Navigating Technology With Our Kids in a Screen-Obsessed World

*Updated with Winners* Congrats to random commenters Tanya and Ami!

My oldest daughter got her first school locker at 5th grade orientation at the new middle school.  She nervously worked her combination and adjusted the books on her white locker shelf and added a mirror on the door. I’ll never forget the day four years ago—not because it was a big deal that she was growing up. Because it was. But I remember it more because of how grown up the other kids around her seemed.

The girl next to her had fake nails, hair highlights was wearing name brand clothes head-to-toe and had was going to take notes on a tablet. And at the locker below her, a girl was texting her boyfriend on her iPhone. It felt more like a scene from high school musical than the 5th grade.

little girl behind a tablet pc

I silently prayed I could keep my little girl little and we could navigate these adolescent years well. And we have so far.

When she asked for certain brands, we talked about budgets and saving and through the years she enjoyed a few. When she asked for a smart phone, we told her high school and thankfully, she hasn’t asked for fake nails or a boyfriend yet.

We recognized along the journey that some parents said yes sooner than we did and others said it later. And that’s okay. Because there’s not a perfect age or stage and we are all doing the best we can. I think it depends on what’s right for your family.

I’m not saying it was easy. It was just plain hard at times. I think my daughter must have asked for something we weren’t quite ready to give her a hundred times during those middle school years. We would remind her of our goal. The requests lessened in junior high.

That’s why surprising her a few days ago before she started high school with her own smart phone was a joy for all of us. She was shocked. But she was ready and the moment felt like victory for all of us.

Along with her phone we gave her this contract. It requires phone etiquette and usage rules and where and when it’s appropriate. We all signed it.

It’s just a matter of time before your child has the power of technology at their fingertips. Whether it’s a game system, a smart phone or a Kindle or a laptop, technology is more accessible than ever and it’s here to stay. Every parent reading this handles is differently.  It’s not a question of if, it’s a matter of when.

I love technology. It’s a huge part of my life and I certainly don’t want to rob my kids of the good things that it offers. But more than anything, I want them to understand the power it wields, the dangers that are a click away and make sure they are mature enough to handle it.

It’s a big subject that changes as fast as the next upgrade and it’s our job to not only monitor our kids, but to live by example.

Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman and Arlene Pellicane helped us with this decision. This summer I read (and endorsed) this important book and I can’t recommend it enough. It’s like curriculum for parents in our tech-savvy and screen-obsessed world and it released this week!

In my daughter’s cell phone contract, we asked that she wait on a Facebook account until she was older, but gave permission for an Instagram account. After a couple of days, she said, “Mom, I’m going to wait on that too. I don’t think I’m quite ready for it yet.”

And I knew we’d waited long enough. She was ready.

Today, I’m giving away two copies of Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World. Leave a comment if you’d like to win.

Parenting Doesn’t Get Easier. But We Can Go Easy on Other Parents

That screaming boy in Target.

That mismatched messy girl in the restaurant.

That eye roll.

I have silently judged, questioned and mentally accused the mothers of these children.

Because I was an excellent mother-

Before I had kids.

And then I became a mom and I discovered just how wrong I’d been.

Hand holding cardboard

 

Because if the world judged how great a mom I was by my well-behaved kids who are styled to perfection without ever displaying attitude or laziness–I would be in deep trouble.

Parenting is hard.

The kind of hard that knocks you off your feet, leaves you gasping for air, and has you wondering what the heck just happened all before 8 a.m.

I used to think if I could just get them to sleep through the night or eat their veggies or stop crying, or pick up their toys, or stop fighting with their siblings, or make a new friend, or get a better grade or stop slamming their doors, or fill in the blank–then parenting would be easier.

But then I realized parenting doesn’t get easier.

It just changes.

I understand now that the little boy is probably screaming in Target because his mom told him no. She is being consistent even though it’s hard. She’s second-guessing herself and she really just wants to cry along with him.

I get the mismatched messy girl at the restaurant because that mom chose her battle. She let the little things go and is just simply doing her best.

I can now appreciate letting teenagers get away with the eye roll. Because you can’t win them all.

Once I heard a exuberant, quirky guest speaker say, “You might think I’m wrong because I do things different than you do. You might wonder why I get excited more than most or pump my fist or jump up and down. You might judge me. Go ahead. Because you don’t know the road I’ve walked. You can’t understand that this fist bump means I haven’t quit. This jump means I will not give up. I may not do things the way you do them, but I do it my way for a reason. And that doesn’t make me wrong.”

The thing is we may never understand why other parents do what they do. And then again, we may totally get it when we reach that next trying and beautiful phase.

But the truth is we all know how hard parenting is. We all try to do our best, hoping we offer our kids mercy or justice when it’s needed most. We all love our children. The last thing we need is to second guess the way someone else is parenting.

An encouraging word, a kind look, a sympathetic smile can change someone’s day. Including your own.

And if your a parent, you’re going to need it.

 

A Back to School Prayer For My Children

Dear God,

School starts today. Thank you, thank you (sincere holy whisper). We both know that momma’s bag ‘o summer tricks is plum empty and hiding in the bathroom while my children argue upstairs is not going to work much longer.

School still life with copyspace on chalkboard

We’ve got brand new school supplies tucked neatly into clean backpacks. The kids each have squeaky new tennis shoes and their first day of school clothes picked out, except for my son who doesn’t care, but you know that already. Thank you for providing every bit of it.

We’ve spent the last couple of days getting ready. And ready or not, it’s time.

There are some jitters, wondering about getting the locker open on the first try, making new friends and who to sit by at lunch. And that’s just me. I know my kids are nervous too. You know I got a little emotional this week as I stepped into their world, walking the halls they will everyday. I have some worries, a few fears because I don’t like the cultural “norms” in our world – many aren’t normal at all in our family.  I am proud of the Godly choices my kids have made but with every new school year, they take a step further away from me and that’s hard for every momma.

Diptic

But you urge us not to worry.  So, instead I’m praying this over them today:

I pray you will be near them when I can’t be.

I pray if they don’t feel your presence, they will seek you and discover you’re right there with them.

I pray you will surround them with peace and comfort in every new situation.

I pray when they are pressured, you will help them stand.

I pray they find one good friend, a brother or sister in Christ because it’s hard to stand alone.

I pray that 6 AM won’t come as early this year.

I pray when they fail, they will forgive themselves and try again.

I pray you will give the school nurse an extra supply of patience and bandaids for my second grader.

I pray my kids will befriend those that are new, lonely or both.

I pray they will not sit next the child who has to throw up in the class trashcan.

I pray they will be a blessing to their teacher and not a curse.

I pray you will bless them with Godly teachers as you have in the past.

I pray they will have fun. But not too much, if you know what I mean.

I pray they will let their light shine, quietly or loudly, but in their own way.

I pray homework will be light and not become Home. Work.

I pray that you will help me to trust their choices, let them go even when it’s hard, and pull them close when they need me to the most.

I pray above all, God, that you would use their challenges, disappointments and victories to draw them closer to you this school year.

Thank you for every gift.

Amen

 

edited repost

The Real School Supply List Every Kid Needs

She starts high school in a couple of days.


photo copy

That little brown-eyed baby girl made me a mother and now I’m wishing I could make the clock slow down.

I showed her how to make her bed and her lunch and now she’s showing me how she will make her way.

Something special happened this summer. We don’t always get to see our kids grow-it’s slow and steady, it’s something we recognize after the fact. But there was a moment when time slowed down and I noticed the tilt of her chin, the determination in her eyes, the rapture of deciding who she is and realizing no one can take that away.

It was a brief glimpse of her becoming and it was beautiful.

She’s ready for those Chuck Taylors to take her places.

My son is starting junior high. His growth is obvious, man-sized hands and feet, hard to miss. I’ve never known a more g00d-natured soul, the kind of person who you just want to be around all the time. He is insightful and funny. He brings peace along with him.

I pray an invisible shield around his kind and thoughtful heart and pray the world doesn’t chip away his strength and resolve.

photo

My baby, a second grader. Oh, time.

photo copy 2

We finished up school supplies and my oldest asked about her high school list. I told her the teachers would tell her everything she needs on the first day of school.

“Mom, I need a pencil and paper at least. I can’t go unprepared,” her way of saying, One more trip to Target, please?

Prepared. We spend a lot of time in preparation, don’t we, moms?

But there isn’t a school supply list in the world that contains all I want to give my kids and it’s not what the world tells me they need.

While our culture says they need more selfies and self esteem, I want my kids to be more selfless. Find the new kid.

While our world says they need to fit in, I want my kids to stand out. Be different. Be themselves.

While our society says they are not enough, I want my kids to know that’s okay. Because Jesus is Enough.

school time

The Real Back-to-School Supply List:

We can instill purpose in them | We are raising kids in a culture that is constantly changing its moral code. And without deep-rooted purpose, it’s far too easy for our children to get tossed around by whatever is politically correct or by social norms that shift without warning. If we don’t teach our kids we are here to glorify God and our ultimate purpose is to know Him and make Him known, no one else will.

We can encourage positive community around them| When we’re expecting our kids to live in the world, but not be like it, it’s absolutely crucial to provide opportunities for positive community. It’s actually not always convenient to attend church youth group or get together with like-minded friends, but it must be a priority. Kids need to feel like they belong somewhere. And they will.

We can offer them a safe place to fall and fail | Our kids grow through failure. We all have bad days and offering them a safe place to be themselves is a gift. If they have to keep it all together all the time, they just might fall part in the wrong place. Be their safety net. We don’t have to expect failure, but our kids should be able to expect our support no matter what.

We can remind them to be kind and thoughtful to others | Nothing makes me prouder than when I hear that my kids were kind to the new kid or reached out to someone. Parents are often the best teachers. When we take time to serve or put others first, we are teaching our children that this is valuable.

We can show them the beauty of faithfulness when life is hard | In our culture, it’s too easy to quit when things get tough. When we are faithful in hardships, this is when we learn. This is success. Expecting our kids to be faithful to their commitments is something they will carry through life.

We can choose to live in peace | Our world is in chaos. It’s a scary time to be raising kids today and we can’t predict or provide peace in the world. But we can try and provide it at home. We can pick our battles with each other and especially with those who choose to live differently than we do. It’s not really about tolerance; it’s about love.

So, let’s send our kids armed with backpacks and scissors and no. 2 pencils, new shoes, a great breakfast and a pat on the back to “do your best,” but  let’s also remember there are important things we can offer them that can’t be found on the Back to School aisle.

What Seven Days on A Farm Taught My Son About Life

It was a last minute plan–to send my 12 year old son to spend a week on his grandparents farm. It was the first time for him to go alone, without the comfort (and irritation) of sisters.

Farm days in August can stretch long. But the alternative was another routine week at home, so he jumped at the chance to get away. A couple of days before, my father-in-law hurt his arm badly and was waiting on surgery. My son said “Maybe I can help out.” Which is code for I want to drive a four wheeler or kill something.

(He got to do both).

We met halfway to hand him off  in Dallas and I put the family phone we keep at home into his pocket in case he needed to reach me. But we both knew it was more for me than him.

I knew this would be a special week.

photo copy 3

Knowing my son, I knew it would be special time for his grandparents, too.

Every time I talked to him, I could hear the smile in his voice. I listened to adventures and laughed at his stories.

We only had one text conversation the whole week:

“I miss you.”

“Can’t blame you,” he replied.

“Ha. You’re so funny. What are you doing?”

“Sitting in a hayfield, playing Candy Crush, eating puffy Cheetos with Nanny,” he said.

“I think that’s what Heaven will be like: a serene hayfield, Candy Crush, Cheetos and love.”

“With Jesus.”

Oops. Yes.

photo copy 4

Here’s what seven days at the farm taught my son about life.

  1. Listen to the wiser, older people in your world. They can teach you a lot. People don’t always listen to the elderly, but they have a lot of good stuff to say. He loves to retell their stories.
  2. Hard work produces results. Food you plant, watch, grow, harvest tastes better than any you can buy. He walked the garden rows for hours, filling buckets with vine-ripened tomatoes, snapping off fresh okra and picking cucumbers. It was the best kind of work.
  3. When you don’t know what to do, find something to do. There’s always something to do on the farm. Exploring, roaming, imagining and hard work cures boredom.
  4. Slow down to appreciate the beauty around you. Sitting in a field on a hot August day, watching the wind whip and roll the grass like waves with crystal blue skies as the backdrop is hard to ignore.
  5. Helping others helps yourself. It felt good to help out, to be needed, to learn from someone older willing to teach someone younger. Helping makes you want to help more and that feels good.
  6. Time away from the people in your life makes you miss them. Every time I heard my son talk to his sisters on the phone, I smiled. It’s hard to disagree or argue when you simply miss being together.
  7. Life is better with gratitude. Since returning home, my son has referenced his grandparents dozens of times. He’s shared kitchen and gardening tips he picked up and offers new thoughts on life from their perspective.

photo copy 5

I have no doubt the week changed us all.