How does a parent determine what is the appropriate amount of apple juice their kid is allowed to have in day? Or how late to let them sleep? Or how much TV they are allowed to watch? Should a parent just let their 5 year old eat anything they want, anytime, and let the kid go to bed whenever they choose? Or is a parent supposed to monitor their child’s nutritional intake by the mg and have a strict sleep schedule that is finely tuned to the minute?
I ask myself these questions all the time. I tend to be the parent that only allows a cup of apple juice a day and wont allow the kids to stay up past 9. Some tell me that makes me an attentive parent while others call me overly strict.
Last weekend, my father-in-law told me to “break the rules” when I was considering taking my 3 year old to see a movie, even though he had already watched over half an hour of TV that morning. The mother in me balked at the idea of letting a young child watch over an hour of TV in a day, even though as child his age, I was an avid TV addict.
I know how easy it is to turn on an electronic device and let the “babysitter” take over. I’ve done it a few times to be able to have a short time to complete some task I needed to focus on without the kids “helping.” I always feel guilty afterward, knowing that I wasn’t furthering their betterment by taking shortcuts. Many people would tell me I shouldn’t feel that way, but I do.
Long before the kids were born, Rich and I agreed we didn’t want them addicted to TV or obsessed with our phones. This was the logical course for us, since we knew how unhealthy it is to be sedentary for long periods of time and the behavioral issues we had observed from children that were given an iPad anytime they wanted it. We didn’t want them to break the devices, but we also wanted our kids to grow up being able to entertain themselves with their imaginations and to want to play outside.
The best part about this form of parenting is that when we go out with the boys, they tend to be the best behaved kids at any given time. The only other kids we see that are as quiet and controlled as Rylan and Roman, are the kids that are holding a phone or iPad in their lap. We’ll be at a restaurant and see an entire family (father, wife, and all the kids) not talking to each other, just staring at their devices. Or the adults are talking to each other, while the kids are engrossed in some vapid show on their toy. We like being able to go anyplace without the need to bring an “electronic babysitter” along for their entertainment.
Often, we’ll be approached by some stranger telling us how impressed they are with our calm children. The same people would probably tell us that we are too stringent when we discipline our boys for misbehaving or when we don’t allow them to have a sugary beverage at 8 in the morning. They’d also be the grandparents that buy the kids their first iPad or LeapFrog.
I grew up watching TV all day and eating Nutella out of the jar with a spoon. I’d stay up late at night watching Jerry Springer and only want soda when we went out to eat. My mother was very good about restricting our unhealthy intake, but my grandmother and dad were basically enablers, buying us cookies and ice cream anytime we asked for it. This did not bode well for my weight as I got older. Although, I have an incredible memory for TV shows, movies, and actors, I doubt it was the best educational programing for me.
I’m raising my kids in the way I hope will make them the healthiest and well-rounded individuals they can be. I make rules and I trust my family to understand why they are so “strict,” even if they may not agree with them. I observe how other’s raise their children, and sometimes I’ll change the rules if I see an agreeable outcome.
Having said that, I try to have days I let the kids eat junk food and drink too much juice. I let them watch a two hour long movie or stay up past 9 every once in a while. I often sneak them a bit of chocolate or candy if they’ve eaten well throughout the day. I have trouble doing these things often, but I’m reassured by the grandparents that spoiling occurs in excess when I’m not around. I love my boys and, when they get older, I’m sure they will turn out just fine. Or at least not completely ruined.
+rylan +roman +rich