Last year, during my 5 year old daughter’s summer vacations I was caught in the dilemma of dragging her away from TV every other hour. She used to turn it off for some time and then either she begged me for my mobile or laptop to either watch some videos or play games. It went on for some time, slowly the affects of too much screen time started to show.
She had a lot of tantrums, sleep deprivation and behavior issues. I felt like I had a little zombie in our house. In a moment of anger I removed the TV from its place. For a couple of days she insisted to watch TV but after that she became OK with that.
When there was less distraction of screens she got busy in other things. She sowed coriander seeds in every nook and corner of our house, played with sand, drew, colored and painted. Most importantly she had meaningful conversations with me and my husband.
(If you want to read more about healthy conversations with children click here)
This experiment brought me to the realization that we can limit screen time for ourselves and our children if we want to. In my opinion the following core steps are useful in this journey.
- Make Your Children’s Upbringing A Top Priority
The most important job at our hands is the proper upbringing of our children. It is essential not only for our children but also for society in general. We love them the most but when it comes to taking the time to make their upbringing a top priority at times we falter. Many a times our work, cleanliness of our house and dishes, completion of household chores and our own entertainment takes the top priority. So the first step is the realization that we need to give them the best of our time and energy for their proper upbringing. It’s easier said than done but we have to do it there is no other option.
- Make a schedule and stick to it (Make Healthy routines)
Children might not know it but they love to follow routines. Routines when placed and followed properly take half of the burden away. Children know what’s coming next and start to follow routines on their own after some time. Make a balanced schedule for your child which includes required sleep time, outdoor play, learning activities and screen time. The schedule must be flexible but you have to stick to it. Persistence will increase compliance.
- Keep Them Busy in Healthy Activities
Keep children busy in healthy activities. Let them help you in daily household chores. Let your children plant seeds, cook, bake and clean. Many a times we don’t encourage such activities because it takes a lot of time to finish and then clean up the mess. But we have to be willing to spend this extra time. This will not only give them essential skills but they also feel important and responsible.
4. Be Their role Model
I feel that our children are our best teachers because they do not listen to our advice but they do follow our example. In order to guide them properly we have to leave our own bad habits and behaviors.
You can yourself follow routines and build healthy habits to motivate your children. Limit your own screen time and other time wasting activities, be their role model.
- Give Your Children The Gift of Your Presence
Your presence is the most precious gift which you can give them. Your household chores, your mobile phones, current affair programs and your soap serials can wait but the childhood of your children will not wait. Be present in their lives as much as you can.
- Be Their Guide
The things we see and experience always have some sort of effect on ourselves. To safeguard children from the harmful effects of the virtual world you must know what your children are watching. Watch the cartoons they watch and play the games they play. Make sure you only expose them to the beneficial stuff. Be the guide of your children, guide them to healthy activities and habits. Children especially young children are like unmoulded clay, you as a parent have the power to mold them in whatever shape you want. Teach them new skills, guide them about life the way you want to, sow the seeds of values and character.
- Reward Them
Breaking habits is difficult. It’s not easy for children to leave something they love and follow you overnight. With proper effort and persistence the child does show compliance and when he/she does, reward them. I think the simplest reward is appreciation, the more you appreciate them the more they will work to please you.
Screen time is fun but too much of it is harmful. If we let our children have more and more of it soon this becomes a habit. We know that habits set a foundation for lifetime. Parents have the power to help their children build healthy habits. By setting the priorities right and persistent hard work in the right direction parents can raise their children the way they want to.
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