, I just could not bear to watch my kid spend hours in front of a screen.
That day my husband stayed home from work to take Jack out so I could have a couple of hours of breathing space. By the time they returned from their outing I had packed away the VCR, DVD player, Xbox, and Jack’s computer. No more screen time. Cold turkey in cold blood! Having seen me sob uncontrollably that morning Jack looked around with wide eyes but said nothing.
You see, I hate doing law enforcement work. I dislike and am very bad at patrolling my son’s every move, timing his activities, issuing citations, and carrying out “justice.” And children – especially boys – being consummate negotiators, I just did not want to endlessly fight off his attempts to push limits. You know how it goes: Any allotted screen time will definitely run over if you do not materialize immediately to enforce the rule. If the allotted time gets interrupted there is going to be the future negotiation, and disagreement, over exactly how much time is left. Does screen time accumulate if one day is missed? How does it apply to times when friends come over or friends are visited? And on and on.
Right now I am too overwhelmed with demands on my time and energy to take on any arrangement that requires ongoing negotiation. So I unilaterally decided against the electronic screen: Off with its head!
And you know what? Jack accepted it with practically no resistance. I really didn’t expect this. I was prepared for battle but none ensued. It is now over two months of no screen time. I have modified the rule so that when friends come over the Xbox may come out of storage, half an hour per kid. Also, Jack is allowed to watch TV when we visit my mother, but only in the mornings before everybody wakes up. I have to admit, I came pretty close to allowing him watch TV a couple of times in the evening at my mother’s but managed to muster up my resistance and, boy, was I much happier for it.
Result? Jack now reads a lot more, listens to and plays more music, and generally finds something to do. In the car, not being allowed to play on the iPod he chats with me and looks out the window. Whew… what a relief. And it wasn’t as hard as what I had braced myself for!