Whenever I try something that’s a little off the beaten path (even for me) I like to call it an experiment. Being a mom four times over has humbled me and I do not claim to be an expert or some sort of super mom in any way.
So, please know that I was that mom who had all these ideas of how I would raise my kids and then I actually HAD kids, a lot of them, very quickly, and many of those ideas and aspirations went right out the window!!
Also, please know that I am in no way trying to prescribe this as something other moms or families should do – and I don’t know that we will do this forever either – but I’ve gotten a lot of comments on it, so I thought I’d share our experience.
After a crazy holiday season with sugar overload and my husband being off for two weeks (he’s a teacher) it was a TOUGH re-entry into our normal routine of school and bible study and grocery shopping and life. The very first Monday back (January 9th to be exact) after my kiddos woke up in a TERRIBLE mood and all of them collectively fought me on EVERY single activity from getting dressed, to using the bathroom and even sitting to eat breakfast – it had only been one hour and I was already being stretched to my limits – I made a very knee jerk and drastic proclamation. This would be a NO SUGAR and NO SCREENS day!
I don’t think my kids really knew what to make of this.
“Do you mean, I can’t play Angry Birds? What about dessert after lunch or dinner?”
“Nope. No screens and No sugar – you will not be watching TV or movies or playing on my phone or the computer.”
Of course, like everything else that day, they fought me. I believe there was some heavy negotiation and a few tears, but I stuck to my guns. I felt like a detox period was in order and I just needed to pull in the reins a bit.
You see, prior to this day, I was getting lazy. If I was still in the middle of some work when the kids woke up (I typically work from 5am – 7am every morning) I would let them turn on the TV and watch a show. And because they were quiet and entertained, I would keep working, sometimes they would watch a solid 2 hours before they had even had breakfast. Then we’d eat and chat and do a little school and if we didn’t have a play date – there were days I would put the TV right back on – so I could finish the breakfast dishes or send a few emails.
After lunch, same thing, there were days when it was TV, ok turn it off mom needs you to do something (eat, school, get in the car, etc.) and now back to the TV.
That, and the constant asking for candy or ice cream or chocolate – I didn’t have a lot of sweets in the house, but always just enough that there was SOMETHING they wanted at all times. I felt like all my interactions with the kids was either begging (or yelling) at them to come do something, or telling them no, or fighting with them to get school done, or not be too crazy in the store. It was so much negativity around our interactions and then, because I was exhausted, I would throw them right back in front of a screen.
Just being completely 100% honest here.
So, when I told them the new rule, I wasn’t even sure I could follow it. But I had said it, and I didn’t want to go back on my rule because then it would be open season on all rules. this. was. happening.
Surprisingly, after the initial moment of being upset, the kids did pretty well. They asked a few times to watch a show, but when I gently reminded them it was not a screen day, they moved on and found things to play with. I was amazed at how MUCH they were playing and how little they were fighting. I also started interacting more with them in their playtime. I had to really…when they did fight and needed a referee it just made more sense to sit and play and head off arguments before they began than to try and do something and get interrupted every couple of minutes.
Something amazing began to happen, I started really enjoying my kids more. My interactions weren’t just limited to me needing to get them to do a certain activity or get out the door or stop hitting your sister!! I was playing with them more, being silly with them more – and when they were content on their own (which they learned to do really quickly) I would work extra hard to get whatever chores and things I needed to do with focus and urgency. In the past when they were watching shows, I would take my time and browse social media for a bit before diving in because I knew I had time. Now I had to work more efficiently.
Not only that, I noticed their ability to focus was improving, when we sat down for school or went out and they needed to be more calm or quite, it was a marked difference.
Now, don’t get me wrong, they still fight, I still have to struggle through parts of our school day and the mess (now that they are playing so much more) has been a lot more to keep on top of – so no – this hasn’t been a magic pill for perfect children – but – BOY do I see a difference!
I decided to continue our no screen and no sugar rule for a few more days and it naturally morphed into a during the week rule. Monday through Friday we don’t do sugar or screens, on Friday afternoon on our way home from their sports program we stop at Wendy’s and everyone get’s a frosty, that is our end of the week celebration, and then we usually do pizza and a movie for family night.
Again, this is just what we do, but I am absolutely loving it and thought I’d share just a little bit more. I feel like it’s something that from the outside looking in seems harder than it really is. There are moments when I just want to give in, I just want to put on a show or buy them some ice cream, but then I push through and we find something else to do, we spend more time outside or I involve them in my chores and things I need to get done.
I’m so proud of my littles and I love that our interactions have become more meaningful, I am enjoying them so much more and loving the richness it has brought to our weekdays.