Let me ask a question – when was the last time you were driving through a neighborhood and you saw a kid in a tree? Maybe it’s different where you live, but where I live, in a suburb southeast of Houston, I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a kid in a tree.
I’m sure it’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s something that I’ve really been struggling with lately – getting our kids out from behind screens and getting them into activities.
If you followed my blog before my 3-year blogging hiatus, you saw that I was trying to let Rena (8) try a variety of different activities to see if she’d gain any interest in them. As far as organized activities go, she’s done soccer for 3 years and has been doing cheerleading for about a year and a half. Our oldest, Alexis (12), is in cheerleading as well. At the house we have a variety of different activities available for them: bikes, skateboards, a pogo stick, sidewalk chalk, all kinds of sports balls, frisbees, dogs, board games, a slackline and much more. I’ve recently started learning how to play guitar with my dad because he was teaching Rena and he even got her her very own Squier Mini Strat Electric Guitar (in pink). Yet, she will only practice if I’m doing it with her. I’m very interested in learning how to play, so I’m practicing a lot, but I virtually have to bargain with her to get her to practice for 15 minutes, but if you ask her, she wants to play guitar, and she wants to play well.
So what gives?
My argument is that electronics are keeping our kids from being kids. If you ask our girls what their hobbies are, they’re going to tell you something along the lines of guitar, cheerleading and soccer. However, they rarely play any of them at home without being asked. Their real interests are Xbox and YouTube, and it’s not even close. If I didn’t make them get off of those things, they never would. They don’t appear to have any real interests outside of that.
When I was a kid, I was so into sports that I would throw the baseball in the air to myself when I had nobody to play with. Now, my daughter has her very own, awesome electric guitar (and amp) and I can’t get her to play it. I’ve offered on multiple times to teach Alexis, but every time she has an excuse for why she can’t. I don’t care what it is that they’re into (within reason), I just want to see them with a legitimate hobby.
Now let me interrupt to say that they’re great kids. They behave, are very well-mannered and rarely get into things they shouldn’t – the problem is that they’re not getting into anything.
I know that times are changing, and like I said in my last post, I know I’m coming awfully close to becoming ‘get off my lawn’ guy, but kids being kids is one thing that I think should never change. Getting out and playing is how they experience things, and the life lessons go way beyond the skills they’ll gain throwing a ball.
Let me also say that I grew up loving video games myself; I still do. On the weekends, once the wife and kids have gone to sleep, I’m known to go on a couple hour FIFA binge. But during the week, it’s VERY rare to see me behind my PS4 anymore.
I try to lead by example as best I can. My wife and I are definitely the most active, outdoorsy people we know. We’re actually going to Big Bend National Park this weekend for my birthday. We’ve gone on a bunch of different adventures and have taken the kids on a few, but as soon as we get home, it’s back to the screens.
I brought this up with Mandy recently, and she defended them saying that they’ll ‘play’ when we invite them to. Which is true, but how often did you play with your parents? Sure, I played a lot of sports with my dad, but I played a lot more without him because I was genuinely interested in playing.
To me, it would be one thing if we were sedentary parents, but we’re not. Mandy works her ass off and doesn’t get home until after 7 every day, and I’m constantly cleaning, working out, walking the slackline, kicking a soccer ball, doing something. We’re trying to set the example, but it appears that the electronics have their hooks in so deep, that all our efforts are for not.
Like I said, I know it’s not a new phenomenon, and every generation has their issues that the previous generation resents, but this is bigger than that, I think. I know that our kids aren’t the only ones who are like this, I think it’s a generational thing.
The question I have is: how do we stop it? We’ve tried implementing a time limit, and they just worry about when they can get back to screens. Our go to punishment is grounding them from electronics, but then they’ll just go to sleep early.
This constant access to the internet has crushed any sense of wonder that they have. The other day Rena asked Alexis a question about something, and her immediate response was to Google it. Not that that in itself is necessarily a bad thing, but I think there’s something to be said for a child to just use their imagination, and always knowing the answer seems to prevent that on so many fronts.
It’s just very frustrating. I want to raise kids who are curious, who explore, who aren’t sedentary, who go out and live life.
What have you done to instill these qualities in your kids and get them out from behind the screens?