No matter where you turn these days you see another article declaring the right way to raise kid with lists of do’s and don’t’s that will clearly make or break your kids forever. I groan every time I see another such article because we break the majority of the so-called “parenting rules” in our house. And it works for us.
1. We don’t limit screen time. We do not set a timer for half an hour of television or gaming at night. We do not restrict television or gaming to certain set hours or make our kids earn it as a reward. The TV is on pretty much all the time in our house, even just as background noise. We used to follow the “guidelines” and restrict screen time when the kids were younger and guess what? It made them want it so much more. We had tantrums and fighting and it became a whole “thing”. Once we stopped putting restrictions on it, they lost interest. We made screen time much more valuable when we tried to restrict it. Now they don’t care about it. The kids will go days, sometimes a week, without watching one show on TV. They would much rather be playing outside.
2. We rarely have family dinners. It’s a great ideal but the application is hard. We are constantly on the go and there is rarely a time when all of us are at home at dinner time. Matt works long hours and the kids have multiple practices and activities that run into dinner time. We do have more family dinners in the summer but even those are sporadic. Growing up, both Matt and I were forced to participate in weeknight family dinners and we both hated it. Neither of us felt “closer” to our families because we were forced to sit at a table and eat dinner together. We spend quality time together in other ways.
3. We don’t micro-manage. We expect our kids to show responsibility. We believe in natural consequences. Matt and I both came from micro-managed families and neither one of us want to be that way. Even Mase, in 1st grade, is responsible for getting his homework done without being asked. He’s responsible for packing his lunch in the mornings, keeping track of his library books, etc. We have clear expectations for our kids and I refuse to nag them. If they don’t meet those expectations then the consequences are immediate.
4. We let our kids have iPhones & tablets. 3 of our kids have iPhones and tablets, the other 2 have iPods and Kindle Fire tablets. We have friends who are completely anti-technology for their kids (who are in their early teens) and I see those kids at a disadvantage. All of my kids use iPads in school. Maia and Mase use several apps on their iPhone/iPod recommended by their teachers- for reading and math. We do have limits and restrictions in place so they don’t have unrestricted access at all hours of the day and night. Ty has a private Instagram account but the that’s the only social media allowed right now. I keep a close watch on the stuff being posted and shared. I regularly go through the kids iPhones and I’ve blocked a few people on Kik that needed to be blocked. But technology is a part of life these days and I’d rather my kids know how to use it.
5. We don’t pay our kids. My kids don’t get paid for chores. They do chores because they live here and they are expected to contribute. Period. They get a small allowance every week and they are expected to save up their money to buy the stuff they want. Their allowance is tied to behavior/attitude/grades but never to chores. They can do extra chores above and beyond if they want to earn extra money. For example, Ty recently vacuumed out my car to earn extra money for a game he wanted.
6. We don’t over-schedule our kids. We do not push sports and activities on our kids. I know that’s not the “popular” opinion these days with kids being pushed into activities 7 days a week. But I hate that. If the kids show an interest in a sport or activity then we encourage them to participate but I’m not signing my kids up for all kinds of stuff just to keep them busy. They have their whole lives to be over-scheduled but only a few short years to be kids. I do not schedule playdates for Zoey- she sees her friends at Pre-K and then she plays with her siblings. We go to the neighborhood park and she plays with other kids from our neighborhood. Same with Mase. Maia and Ty both have tons of friends who live in our neighborhood so they are constantly going back and forth between houses and that’s fine. But I’m not driving my kids all over the city for playdates.
7. We don’t entertain our kids. I expect my kids to entertain themselves or each other. I am not my kids’ source of entertainment. We go to the park, play outside, read books, watch movies, etc but I do not spend 8 hours a day playing with my kids. I hate pretend play, I despise legos, I think play-doh is the devil. I spend one-on-one time with my kids in other ways and let them play with each other.
8. We are friends with our kids as well as parents. My relationship with my parents was adversarial, at best, when I was growing up. I folwanted something different with my kids. I would not consider myself to be a strict parent. I’m not overly permissive, we do have rules and expectations, but I’m not a dictator. I have a really good relationship with Ty- we have a lot of great conversations and he knows he can ask me anything (and he has). I tend to be stricter with the little kids because it’s building the foundation for the future. If you put the effort in when they are little to setting the expectations about behavior and attitude then it’s easier when they are older. I have no desire to be the “cool mom” but I don’t want my kids to be counting down the days until they get to leave my house.
I don’t think there is one right way to raise kids. I think every household is different. Every family is different. We don’t all fit into a simple round mold- some of us are triangles and no matter how much you try to shove and shape us we are never going to fit into that round mold. I spend a lot of time telling my kids not to follow the crowd just because they think they’re supposed to. I want them to think for themselves and forge their own paths.