Who’s Listening?

Do you think you’re kids are paying attention to what you say?

It feels like my kids often have selective hearing. I have to remind them to: make their lunch, pick up their clothes, wash their hands, put on deodorant and the list goes on. There are other times when my kids seem really tuned in to what they are hearing. My youngest son and I were watching TV when Facebook’s mea culpa ad came on. I didn’t think my son was paying attention to the ad. As the ad finished, he looked at me and said, “I don’t know why Facebook is apologizing. Cambridge Analytica should be. It’s their fault this happened.” I was stunned. I’m not sure I agreed with his assessment of the situation but was more in wonder of where had he heard of Cambridge Analytica? How did he make this connection? I asked him. “Mom, I listen to the radio,” he said. My husband does have NPR on most of the time he’s driving. “I’m up on world news,” and he laughed as if me asking him how he knew about Cambridge Analytica was the silliest thing he’d ever heard.

Clearly my kids are paying attention more than I realized. Yes, I will have to continue to remind them to do their chores, but they are listening — to our conversations, what’s on TV, and the radio, and they are forming their own opinions around how the world works and right from wrong. I’m inspired to pay closer attention, ask them questions and challenge their assumptions, and encourage them to challenge mine.

What are your kids listening to? How are you helping them decipher all the messaging that comes their way?

I will be off next week celebrating Memorial Day with family and will return in June. Happy Memorial Day!

 

What, no TV?

It’s summertime, and our kids have more free time on their hands. They are in camps during the week, but when they are not at camp all they want to do is watch TV.

When I was a kid, I wanted to watch TV 24×7 if my parents would allow it. I can remember one particular summer my mom told me that my sisters and I that our TV time would be limited to three hours a day. Three hours a day, that’s outrageous! There’s so much we’ll be missing! I thought. I can remember discussing this decision with my neighbor friend whose mom was trying something similar with he and his sister. “It’s not fair,” we both agreed. I can’t recall how closely the TV time was held to, but do recall we were prompted to play outside more, and it was okay to be bored.

With my own kids, my husband and I were noticing a trend…if allowed, our sons would watch TV 24×7. The TV seemed to be on any time we were inside the house. It was becoming a problem. While I hated the idea of restricting my kids TV time to three hours (because I could remember how much I hated it as a kid), I knew it was what we were ultimately going to have to do.

My husband and I sat down our kids and talked to them about limiting their TV time. Our conversation was met with “What?” “That’s not fair!” “You’re so mean!” “We’re going to be so bored!” This was expected, but still not easy to hear. “Guys, we’re not doing you any favors by letting you sit around and watch TV all the time, there is too much life to live, and you’re not living it if you sitting on a couch.” My sons may not have liked our message, but they understood it. “What are we going to do to pass the time?” my son asked. “You’ll have to figure that out. You can ride your bike, play out in the backyard, create something with your Lego, there’s all sorts of things you can do, it’s really up to you.”

We started our new schedule, and it was hard for everyone. It took some getting used to. It’s still taking some getting used to, but what I found was when my husband and I were firm with what would be allowed (e.g. if you watch three hours of TV first thing in the morning, that’s it.) we saw that our boys could adjust…it might be done begrudgingly, but they could do it.

I’ve seen them be more creative with their time since we implemented the change. There have been days when the three hours have been exceeded, but it’s been the exception. With summer vacation here, our timing feels right — there is so much to do, explore and see, it would be a shame if it were mostly spent inside.

Have you ever had to limit screen time? What worked for you? What helped your child make the adjustment?

Happy Fourth! I’ll be taking time off with the family and will be back following.

Bad Dreams

My oldest is nine. He is starting to want to branch out and watch TV programs on channels other than Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. He understand that the ratings on a TV show are a good guide to help him understand if my husband and I will be okay with him watching it’s content. He asked me to sit with him while he watched a show about the history or legends of strange places. I wasn’t keen on him watching the show, as I felt it could be confusing and potentially give him nightmares, but knew that I couldn’t shield him from such show forever. I sat down with him and proceeded to watch the show.

Part of the episode included a gangster getting killed by other gangsters who were trying to free him. The show did a good job of showing minimal carnage, but you got the idea of what happened: there were Tommy guns, and spatters of blood with people lying on the ground. I told my son we needed to find something else to watch. Later that night after my son had gone to bed, he got up and told me he couldn’t sleep. I knew this would happen, I thought, ugh! I told him to sit down and talk to me about what was keeping him awake. “I can’t get the image out of my head. I keep thinking someone is going to come out of nowhere and shoot me,” he shared. My first attempt to make him feel better was based on facts: gangsters are something we mainly see on TV, not in real life. I proceeded to detail when gangsters were at their height and why gangsters were dangerous. He thought about this for a minute and said, “Thanks, but that doesn’t really help.” Okay, what else can I try? I thought about the technique I use when I get scary images in my head, I try to turn them into something less threatening or scary. I try to turn them into something silly or ridiculous. It’s hard to be afraid when the image makes you smile or laugh. I shared my idea with my son, “what if we could make what’s scary you into something funny?” He smiled at the thought. I said, “What if instead of bullets coming out of the gun, tickets, like you win at the Family Fun Center, came out of the gun; and it made a ding-ding-ding sound instead of a bang-bang-bang sound?” I had him now, he was grinning from ear to ear. “Or what if, instead of pulling a gun out of his coat, he pulled out a butterfly?” my son added with a laugh. “I love it! That’s really good,” I said. I could tell my son was feeling better and had a strategy that was helping him.

It turned out the TV show provided an opportunity to connect with my son and allowed me to give him a tool he could use; it felt good.

How have you helped your child work through a nightmare? What unexpected places provided an opportunity for you to teach, or connect with, your child?