Monday, March 8, 2010

The lord (or lady) of the Wii game!

There’s a lot that makes parenting a challenging endeavor: I believe that’s not so much whether a piece of advice is good or bad, but how to sort it all out that becomes a struggle sometimes.
When we establish rules in our home, things like limits on screen time or what constitutes healthy snacks for example, we can find ourselves setting up precedents we don’t really want for our kids. In our home, screen time (i.e. TV, computer games or Wii) are privileges that our daughter earns as a reward for appropriate behavior and effort. We have decided that for our family, sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time (truly, long periods of time depends on who you ask and most importantly, how old your kid is!) is not the ideal way we want to spend our time. A few days ago, I was a little out of sorts. I was a little tired, cranky before it became time to go get our daughter from school.
When we got home, I managed to guide her through doing her homework and her chores. She was “stalling” when it came to the chores and I was running out of patience. She finally finished and had her hour of playing Wii, a reward that she gets when her stuff is done. The hour was up and she asked me very sweetly (as only an cute 8-year-old can do!)if she could have one more hour of Wii play time. And you know what? I said yes!

Now you may be asking, what’s wrong with that? The kid did her homework and chores; why not let her play another hour on the Wii? Well, there’s truly nothing intrinsically wrong with my decision. I was too tired to think through an alternative to the extra hour in front of the game. My decision, however, didn’t support my family’s value of limited screen time and it didn’t teach her how to find something else to entertain herself with. I said yes because I wanted to relax and not have to do anything at that time. It was arbitrary. The next day, my daughter asked me again for an extra hour of screen time. Since there was no rhyme or reason other than my own need to have some downtime, it was more difficult to explain even to myself, why that day it wasn’t OK to have an extra hour. There’s a difference between being flexible and being arbitrary. You see, in her mind, the circumstances were the same, the criteria seemed the same.  The truth is, I wasn’t offering the extra hour playing Wii as a reward but as temporary distraction. And when you have a intense, smart, strong willed child like mine, that’s simply an opportunity to “bend” the rules any good-old time!

I know.. you are probably thinking, then what was I supposed to do? I guess what this requires of me is looking at my parenting decisions in the big picture and that’s not always convenient. I’ve decided that our daughter and I will sit down and create quiet time activities that she can do for 30 minutes on her own while I take a break if I am tired or not feeling good. This alternative is more in alignment with what our values as a family are: everyone needs to decide those for their own family.

So I guess it is off to the $$dollar store to find some inexpensive craft items that she finds interesting. Preparation pays off!

When was the last time you found yourself giving in as a “quick fix” and realized later it didn’t really worked for the long term?

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