My kids went insane in June, guys. It was so bad, I can’t even openly admit how much wine I consumed to dull the pain by the end of the day. It was “The guy at the liquor store knows me by name and I wish I was kidding, but I’m not” bad.
First, it was The Not Listening. My husband would come home at the end of the day, and without fail, I’d say, “I’m tapping out. I can’t even with them today.” Before long, he began calling before he came home, I’m assuming so he could spend the commute home, preparing for the chaos he was about to walk in on. And it was utter chaos. Picture me with frazzled unwashed hair, crazy eyes, while clutching a glass of wine that I may have poured the minute it became 5pm.
Nothing in our so-called parenting tool box was working for us. We tried everything; More outside time, more quiet time, grounding from certain privileges, bribing with ice cream, ignoring it, joining on it…Nothing was helping.When they weren’t behaving as though they’d never been socialized at all, they were melting down over everything. Turn the television volume down? Tantrum. Apologize to your friend for throwing their ball at their face? Tantrum. Water not cold enough? Tantrum. Water not in specific cup? Definite tantrum. Have a bath because you were pretty much rolling in dirt today? Epic tantrum.
I won’t lie, I may have had a tantrum or two myself that included a slammed door and a trip to a parking lot just to sit in the car, and listen to loud music. Because, my god, it was awful. There is nothing like your kids behaving like mine were to make you feel like you are the world’s worst mother.
Then, I snapped. I don’t even remember what it was specifically, but I was finished. Done. It was not happening anymore. One night at dinner, we sternly told them that all of the shenanigans were over. We discussed listening, not pouring water all over your bedroom because fun, (do not even ask ) and respect in general. They nodded, and added in their own points, expressing some of their own frustration, and ideas.
Since I suspected that we may have a case of Technology Overdose, we gave the kids two options: They could have 30 minutes a day on whatever device they wished, or they could go without any Monday through Friday, and basically have a free for all on the weekend, given we weren’t doing anything, and that they didn’t kick up a fuss when we asked them to turn it off.* Both of kids decided on the free for all weekend. For good measure, we warned them if they didn’t start respecting their room, we would separate them, and some of the toys would make it into the dreaded storage room.
They had a week to get it together.
Two days later, because maybe they didn’t quite believe us, we started to move them into separate rooms.
The room switching was a lot of work, but the no technology bit? That was hard. There was negotiations, and a lot of asking when the weekend was. There were tantrums over the lack of television, which only solidified my belief that we were doing the right thing. There was a disgruntled husband who didn’t love the idea that the television needed to stay off until the kids were in bed, and possibly a couple of heated words about having each others back in the thick of this mess.
Suddenly, my kids started playing outside more. They started playing together more. They started talking to each other, instead of at each other. We weren’t always yelling, or fighting about the volume on the television, or which mess belonged to who. We were riding bikes, and playing at parks, willingly. They were asking to read books and do work in their workbooks. There wasn’t any tantrums over a simple request to turn the television off, because it wasn’t even on, and at some point, they stopped asking about it. They began to eagerly clean their rooms before bed, and the messes in each respective room did not look like an atomic bomb had detonated.
It worked. It actually worked.
Let me confess: Technology, be it the television, iPod, or XBox, had become a crutch for me. I was the one offering it in the morning just so I could get a moment of peace with my coffee. I was the one using it as a reward. Somewhere along the line, I allowed these pieces of entertainment to actually become entities in our lives. Before we instituted this experiment, I truly believed I couldn’t parent without these devices. It had gotten that bad, and I’m so happy to say that once I relinquished my hold on the idea that I needed them, it became easier.
Maybe technology wasn’t to blame for the entire crazy situation we happened upon, but I cannot ignore the fact that over a month into this “experiment”, something absolutely switched in my kids, and in this family. I have my kids back, and confidence that parenting can be done without all the extra gadgets.
*I can’t take credit for this idea or set up. Jenna @ Stop, Drop and Blog wrote about her experience going tech free including the setup of it.