Today’s post is a sneak peek from the next Hearts at Home book No More Perfect Kids that will be released in March 2014. Dr. Kathy Koch and I have been working hard to provide a practical resource that equips parents to lead their children well and empowers parents to love their children for who they are!
We’re excited about No More Perfect Kids! We hope you are, too!
We live in a “screen” society.
Video games, television, iPods, iPads are a huge part of our world. Technology is such a part of our culture that we, as parents, have to figure its management into our parenting strategies. While technology offers convenience, it also falsely teaches our kids everything should be easy.
Writing is made easier because of functions like copy-and-paste and spellcheck on the computer. Our DVR makes copying television shows for watching later simple. iPods allow us to have music with us at all times. We can auto-correct and crop pictures. When something stops working, we can turn it off and turn it back on. Miraculously many things fix themselves.
Because of this, our children run the risk of not understanding the value of hard work. They may be satisfied plateauing rather than learning new skills and talents. Their short-term look-for-the-easy-way-out perspective will blind them to valuable opportunities to discover purpose.
Technology is here to stay. It’s certainly valuable and has made our lives much easier in many ways. How can a parent combat the technology triggers that don’t serve our child well in finding purpose in the world? Here are four strategies to consider:
- Teach your child how to cope with boredom, not escape it. When he wants to escape boredom, his goal is wrong. Boredom is a fact of life so he must learn how to handle it well. Because the desire to avoid boredom will influence his decisions, we don’t want him to miss out on opportunities to change the world.You and your child can make a list of 30 or so things he can do when he is bored. Number the choices and post it where he can see it. When he’s bored, he can look at the list to be reminded of something he can do. If he complains to you, you can say, “Go choose #5, 17, or 28.”
Another way to cope with boredom is to choose to be satisfied imagining, wondering, and daydreaming. Our own thoughts can be entertaining, but sometimes those thoughts need to be nurtured. Head outside with your child and a blanket on a sunny summer day to lie on your backs and look at clouds. Share what things you each “see” in the clouds. You can also do this same exercise while driving somewhere and looking at the clouds through the car window. While it’s easy to plop our kids in front of technology to keep them busy, expand your child’s ability to dream and imagine whenever possible. We recently did this with our three-year-old granddaughter while making a one-hour drive. It was amazing the things her three-year-old mind saw in the clouds!
- Let your child know his brain is wired for engagement. It’s not entertainment he needs; it’s tasks and ideas to stimulate thoughts and feelings. Our goal should not be to keep our kids entertained. That’s pressure we don’t need. Engagement is more appropriate.One example of this is to hand your older child a map when you are driving somewhere. Let her follow the route with her finger. Ask her to identify cities and states that are north, south, east, and west of where you are. In the day and age of GPS units, talking phones, and Mapquest, this kind of activity establishes spatial context and big-picture thinking that helps kids engage in their world.
- Model and talk actively about joy and fulfillment being more important than happiness. Explain that always being happy isn’t realistic, but “being consistently joyful” is. Happiness is an emotion usually caused by external things like favorite foods or activities or being given an unexpected gift. Joy is an internal emotion caused by contentment on the inside. Happiness is momentary. Joy is everlasting. While happiness appears and disappears, joy is consistent because it’s based upon a God perspective in our life. The more you grasp joy in your heart, the more your kids will learn that joy can remain even when life is hard.
- Model and teach character attributes like perseverance and diligence. It’s okay for your child to see you experience frustration, but it’s equally important they see you persevere in the midst of that frustration. This shows him how to be an overcomer. It reminds him he can use his strengths to compensate for his weaknesses when pursuing mission and purpose in life.You can also share times from your life when you’ve stretched yourself and been willing to work hard. Talk about how fulfilling it was.
When my youngest was small, he would say, “Tell me a story from your life, mom,” as I tucked him in bed. This became a great opportunity for me to share some of the experiences I had that taught me life lessons of purpose, diligence, and perseverance. Your child doesn’t have to ask you to share those stories, you can start doing that on your own. Your vulnerability may be the best teacher for your child to catch the vision of how to find purpose in this world. These kinds of conversations also counterbalance the lack of relational connection found in digital technology.
- Make in-person relationships a priority in life. Facebook has not only moved the word “friend” from a noun to a verb, it’s also given a new meaning to the concept of friendship. Because we can be so connected to others through social media, we’re less likely to really invest in face-to-face real-life relationships. This is why we need to make sure there is balance in how much time our kids spend with “friends” online and actually being with people.
Prioritizing in-person relationships will make a difference in your child’s future marriage, and her ability to have conversation, handle conflict, and care about others. This might be something to evaluate in your own life, too. Do your kids see you spend time with friends? Do they observe you making people a priority over technology? Our own habits influence our kids’ habits so if we want to change their habits, sometimes we have to start with our own!
What about you? What strategies have you used to help your kids combat the triggers that technology brings to their young lives?