Dadvice

We can all use a little advice every now and then, especially when it comes to parenting. Oftentimes, I feel like a man on an island when my kids are running me ragged, pushing every button and forcing me to delete my already low reserve of patience. 

While I am far from an expert, I do think that offering a few well-timed and well-crafted words of “dadvice” might come in handy and spark a fruitful and thought-provoking conversation about the challenges, difficulties and successes of parenting. 

On this first installment, I’ll discuss an issue that keeps recurring with my sons, ages 8 & 6 — technology. My kids, like most, have embraced the technological world around them. They have tablets on which they play Minecraft, Crossy Road and a few other parent-approved games. They play on our old Wii game console. They watch videos on YouTube of other people gaming. They play Animal Jam or Minecraft on our PC. In other words, they’ve got multiple options when it comes to scratching their tech itch. 

On one hand, we encourage it. The boys occasionally attend a coding camp at our local library and our school district demands that they accomplish a certain amount of online work at home. Computers and smart devices are their present and will certainly be their future so to deny them the technology would be foolhardy, repressive and stunt their growth. 

However, there has to be a balance and my kids are not really old enough to grasp that. They are ruled by impulse and their impulse, especially over summer break, is to play games. Nonstop. 

But I’ve got some “dadvice.” It doesn’t have to be all tech, all the time. In our house, we’ve instituted a few rules. 

First, there are time limits on tech time. They might get a 20-minute chunk in the morning and another in the afternoon. That way they feel like they’re having a good amount of time to play or accomplish a task but it doesn’t consume them. The trick is to stick to it. And that can be a struggle. My kids will push and push to get what they want, especially when they’ve just got “one” more game to finish or a final level to achieve or a last virtual coin to acquire. You will easily get sucked into their manipulation if you constantly give in to them. My “dadvice” is to set the ground rules before they begin their tech time and explain that when the timer goes off they have a small grace period to finish what they’re doing. 

Second, get uncomfortable. When my kids are ensconced in their games, I get so much done. It’s actually a relief and lifesaver if I’ve got a chore to finish or some calls to make or emails to write for work. Quiet children are not pestering me for a million things and I can work in relative comfort. However, that’s not fair to them. My “dadvice” is to try to get small, targeted tasks done while they play and when their 20-minute session is up, force yourself to put aside your job and do something fun or productive with the kids. If you need to, give them an extra 5-10 minutes to play while you work. Trust me, they won’t complain. 

Third, my kids always want to buy or download a new game that they see on YouTube or hear their friends talk about. I don’t have time to keep up with all the different games and apps and I don’t always know which are appropriate for them. My “dadvice” is to do a quick Google search of the new game or app and rely on trusted websites to give you the quick skinny on whether to allow these games into your home. For instance, my kids want Roblox. Their friends have it and they love it. But from what I’ve seen there’s little redeeming about it for children at my kids’ ages and I think it will just be one more distraction. 

Finally, I feel that if my kids want to play all these games and embrace this tech on summer break, they need to spend some time in the old-fashioned worlds of reading and learning. My “dadvice” is to give them an equal amount of time on those pursuits as they have playing games online. If they balk, you have the ultimate hammer at your disposal — no more tech! 

That’s my “dadvice!”

(Photo by Easa Shamih (iZZo) | P.h.o.t.o.g.r.a.p.h.y on Foter.com / CC BY)

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The Beginning
About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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