If I’ve learned anything about parenting, it’s that as soon as you are proud of doing something as a parent and you brag about it in some way, your kid will immediately figure out how to humble you. My kids and I were shopping at Walmart the other day, and the cashier talked to me about how much my kids helped with loading the groceries and didn’t seem to ask me to buy things for them, and I joked by saying, “What’s the point of having kids if you don’t make them work for you? Har-har.”
Within the next actual minute, I caught one kid staring at the gum selection while the other two were loading the cart, and then another kid found some kind of Hatchimal Candy Egg thing that I needed to see, and “Can we please buy it?” Depending on your kids to make you look good will always fail.
I say all of this because I have a parenting hack that has actually worked great for our family, and I want to apply it to my own self-discipline, but I also run the risk of sounding like the parent who has it all together.
Trust me when I say this: We do not have anything together.
We have two traditions in our family that have stood the test of time and that have significantly reduced my parenting workload.
1. Standard Rest Time:
I’ve homeschooled the kids for forever, so our school time is roughly 9:00 am to 2:00 pm every day with a break for lunch. We rest from 2-3:30 in our rooms. When the kids were little, they slept during this time, but as they grew older, I left the 2-3:30 time in place as a time for rest. They don’t have to nap or even lie on their beds, but they have to stay quiet and in their rooms. They can read or play or whatever they want to do, but they have to be quiet and in their own rooms.
I think of rest time as a time when we can all remember that we love each other.
Just recently, I caught all three children rough housing in one room during rest time, so it’s not like this works all the time. But because we have a clearly defined time, I was able to say, “Your rest time just got extended to 4:00. Get back to your rooms.”
Standard Rest Time also precludes Standard Screen Time. Screens in our house do not come on until 3:30. It helps keep my willpower strong throughout the day. And instead of saying no to children who ask me if we can watch something at 9:00 am, I can now say, “What time is it?” And they stop asking.
Now, the turning off of those screens? That is something we all need to address in the house. So, I will report back to that at another time.
2. Sodas on S Days
I held off introducing my kids to carbonated sugar drinks for as long as I could. My oldest didn’t even know they existed until he was maybe 6 or so. (My youngest was considerably younger when she discovered them). Once they all found out about the greatness of Coke and Dr Pepper, they were asking for them all the time. So, at every restaurant, I would have to decide if they could drink a coke or if we would just make everyone drink water. It wore me out.
Finally, I read Michael Pollan’s book called Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, and he talked about the Sweets on S Days Rule — only have sugar on Saturday or Sunday — and suddenly, that helped us with the soda problem. We have sodas on S Days. Sure there are days when this is an exception — Fourth of July, Christmas, Birthdays, camping trips. (And this does not apply to all sweets by any means.) Having a clear boundary in place helps me as a parent and my kids as well. It allows me to give grace if I’m feeling generous, and it gives me something I can take away if my kids are feeling especially feral.
Social Media, So Shiny
I’m trying to reduce my own addictions right now. I’m particularly drawn to time on social media, and I’m looking for ways I can enforce my own time limits. As a writer, I have to be on my computer to type, but I don’t have to be on my phone or on The Internets as much as I think I do. And, believe it or not, the world keeps spinning if I don’t post every funny conversation I’ve ever had with my delightful children and charming husband and amazing, fantastic friends (ahem).
I’ve removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone for now, but I need to impose some sort of time limit to keep me from checking email and Instagram when I get “bored.” Maybe if I limit my social media time to a certain period of the day, I might find more time to read, rest, and be intentional with my IRL peeps.
So, what do you think? Do you struggle with spending too much time on your phone? Do you feel drawn to social media throughout the day? How do you combat the siren song of Twitter feeds and Instagram Stories?