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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thoughtful parenting OR how to change your mind.

I am not a very thoughtful parent. I don't mean that I don't consider birthdays or special events or hurt feelings. I mean I don't always think my decisions through. I tend to go with instinct and hope for the best. This comes back to bite me in more ways than one, but it seems to be something I can't change about myself.

One example of something that is hard to change now  is tv. When the Pirate was born I believed that we would have limited tv, that we wouldn't even watch grownup tv in front of him often (not counting sports), and that he would fill his time with imaginative free play. Birds would chirp and owls would teach him how to fish and he'd be building full scale models of Camelot in his room with only some legos and bedsheets.

Um. No.

We watch tv. He watches tv. As does the Bug. And I know, "Studies show..." I don't care. He has a fine imagination anyway. He can recap all 6 Star Wars movies and compare how they differ from the Star Wars Lego for Wii game (just ask my mom, who got all the details on that during our Mother's Day phone call.) He knows crazy amounts of random stuff. He says things like, "Thanks Dad, I appreciate it." Just like the commercials on Nick Jr. promise, it's like preschool on tv!  I am not willing to give up every moment of my own time to make sure he (they) know who is shorter or taller. Does this make me a bad parent? No. Does this make me a sane parent? Yes.

But, here's the catch. Sometimes I want to watch tv. I mean, sometimes I think they should be doing something else. (While I watch tv.)  Routines are hard to break and it's become a habit of sorts. The battles have become epic as we've put more and more limits on the tv and the Wii.  I am impatient for summer, when we'll all want to be outside. Meanwhile, I spend a good part of each day saying no.  It's not that it's too much tv. It's that it's not enough ... everything else.  In retrospect, I should have seen this coming. I should have set limits early. I took the easy way and now it's the hard way.
What about you? Do you carefully think each parenting decision through to see what will work best in the end? Are you stuck battling something that you aren't really against, it's just that you're not really for it either? How do you handle it when you want to change your mind and your kids think not? Have the words, "Because I said so, and I'm the mommy!" crossed your lips?  Help me out, will ya?

(Please note, this post is not really about tv itself. It's about my inability to see how some things will play out in the end.)

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  1. I doubt anyone carefully thinks every parenting decision through. I'm sure you're doing fine.

  2. I'm not sure I understand what your are asking for here. Are you saying that you allowed them to watch TV and now you are trying to cut back on their TV time?

    Or are you asking how to watch more (yourself) without setting a bad example for them?

    I am not a rigid parent with all things. I pick my battles. Bedtime is set. Won't budge much on that. Homework needs to be done before anything. Won't budge on that, but if my kids want to do something, and they can convince me why it might be a good idea, then I may give in.

    For me, that works best. They learn negotiation skills and they learn how to prioritize. The effort that it takes to persuade me may outweigh the need for whatever it is they want to do.

    In your situation, I don't think TV is a bad thing as long as they are getting what needs to be done, done and that it is not affecting their development. I mean, they are young, but toys can be picked up and put away, reading time can be completed and then TV time.

    Changing the rules on them is your choice, but unless they see the reason why you are doing it, it may not be very effective.

    Am I hitting on anything here? Or did I completely miss the point?

  3. Thanks, Kathy.

    Ti, It's really about changing the rules, more than the tv. How do you peacefully change you mind on something without WWIII? I truely don't have a problem with tv itself. We're pretty good about chosing shows that aren't an issue. But how do I change what we do with our time without having a battle EVERY SINGLE TIME. Maybe this is my child's personality, but it's almost like he doesn't remember from one day to the next that there are limits now. This last thing you said, "but unless they see the reason why you are doing it, it may not be very effective. " is what I need to be thinking about.

    I'm also curious about parents who are completely inflexible about things. I can almost always be convinced to do or allow something I initially said no on. This is both a good and a bad thing, as the pirate knows this and will harp and harp and beg for things, but it also allows me to change my mind to his way of thinking on occasion, which I think let's him know he has some say in our family.

    There's just so much about being a parent that I didn't think about.

  4. Oh I hear you. Our issue is behavior...and oh, how tv affects it. In the sense oh, i got to watch a I want more.

    My daughter also learns tons from tv...but it's also balanced with learning from play, books, and life, as I suspect it is in your home, too.

    Behavior is our huge with most 3 year olds, I suspect. But I rarely feel that I discipline okay.

  5. SIGH! I totally hear you. We got a Wii not that long ago and were all excited and the whole family played nonstop for 2 weeks. At that point DH and I got somewhat used to it and moved the living room furniture back in. LOL! So in the past couple weeks we made up rules about it. (We don't have cable so the tv thing isn't quite as much of an issue.)

    We explained to the boys- well, mostly just the 6 yr old- that it's not healthy to do too much of any one thing and they had to do other things before playing Wii. I explained it to the 6 yr old like this (using paper): The Wii can be good for you because it does teach your brain some things. But if you play Wii all the time only one half of your brain grows. (Drew a blob on paper.) But the other half doesn't grow. (Made small blob next to other one.) How your brain works is with connections. (Made squiggly lines between the two blobs where they were even.) But if one side is bigger and one side is smaller, the connections don't work. (Drew squiggly lines flying off into space from larger blob.) So we have to do things like playing outside or exercise to make both sides grow the same.

    This seemed to make a lot of sense to him, and now they have to play outside for an hour to play Wii for an hour. We are gradually working in some writing practice, or some exercises if it's icky out, but it has worked pretty well for us. Every once in a while he asks me to draw his brain. LOL! If I am not mistaken, this really is kind of how our brains work... right?

  6. I do try to think through my parenting, but sometimes that means thinking through to the next few hours... not their lifetime. I'm not trying to be funny, I'm sincere. It depends on the issue, of course, but for the most part, I consider myself a flexible parent and figure out a lot of things as I go along, most certainly have learned to pick my battles and not sweat the small stuff, and most importantly... admit -- to myself at a minimum-- when I make mistakes or poor decisions.

    Some years ago I made a parenting decision and after the fact wanted to recant my decision completely. The funny thing is that I can't even remember what it was right now. Anyway, I explained to my daughter that I changed my mind about X. I gave her a simple explanation of why and that was that. I think it's not only fine, but important for our kids to see us reconsider our decisions and "fix" things to make things safer, wiser, whatever. We're only human... and we want them to be, too!

    My daughters are now 15 and 11 and I do sometimes grant them permission for something and then add "But I have the right to recant this decision on a moment's notice!" just to remind them that I can. LOL!

    I know that it is difficult to expect a toddler to understand or accept that you can change your mind about the rules or what not... but that alone is an important life lesson, too.

  7. Wow, Lisa, I really feel for you. I think about this ALL the time, but in my case, it's in retrospect. (Although I did battle with it when they were younger.) My kids are 21 and 19. They both had the same rules about TV (basically, as long as you get your homework done and are getting good grades you can watch) but they have turned out to be such different people. The older one is self-disciplined and actually hardly watches any TV at all as an adult. The younger one almost doesn't know what to do with himself if he isn't plugged into iPod, TV, or computer. That's why I think no hard and fast rule works for every family, or even every kid. And having more than one kid makes it even more difficult, because they are so sensitive to the rules being applied differently to siblings. When it comes down to yourself, though, you have to trust your instinct on what's right on a given day, in given circumstance. Then ask yourself, who should be making the decision here, me, or a six-year-old? The fights may seem unbearable now, but believe me, they're worse when they're teenagers if you haven't laid the groundwork for who's boss.

  8. I let Caden watch tv and he had his first game (playstation) at age 5.

    He just turned 16 yrs. old and he is a great kid. He's well rounded, has great manners, he reads alot (might be computer stuff but it is alot) and he knows a lot of information. Random as you say your kids do.

    I was a sahm and sometimes it was just a sanity saver. I think that in the end, things work themselves out.

  9. I don't feel like I have much to offer since I'm not a parent and my parents (or dad) were incredibly strict with us. But I do have to say that hindsight is 20/20. Of course things look clearer after they've already happened and so many decisions are impromptu that you don't have time to think about consequences. This does not make for bad parenting.

    I do think, however, that it isn't too late to change rules. You just need to make sure that if you make a decision to break/change the habit that you stick with it. Pirate is young enough that it might be tough for a little bit but he'll grow out of it (so I think). In terms of your tv time, can you do it after the boys have gone to bed? Do you have tivo or DVR? It would be a scheduling lifesavor if there are shows you can't miss but have to for the time.

    And pick up habits from their parents. Scott watches a LOT of tv (goes in phases), but his parents watch a lot of tv. The tv in their house is almost NEVER on (which drives me batty when I visit). I've always said that when we have kids we won't eat in front of the tv but Scott and I do that now and it will be a tough habit to break for sure.

    ugh. Can't anything be easy? :)

  10. "You do the best you can at the time" and "This too shall pass" - wise words from my very wise grandmother.

    All my following suggestions are going to be harder on you than the children...

    One suggestion that I have is to have other activities or chores lined up for the boys when you say no to the TV (or whatever). As you said, this will be easier when they can go outside to play. When it starts getting cold in the fall, just don't get back into the habits the children are in now. Set time limits for activities, and use the timer.

    Have consequences for bad behavior, too. For example, if Pirate throws a fit about TV (or whatever), there shouldn't be any TV (or whatever) for the rest of the day. Each offense gets a longer punishment. (When I was in high school, for several months the TV completely disappeared from our house which was unheard of then. Why? Because my brother was watching too much TV, lying about it, and failing school.)

    Yes, there may be WWIII several times. Just be sure you and you husband agree/stand together in front of the children.

    Remember each child is different. For example, my son was easy to discipline or set on another track until he was in high school. I can honestly say I don't think I ever truly won a battle with my daughter until she was in high school. So, remember what works today might not work tomorrow.

    Not much help, am I? Just do the best you can at the time. HUGS

  11. This is a complicated issue-I'm still battling it with my teenager. I have to remind him to do other things. TiVo does not help. I don't watch much but my two kids certainly make up for it!! It is good for kids to learn how to balance out tv with other activities I just haven't figured out the magic balance!!

  12. When my oldest was four my husband bought one of the original Nintendo machines at a garage sale. This after we had agreed that the kids would not have video games. He said it would be his and we would limit the boys' exposure. Yeah, right. I should never have caved on that--today I have two game junkies. But I'm not sure that limiting them at a young age would have made a difference and I did the best I could at the time. Which is all we can do. Even though sometimes we regret it!


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