Respecting Family Values Outside the Home: Suggestions and Solutions.
Way to go! You’ve setup a family media plan, you engage in screen-free family activities, maybe you’re delaying smartphones and/or social media. Now, you have to send your child out into the wilderness! How does that work?
Don’t fret. Part of the goal in creating these communities is that parents will understand and respect each other, regardless of our individual decisions on technology. Even if you are part of a small TLO community, have confidence that other parents will understand your concerns and honor your rules.
Our rules are our rules regardless of where we are
First and foremost, make sure your child understands that you always expect your child to follow and respect your family values and rules regardless of where they are. You also expect them to make smart choices, even if they go against the crowd. Give your children an out and let them blame you. “My mom is so annoying and wont let me….” And give them an escape route. This is where that list of trusted adults comes in handy. Make sure they are comfortable reaching out if they need help or a ride home. These skills goes beyond smartphones and technology. You should also be encouraging this behavior from a very young age.
As I’ve told my children, when they’re in a situation in which someone is using a device and it breaks our family rule (“People come first”), it’s ok to ask them to put the device away. If that doesn’t feel right, they can always get up and move to another room.
Respect other people’s rules, or lack of…
Not everyone is going to have the same rules that you have. That’s ok. Don’t be afraid to speak out about what you believe in. It’s not uncommon for one parent to ask another if they have guns in the house before letting her child visit. Take this same approach. Gently explain that you have certain concerns about your child’s use of technology and specific rules about usage. Admit that this conversation is new for you and a bit uncomfortable. Assure them that you don’t intend to put them in an awkward position and that if your rules wont be enforced, you’re happy to make other arrangements, perhaps hosting the event or picking your child up early. Or you can bend the rules. Being flexible is a great life skill. So is being respectful. We are all entitled to our own house rules. Talk to your child about this.
Communicate your rules, be clear and offer an alternative
When hosting events, don’t hesitate to contact your child’s friends’ parents to fill them in. If you’re collecting devices, let them know and give them an alternate way to contact their child. Explain that you want the kids to enjoy each other without the distractions of technology.
Driving the carpool and have a device-free car? Let the other parents know. Reassure them that their child can text or call before you leave or when you get to where you are going. Tell them you want the kids to talk to you and to each other. You’re not an Uber driver. And you’re laying the ground work for these future drivers.
Tease yourself and be the fall guy
Enforcing rules at home isn’t easy for anyone. It can be downright embarrassing for kids. We’re sure you remember some “dumb” rule your parents enforced? Am I wrong?
Try to make light of the situation. Tuck devices into a device basket with a napkin as a blanket. Tell the kids, “they will be ok.” Take the fall and admit how annoying you are. But that you’re annoying because you love them and want them to enjoy themselves. Don’t forget to be a good role model, especially in the car. Kids are watching. When you can’t, explain why it’s urgent.
You’re doing your best
All kids break rules when outside of the home. Be practical, be empathetic and be forgiving. With your kids and with yourself. You’re doing your best. If something doesn’t work well the first time, try it again another way. But keep trying. And keep communicating. With your kids and with the parents in your community. Together we can give our kids the gift of a hands-free, heads-up childhood.