How One Mom Made me Cry Alligator Tears in Starbucks

technology, iPhone 4As I was sitting in Starbucks one day, I decided to google “saying no to electronics.”  Just to see who was saying no, how they were saying no, and why they were saying no.

I had no idea that minutes later tears would be streaming down my face.

I found Renee Robinson by clicking on her article “A Letter to my Sons (The Real Reason I Say No to Electronics).”

I have been looking for 3.5 years for the words that Renee has written.  This is exactly how I feel in regard to technology and family life.  I feel like I could have written this, yet I couldn’t have because I didn’t know the words until I read Renee’s.

I enjoyed the part about wanting her boys to be able to look people in the eyes and speak to them.  To not feel a constant need to be entertained and distracted.

I could go on and on and on.

It is clear there was a huge reaction and many hearts moved by her letter and I wanted to speak with her more.

What follows is my interview with Renee, with thought on the approaches to limited electronics and advice for parents dealing with a fast-paced schedule and family life.

What challenges or fears did you face when you were establishing your parenting approach concerning electronics?  (More specifically, the marriage between electronics and quality family time.)

When my boys were young, I found myself captivated by the wonder of life I saw in their eyes.  They were so imaginative and creative, and I wanted to foster that.

My middle son has always gravitated towards electronics.    I saw how he was captivated with electronics like he was with life.  It became all he thought of, which is when we realized we needed to be very intentional in creating boundaries.

One of our concerns was how to create healthy boundaries that didn’t make our children feel so different or send them away from home to friends’ houses that had more liberal rules with electronics.

As our boys have gotten older, another challenge has been feeling left out of conversations with other kids about certain games.  That certainly happens.  But we have decided we would rather choose that consequence, which is short term, than suffer a long term consequence of distant relationships with our boys because we have lost out on time with them.

How did you overcome those challenges and fears?  

To overcome our fears and challenges we have discussed frequently and openly the “why” behind our rules.  We want them to understand we aren’t trying to be mean or make them set apart from everyone else.

When creating family rules, we tried to establish rules that gave them freedom in their choices and allow enough electronic usage that they didn’t feel deprived.

What were the results?comforting

I feel like our children understand why we have the rules we have.  They see the benefits in being engaged with us and others in public rather than distracted by devices.

They have also recognized the times we’ve become loose in our rules and the consequences in their own attitudes and behaviors.  We have used our times of leniency to show them the effects.

What advice would you give to parents struggling with a fast-paced family schedule?

This is a constant challenge we face.

As our kids get older, this is becoming harder.

Certain seasons bring about more difficult schedules.  In our family summer and winter are slow seasons, so we take advantage and spend as much time as possible together.

I’m a firm believer in quantity over quality.  I feel time spent together is always quality to a child.  They need as much of our time as we can give them.

When schedules become intense, I suggest setting certain non-negotiables that can maintain your sanity.  For instance, is it possible to have at least one meal together every day as a family.  Even when schedules go crazy, if we can sit together for at least one meal a day, we can connect.

Spending time chatting before bed is a good time in our family.  This is especially true when schedules are tough. It’s a time to discuss the day and refocus our attention to each other.

I also suggest families determine what items can be removed from the schedule and practice saying no more often.  I say no to more than I say yes to.  I’d like to say yes to everything, but when I say yes to one thing, I say no to another. When my plate begins to fill, I try to determine what can be removed before adding one more thing to the plate.

What resources, tips or tools can parents use to help them and their family navigate a family life that includes limiting technology and increasing imagination and togetherness?

Allow the children to take part in coming up with alternative ideas to spending time together is really fun.  We have Family Fun Fridays.  Together we created a large list of ideas for Fun Friday ideas.  A night we spend together (this will look different in families depending on ages and stages of life).  We do throw in a Wii night or a movie night periodically.  But we have ideas such as pillow fights, hide-and-seek, game night, Foosball tournaments, etc.

I also think establishing rules together is a good way to work towards balance.  Rules such as no electronics in restaurants, at the dinner table, at family outings, etc.  And determining for your family what your goals are before setting the rules.

a letter to my sonsRenee is the author of Seeking Christmas – Finding the True Meaning Through Family Traditions. She writes at where she inspires others in their journey of faith.  Her writing includes topics of everyday faith and family.  She is married to her high school sweetheart and the mother of 3 boys.  She lives with her family in Davidson, North Carolina.

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