“But if I let them do whatever they want, they’ll just watch TV and play video games all day!”
This is a very common reaction to the idea of allowing one’s children complete (or even partial) freedom. They will spend the whole day with eyes locked to a screen, completely cut off from the real world. I understand this concern. I have felt the anxiety that comes along with it. I have tried limiting “Screen Time” in the past, and it has resulted in a painful power struggle that has only two possible outcomes (as is true with any power struggle). Either I overcome and defeat my children, forcing them to bend to my will, or they are victorious, and I cower in the corner, rocking back and fourth in the fetal position. I do not find either of these to be desirable.
So, what did I do? Two things. One: I changed my perspective. Even as adults screens are a very real part of our daily lives, and I would challenge you to add up the amount of “Screen Time” you have in one day. It took some time, but I realized that my children’s brains would not turn to soup if they spent some time with the TV, computer, or tablet. (I also found out that the more I relaxed, the happier everyone was) I allowed them the freedom to choose, and, for a while, they chose to binge watch their favorite TV shows. But after a while, when they realized that it was no longer a scarce commodity, they relented, and began exploring their other options.
Which brings me to the second thing: I gave them other options. There are so many things that most kids would rather do than watch TV or play video games. Below is a list of things my kids consistently choose over a screen.
- Light-saber battling
- Looking for bugs
- helping to prepare a meal
- Riding bikes
- Playing with play dough
- Recording videos for their YouTube Channel
- Playing in water
- “Nature Talking” (An activity invented by parasaurolophus  that involves sitting quietly with eyes closed and listening/talking to trees)
- Going to the park
- Writing stories (Its even more fun If I staple together a few sheets of white paper, with a colored piece for the cover so they have a little book to write in)
- Going for a walk
- Building a snowman
- Collecting leaves
- Taking apart broken/old electronics (Last week was the toaster)
- Doing mazes
- Reading or being read to
- Watering the plants
- Building forts
- Playing tag
I could honestly go on forever, but you get the point. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity, initiative, and involvement on my part, but honestly watching movies and playing video games has become a last resort for them, when all other options have been exhausted.
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