First of all, my kids are just as messed up and awesome as yours. They need Jesus bad. But, they are also amazing and make us so proud in so many ways. I’ve thought of 5 small decisions we made as parents that have had enormous impact on who they are becoming. (Ages 13, 11 and. 7).
1. No TV During The School Week.
WAIT!!! Before the big eyeroll, we are not superhero parents with endless patience. And there’s no judgement here. But here’s how it happened…
When the kids were little we eagerly accepted help from Baby Einstein, Bob and Larry, Dora, Diego and Elmo. Then, in kindergarten, screen time dramatically dropped because after school there was just enough time for dinner and reading to them in the bed. The battleground was before school and we dug our trench, hunkered down and simply outlasted them. Around that age, each kid asked to watch tv every morning for weeks – and then months. We said no, over and over.
We don’t watch tv on school days, we said.
And eventually, somewhere near the end of first grade, they stop asking.
What we’ve gained is immeasurable, (they read books like crazy, for example), and leads me to #2.
2. Instrument Practice Every Morning, Before School.
WAIT!!! We are not the Von Trapps! We don’t have titanium willpower! It started with a small decision when our oldest was 6. I gave her 20 minute piano lessons every day (give or take) before school, because after school she was an exhausted kindergardener and I was working till dinner. With no music practice, after dinner there was time for coloring or drawing or reading magic treehouse books, and then the bedtime routine. Now, she’s 13, and she practices violin for 30/40 minutes before (public) school every day (give or take) starting at around 6:45am. We’ve had to hold our ground over the years, but it’s worth it. Both younger brothers expect it and don’t complain (much).
3. We limited video games, and particularly limited handheld video games.
Again, this is not typical, I know. Plenty of wonderful parents have different rules, but for us, we decided to wait till the big kids were 10 and 12 before we got minecraft on our iPad. They had played angry birds and tiny wings, etc. on our iPhones, but it was always limited and understood as a privilege.
That means we said no a lot.
They never had a gameboy or DS or anything like that, and though they complained, eventually they figured out ways to entertain themselves. I remember a Saturday when they made a whole army of tanks out of toothpicks and mini Reese’s cup wrappers. We were always replacing sidewalk chalk. They spent hours exploring the “creek” (drainage ditch of doom) behind our house. They made easy bake (not my fav) cookies, cardboard box cities and armor and LEGOS – oh man… Legos. But most of all, they read and read and read.
Now we play Wii here and there on the weekends, maybe two or three times a month. Same for Minecraft. And they are always SO thankful when we say yes. Which brings me to the next decision…
4. Without A Persuasive Reason To Say No, We Say Yes.
I’ve written about this before, but it’s still a huge deal for me as a parent. It was #1 of my “15 Tips for Parents,” and to keep this post short, I’ll link to that here.
5. We Eat Dinner Together Every Night (when I’m not traveling, obviously).
This is another one that seems hard until you decide to do it. Of course, there are exceptional circumstances when someone’s gone or I’m working late, but we have made it a priority, and it happens. We give ourselves lots of grace for exceptions, but that’s because the habit is entrenched and it’s important to everyone.
The gain is breathtaking when I think about the cumulative impact. So many hours eating and laughing and learning to be humans together. It continues to be a very big deal.
The biggest takeaway for me about this stuff is, small decisions matter. These particular things may not all make sense for your family, but as you trudge through this parenting journey, if you feel a conviction on a decision that needs to be made, don’t let the fear of difficulty stop you. The difficult moments pass quickly. Often by simply outlasting the clamor against them, small decisions can transform a household.