DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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5 June 2012

The value of work - for children

We had a lovely visit with Kerry, Sunny and Jamie recently, just before Sunny and Jamie left for a trip to Korea to visit family. We talked, marvelled at how fast Jamie is growing, watched him crawl around, stand up and giggle, picked vegetables in the rain and generally spent time enjoying being together. I had an interesting conversation with Sunny about disipline - I am dead against smacking (Sunny is too), and I told Sunny how we raised Kerry and Shane with a strategy of firm boundaries, encouragement and teaching them our values and how to live in our family. Children need to be taught almost everything - and living in their family is one of the most important parts. I tread a fine line being the mother-in-law and I'm well aware that my way might not suit, but I think my role as joint head of the family brings the responsibility of gentle adviser. So I talk about how I parented but don't expect that what I say will be acted on because I know that all children are different and all families have their own ways.

But that started me thinking about spoilt children I've known and that we are at the ideal time right now to start thinking about this because children aren't born with an entitled attitude, it's modelled for them and learned along the way. What is my role as grandmother in helping our two beautiful boys, Jamie and Alex, be happy and content without them developing that sense of entitlement?

Some of the things I can teach them is:

The value of money. The most obvious money difference between us and children is that we know how hard it is to earn money and that there is usually a limit to how much we have.

Teach them how to choose wisely, show them there are boundaries. There are always boundaries in life. It's good to know that early so you can build confidence and learn how to live with them.

The value of work. I want to see my grandsons happy to work along side us when they visit and stay with us. I have no doubt Shane and Sarndra and Kerry and Sunny will expect their boys to do certain jobs around the house, I will continue that while they're here too and from a young age, expect them to set the table, offer hospitality to visitors and their parents while they're here and to be a real part of a real family. And that means they do their little jobs as they become capable of doing them and they contribute to the family in a meaningful way. I can hardly wait for the time when we can teach them how to sow seeds and read stories to them about gardens and the wildlife here. Self-esteem is developed by knowing how to carry out tasks and that they are being relied on to look after certain things. That is not a burden for children; it builds character, confidence and courage; and they are strong foundations on which to build a life.


And I can model that behaviour for them in what I do in here and in the gifts I choose to give them. I am really saddened when I see young children out at events with mobile phones, iPads, iPods and computers. I don't think there is anything wrong with a child using the family computer, iPad and iPod. I expect children to be given the family mobile phone sometimes. But to be given those things as gifts at a young age is unnecessary and using them in a social situation is rude and disrespectful. I still remember going out with Tricia at Blackheath last year and having dinner at the local pub. There I watched a couple of families, obviously making the time to dine out with family and friends, but allowing their children to sit at the table with iPads and phones. The parents were all talking to each other and enjoying the outing. Their children were tied up in computer games and talking to their friends on the phone and didn't have a clue what was going on right in front of them. If children aren't expected to listen and speak at such a gathering, when do they learn how to do that?


This is a new area for all of us. Our rules for acceptable behaviour have developed over the years and  the capacity to take a phone or computer out in public to a family gathering has only been with us for a few short years. Maybe there hasn't been enough social comment on it yet, maybe families haven't yet decided on their own values and how they want their children interacting with technology.

Or am I being a fuddy-duddy? Are my hopes for grandchildren who speak at the dinner table and who leave their technology at home, not only when they're five but also when they're 25, completely opposite to how most people see it? Am I crazy to expect Jamie and Alex to grow up satisfied with what they have? I would love to hear your views on this. How are you raising your children to live simply in a techno-obsessed world? How are you, or did you, raise children who are happy without having everything their friends have?

Helping boys develop into caring, responsible men and girls into thoughtful, intelligent women starts when those children learn to walk. Games, play, books, make believe, dressing up and simple tasks that grow with the child, work side by side in developing well rounded people who know the value of work. It is difficult when you're listening to your five year old refuse to do what you ask and even more difficult when your teenager walks away when you're talking to them. But it is less likely to happen if you teach them, from a young age, that as well as being an individual, they're also an important and loved member of a family and that in that family, everyone cares for the others and everyone helps. I have been through the five year old refusals and the difficult teen years and have two sons who are the finest men you could ever meet. Now they're both good family men, they have fine work ethics and they learned the foundations of those values many years ago when I first started asking them to help and showing them how to live in our family.


56 comments:

  1. Such a good posting. I have always said that if you want your child to turn out to be a caring adult then they have to learn as little bitty children by learning to share and treat others with kindness. If you want your child to be a tidy person, as soon as they're able to toddle around and fling their toys all over then they can learn to put them away too. That type of teaching works for just about everything in life.

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  2. You ask if it's naive to expect that your boys as teens and young men would choose relationship real and in front of them as versus a cyberspace chat when they are at your dinner table...I think that in your home it is your "rules" and in your sons home it's theirs. So I'd you desire that there is a no technology rule
    Round your table then all must respect that. We do not encourage any technology at dinner time and in fact we have very firm boundaries about it at ANY time. Our children do not do social media in any form and when needing to contact friends it is by phone or email for those far away. These values have been in place from when they came "of age" for phones, iPods and iPads and we only have one child with an iPad for his schooling. There is a family
    Mobile phone which goes out with the child who needs it, no sitting texting at all hours. The purpose is to be able contact us or vice versa but we are more often than not together as a family. The point I am trying to make with this long winded reply is that it is up to the parent to instill te character they should, you should be aiding that and in your way developing all those things that you can when your grandsons visit.

    Lastly one memory I hold dear of my Gran was visiting her and helping her in the garden and kitchen. I have find memories of learning to make fish pie with pastry from scratch and taking slips of geraniums!

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  3. Wise words as always, Rhonda. Lovely projects! I'm currently crocheting a little kimono for my sweet babe's first birthday.

    Have a lovely day. ~julie

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  4. I've had friends comment that they're too afraid to take their kids out to eat...I then ask how the children are expected to learn how to behave in those situations. My three (ages 4,2, and 1) have their bad moments when we go out, but it's gotten easier and easier, despite the fact we don't have gadgets or other distractions prepared for them.

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  5. It saddens me too to see children of any age on outings with the family with technology instead of shared family memories. Even in car trips they are on the iPod or some such contraption or have ear buds in their ears. Ask them later about something memorable about the trip and is as if they were never there. Sadder still is to see parents out with their kids and they are on their phones every minute. I have seen tables with what I am guessing could be a single father or a father who has only that day a week with their children. They sit down to dine and get a call and are on the phone the whole time. Now how is that for parent/child bonding? No I do not think it wrong to feet limits on any product or time with that product. Family first. WE have so little time to teach our children and grandchildren about the world. There is never enough time to tell and show them all we wish to...why let a machine interfere?? You are right in all you posted as far as I am concerned too. Sara

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  6. We will allow our bigger little ones to use the ipad/colouring books/little toys like matchbox cars on those rare occasions we go out, and the venue doesn't really cater for kids and the meal/night is dragging on. The same way we were allowed to take colouring books etc when we were kids- but only once the meal is finished ;)

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  7. I just had a conversation with a friend about non-responsive grandchildren (and sometimes adults!) She said she is asking them to leave their electronic devices in a basket by her door and they can pick them up again on the way out...I find it rude to have someone constantly checking text messages or emails- or answering calls(this was common when I worked on a shop- people talking on their phones when you were trying to ring up their purchases)...I think it is important for grandparents to think carefully how they will help raise their grandchildren. Thanks for the input. I hope your book willl be in the US soon! Lynda

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  8. Oh, this is a topic after my heart! We have 2 nephews that were always allowed/encouraged to play their games while the adults socialised. Now, they are adults and it is near impossible to have a conversation with them (their skills are so lacking in this area) and they are also happy to interrupt to check an incoming message on their phone. I never realised how much conversation is learned. The art of listening to the other person, asking a question which is related or not that will keep the conversation going, etc.

    My son is just 4 and you can sit and play a boardgame with him and he can have proper conversations with adults (helps that its only him, so he gets a lot of 1 on 1 time) and when he comes to eat out with us (which is rare for us anyways), "reads" the menu and politely asks the "lady" what he wants to eat and drink.

    I think I would always have encouraged that, but now that I've seen the result of the alternative, I am even more certain that's not going to happen with us!!

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  9. Start those foundations young and have a strategy for how you will deal with the influences outside the home when they start to dominate.
    The most toxic influence in the wider community now is a multi billion dollar industry intent on making folks dissatisfied with what they have. MARKETING aims to sell people the lie that the brief pleasure you get from buying STUFF is actually happiness. Why else in 'the lucky country' would we have such rampant personal debt along with depression?
    Teach your grandchildren that pleasure and happiness are not the same thing, standard of living and quality of life are not the same thing. The quality of your life is defined by the quality of your relationships. Happiness comes from within.

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  10. I too have had experiences like you rhonda, when out, seeing little children playing games on phones while their parents socialise. We have even had children visit the farm with homeschooling groups and some children were allowed to walk around playing hand held games. We have now banned them from the farm as the games even draw the other children away from what's going on. I agree as grand parents that we have an obligation to share our elder knowledge, but of course respect the parents right to parent how they see fit.I love your post today because it articulates very well similar thoughts I have been having of late. I know I made lots of mistakes in my parenting but my children turned out beautifully and are now adults to be proud of. I made sure they felt loved always, that they saw me work hard, how to respect money, hoe to behave in social settings, which of course started here at home by being 'present' at meal times etc. And now the same thing applies when the grand children visit.

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  11. Totally agree with this..i have 6 children and have never smacked one of them..they have ground rules and personal rules too..such as no hitting ,spitting,swearing etc..i expect the personal rules to be kept..my older children are now teaching these rules to my grandchildren.
    I also hate to see children sat around doing nothing but have earphones permanently glued to them..my son has some but he is 18 and never wears them when we go out or at the dinner table..
    I like to have my 2 little ones help me with jobs..wether its dusting or weeding or baking..i love to have them with me,they ask questions which i love to answer.
    This week they have been poorly..so we have been at home together doing lots of stuff..they helped me to pin together a patchwork blanket and then sat with me at the sewing machine to make it..it was totally awesome and i am hoping they loved it too..
    sara

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  12. I saw a blog post where the mother had a basket near the door for all the mobile phones etc. when her children's friends came to visit, so the children could all be together and communicate with each other and not their phones. I spoke about it in our bible study group and several mothers have now implemented it in their homes and have thanked me for sharing it. Not a problem at our house- we have no mobile phone reception and most of my sons' friends don't own mobiles anyway!

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  13. I love to hear you talking with such pride about your boys!

    As you know, my girls are still quite young (1 and 3) but I still expect them to complete their chores. I think it provides them with a sense of being needed and belonging. After all, if they weren't there, who would set the table or collect the eggs? A side note, it also lets me model thoughtfulness - when Peanut is feeling poorly I collect the eggs for her, she is so thankful and I can show her how kindly actions are active love.

    As for iPads for kids... the only time we use it out of the house is for long car journeys (over 2 hours). It was an absolute life saver when a solo-parent four hour drive turned in a nine hour one, due to an accident on the road ahead! But I don't allow them to use it any time else. I want them to learn patience and attentiveness. We attend many MANY parades and an iPad would be totally inappropriate. (I do occasionally let them colour in on a small notepad if they are getting really bored, but it's an anomaly.) This strictness has paid off - when the Queen came, both kids sat through a two hour parade without complaint. Well, almost. Apparently Peanut thought the Queen should be wearing her crown!

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  14. I think what worked for us is no TV. If they can't see it advertised then they are unaware of whats available! And we home educated all 7, so once again the peer pressure 'wanties' weren't there for them.
    Our older children have a mobile phone each but they buy it them selves when they need it ie:over 16 and heading off to work etc and it's not used when you are in company!!
    I agree that firm discipline is needed and it definitely has to start when they are tiny - my motto when they were little was always "Do I want my teenager to be acting like this?" if not then I can't let them act like this now! Food for thought!

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  15. The issue of mobile devices being used while with a group of people is being debated in so many places, as we try to work out how to fit these things into our lives. They aren't going away, so we need to work out how to deal with them, and that takes time.

    So it isn't just young people who don't do the "right" thing - I've seen people of all ages ignoring the people they are with to answer their phones. What message does that send to the people they are with? And any young people who learn from their elders?

    I agree that mobile devices should not be used when in a group - going out for dinner being a good example. But, sometimes I think parents use these devices as babysitters. It means they don't have to try so hard to include the younger ones.

    If you don't allow the younger ones to play on their iPads, you have a responsibility to include them in what's going on, and consider what is interesting to them - not all the time, but as part of the group. They learn from you, and you can learn from them. Be interested in them.

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  16. I think we as parents must place limits on technology and our children. It is no different that placing limits on the other things in their lives. They cannot know on their own how to do it all. We are older, and should be wiser, and it is our job to guide them.

    Boundaries expand as the child's ability to handle the freedoms he or she has already is shown. It is much easy to give more freedoms when one ready than to withdraw freedoms after he or she has shown himself or herself not to able to handle it.

    We are training our children to be able to handle being out with others and enjoying their company.

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  17. NO, you are not being a fuddy duddy. We are designed to do most of our interacting with people,not machines. I think many families have forgotten this, or not thought about it.
    My own observation as a teacher and parent is that these new technologies are highly addictive and need very firm boundaries. In my own home I find maintaining these boundaries exhausting as you can't be everywhere at once. But it's my responsibility as a parent to put tight limits on technologies I've allowed into our home.
    Have a beautiful day everyone,
    Madeleine

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  18. A great post to inspire some thinking Rhonda! My teen has only just now purchased an Ipod and she had to save her own money from her first after school job as i refuse to buy such big ticket expensive items for children...and she really is still a child. I have noticed she looks after this with a great deal of care...i think because she had to earn it herself. There have to be boundaries though and i am often unpopular because i ask her to turn it off or put it away while we are out. She also has to have it out of her room before bed at night.
    It really is hard to stand your ground sometimes when they have friends that are seemingly given everything and not expected to help with chores etc and yet are still given pocket money! She has learnt though that in our family she has to help out just as i did when young...i think this gives children so many life lessons and a head start for the 'real' world'!Having young twins in the family now has also ensured she knows how to care for younger siblings...even though she may not want to at times!
    I do believe that we parents have to set the examples though too...i am so saddened when i take the twins to the park somedays and there are parents everywhere on laptops and phones...those children will grow up with the same values unfortunately. We all have busy lives but sometimes we just have to push things aside and put all of our attention towards our children...hopefully you will be repaid for this behaviour later down the track!
    I love that little knitted bear Rhonda...i have just begun to reteach myself to knit...could you suggest a similar pattern anywhere on the web that might suit a beginner?
    I love to read about your family and how they are all growing...thanks so much for sharing these glimpses with us x

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  19. Funny, we were just talking about this topic yesterday. A great one for a good discussion! I do agree with the general idea of your post. We so easily get caught up with the fast pace of this world and all the technology in it without realising what it might be teaching our children and what we are missing out on teaching our children because of it. Social skills are invaluable! and certainly lacking these days! I am realising though that as much as I fight this technological age I also feel I have to make some adjustments. My kids were playing with their cousins on the ipad a lot the other weekend. At first it bothered me as I wished they could just do something more constructive but when I became more informed as to what they were doing on there I realise I do also need to get with the times a little (speaking for myself here not making accusations about any one else who might be reading this). They were playing boardgames which are on the ipad. They also get used it, the novelty wears off and they still ran outside and played most of the day. There are many games, also many word games which I enjoy, which can now be played on ipads, phones, computers instead of the boardgame or real thing. I'm still a firm believer that there should be limits on the time spent on these things for kids (as well as adults) but I see in myself that I do need to assess what the device is being used for before I write it off as simply more wasted 'screentime'. Sometimes taking an iphone or ipad to a restaurant than to me could be compared to taking a card game or a colouring book. The time limits is the challenge. I love that my kids still love to be in the kitchen with me, go for bike rides, play outside and play with the Barbie dolls. But I also feel a responsibility to move with technology a little, know what's out there so I can learn with my kids and help them also make informed decisions about how they will be in control of their 'electronic life'. I don't feel it helps for me to only fight it. Whether I like it or not when the kids are grown up they will buy what they want and then I'd rather have been able to spend the time being a positive influence as they learn to use technology while they are under our wing so to speak. And I must say I do love a good game of boggle, scrabble or whirlyword and it is so easy to take the phone along to the doctors waiting room rather than my puzzle book. I like to join my children in seeing the many benefits also that these technological days bring alongside pointing out the challenges we face because of them. anyhow, I carry on too long now. Thanks for bringing up the topic....I love reading and learning from everyones comments. Cathy

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  20. children have to KNOW they are loved, have good self esteem and learn that there are always consequences for their behaviour. You have to start when they are quite young, it is no use at all, suddenly deciding that at 6 or 7 it is NOT cute to throw tantrums, be destructive or disobedient.
    Basic respect for people and belongings is important.
    Limiting TV time is a good idea and stick to your family rules on tech gadgets purchase and use.
    A year ago,7 year old grandson wanted an ipad, Daddy said "yes, as soon as you can do 100 push ups, to show me you are willing to work hard for what you want".... it would now seem the ipad was not all that important.

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  21. On this rare occasion I have a different opinion to you Rhonda!

    I am very annoyed when we are constantly bombarded by t.v telling us we have to have the latest gadget just because it's fashionable and particularly when there's nothing wrong with our existing item.For example mobile phones. It seems like everyone now has the smartphone with the sliding screens. It seems like mine is now a dinosaur but I will never update mine on principal. I consider myself to be a level headed person with old fashioned values. My seven year old has a DS only because it was a second hand one that was given to him. We set definate limits with it but can see the value of them. This is the age of technology as never before and it is a necessity of life and one which is rapidly changing. Children will need to learn to use them. Computing is a lesson in my son's class, so we cannot hide our heads in the sand.

    In regard to outings with young children - we don't get out much due to the cost of eating out as a family. On the rare occasion it can be really hard to have the children stay sitting at the table and sitting quietly. I never advocate for kids having the items you mentioned at the meal table, but I admit I do occasionally give the children an item when I really need to have some sanity and converse with an adult.

    As a parent I see the value of an old fashioned smack. At times I have seen my children snap out of bad behaviour following a smack. In our household a smack is a last resort. We use a mix of rewards, praise, explanations, withdrawing toys as a means of discipline. I think that a child that is never smacked will grow up indulgent.

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  22. I completely agree.
    My teenager didn't have a phone until he was 15. I allowed him to have one then for two reasons. The be contactable for us as he was spending lots of time fishing at the local jettys on his own and liked that I had that safety. Also because his work would often ring for him to come in at the drop of a hat.
    But...he was to buy the phone with his own money and it is his responsibility to keep credit up to it. I will not buy him credit for his phone. Hopefully he'll learn how to budget his credit this way.

    As for my little ones. I have online baby friends who have children the same age as my two. I couldn't believe how many of them were buying those toy laptops for their 1st birthdays! and now DS's for their 3rd and 4th birthdays!
    I will be doing what I can to limit the amount of electronic devices my boys have for as long as I can. They do not need those things.
    We go out to dinner reasonably often and our boys sit at the table and chat. If it's going to be a long night at a restaurant that isn't very child friendly then I allow them to take their pencils and a colouring in book to help keep them occupied. This actually fosters so much conversation with other members of the family as they often join in colouring in with them.

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  23. I'm 30 and agree with you so you're no fuddy duddy!! My 8 year old has had responsibilities around the house for some time, feeding the cat, setting the table, mowing our back lawn (battery powered mower), helping me in the garden etc.

    We also have never allowed him to have electronic 'entertainment' if we go out for dinner (or even at home when it's dinnertime). A book to read or colour in because that occupies him without him zoning out but I draw the line at even letting him play on our mobiles. He's there with us so I would like him to participate. We're an IT household so have all the gadgets that come with that but all our son has is a (very) old laptop for his school work. It's funny, being part of a technologically orientated generation we're more aware that it's not always a good thing than parents older than us I think.

    It's difficult at his age to understand that it's worth saving money up rather than just spending it the moment it's in your hands. Using Lego of all things as an example seems to make the most impact! It's much more fun to be able to save and buy a big lego than it is to buy little things as you get the money.

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  24. Those grandchildren of yours are very lucky to have you in there lives Rhonda. That teddy is so cute, much more easy to cuddle than an iphone! It's such a shame that some children are not taught to amuse themselves and allow their own imagination to guide their play. Once they get hold of those computer gadgets they become such a dependability in their lives. Unfortunately I see it happen all the time in my playgroups and even circle of friends.
    Now, those booties, just gorgeous, have reminded me that I still haven't finished making the other booti for Laura, just haven't got much spare time these days... lucky most of the baby suits I have have feet sewn in, but with this nice cold change in the weather today, I'd best get the hook out. Guessing I'll need to make a bigger pair now anyway!
    I have however finally finished reading your book, AMAZING! You have written it just how I wanted to read it. I'm also a fan of your muffin recipe, which I now have printed and blue tacked inside my pantry cupboard for quick reference. I've made about 10 doz batches in the last couple of weeks, Raspberry and White chocolate, Orange and poppyseed, choc chip, banana, apple and rhubarb. So versatile! I don't make my plain cake anymore, it's much easier and quicker at the moment to just make Muffins!
    Thank-you.
    Take care Rhonda, hope your keeping rested, and warm. :)
    Karen xo

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  25. I recently attended an open day at the high school that I am thinking of sending my daughter to (she is turning 11 soon). She was interested in the classroom displays and chatted to the teachers and the students who were acting as our guides. While we were looking at the science labs another family came through with a boy the same age in tow. He was playing a game on his mobile phone the whole time he was there and acknowledged neither the teacher, the guides or his surroundings. I thought it spoke volumes about how some kids have such a sense of entitlement and be so ill mannered and apathetic that they could not muster the slightest amount of enthusiasm for the place that they will be spending 5 very important years of their life.

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  26. Such a great topic, the learning of social skills being made unnecessary by technology. I find it rude and unacceptable to be out with people whose children have their heads stuck in a DS game or a phone game and cant even raise their heads to say hello to me............
    We have managed my two older children, 9 and 11 through the DS Game stage, we just didn't give them one, and now they have outgrown the urge to get one, like I hoped they would...it is now onto the Ipads and Iphones....I actually dont even use a mobile phone, I do have one that I charge if I am heading off to the country for emergency reasons, but ask me where it is right now and I couldnt tell you. Unfortunately in some ways our children attend a school in an affluent area where mobile phones for primary age children is deemed appropriate..in my eyes it is not, so we are battling this one...also the playstation and xbox games that we have chosen not to have in our home proves difficult too...but I am determined to stick to our decision as a family on this one..of not having them in our home, one we can not afford them or the games that follow to be bought for them, and two I dont want to see my children sitting around playing mind numbing, often violent games when there is so much more to learn and do...my children play...they play outside in the yard, my son at his age still builds Lego..my daughter roams the garden looking for insects and builds fairy gardens, they both read...and love books..they both play sport and are learning the social skills around others that will help them when they are older...they are beautiful, confident and polite children, and are learning to be so without the unnecessary technology out there...

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  27. 31 year old fuddy duddy here! I have 2 girls, aged 3 and almost 6, and they have limited access to technology. My husband is in IT, but doesn't have anything other than a laptop, and a mobile phone, very different to his friends with all the gadgets. Maybe this is why we only use 5kW hours of electricity per day (solar!), but I digress...
    Just before Christmas, we went out with some of hubby's old school friends for dinner. The girl that organised it informed us that she'd bring a portable DVD player for the kids (she has 2 kids) to share. I was horrified- how do you tell them that that's not how we parent? My girls are quite well behaved when we go out, they only get a pencil and paper if we think we'll be there for a while. We didn't say anything, or I'm sure we would have offended them, but what does it teach them?

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  28. Hi Rhonda, Well said :) This is the post that every parent needs to read and realise.We instill these values in our daughter(9yrs)-we explain why she can't have things,why we save,why as a family we are a team and we help each other-we bake together and she always puts aside some in a special container for her dad to have at work.We THANK each other for working so hard so we can have the things we do-and it is usually part of the mealtime conversation.I'm shocked when out with other families/around other families the behaviour eg.letting their kids play running games and hidey in Freedom or at a cafe.Lets make old fashioned manners and values the norm again!!!!!! Jude Sunflowers and Tulips

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  29. I dont know what to say. Im sitting here crying at my work desk because I so wanted to live in a world like yours Rhonda and apparently everyone elses. I too have these values as they were how I was raised. Not everyone however has the ideal family life that provides the environment that allows you to raise your children or have a marriage the way you want. I have an autistic husband and a austic 15 year old son. Their social difficulties mean we are isolated. Neither of them have ever had a friend. Everyone leaves because its too hard. Even family quietly back away over time until you find yourself totally isolated. And so those technological gadgets become their world. My son told me that inside a game he's no longer autistic. Real life is too hard, so they go where they have some form of control. I could go on and on but my point is not to judge everyone you see. Some of us for various reasons are not able to achieve such high standards. I grieve knowing that my dreams for my family will never be a reality. 70% of autistic families break up. It is because of my values, the same onces you talk about, that I hold it together. I usually find solace and comfort in reading your blogs about your ideal world where everyone cares and the sun shines everyday. I am devastated.

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    1. I hear you on this one, anon. I want to say to people, yes, in an ideal world this would be nice. Sometimes life is not ideal and you have to go with what you've got. I can't tell you how beneficial technology is with special needs kids. I have seen this with my own son. Something that with the best teachers and understanding family has been so hard to teach has finally become achievable because of my iPhone, his therapists iPad and his laptop. I can't tell you what a bonus it has been. As soon as I can afford it, I will have an iPad for him. He will never be "normal" but with the help of technology he is reaching some goals.
      In regards to going out as a family, people always stare at us because he is different. I don't take much technology with me but if I thought it would help, I would. I never feel normal because of the way people stare. I would love to go out and be normal for a change.
      What I am trying to say here is two things, mainly to the commenters who have such strong feelings that people shouldn't take technology with them when they go out:
      1- please don't knock the technology if you don't understand it- it's more than just silly games.
      2- if you see someone out with their kids and they have iPads etc don't judge- they might just be wanting to be "normal" for an hour before they head back home to whatever problems and stresses they face. And yes, maybe they are trying to disconnect from their children for a while. Peace comes in many forms. If you have a special needs child sometimes life is so full on that the only way to cope is to disconnect for a bit. Do I feel guilty about that? Of course I do.
      Anon, keep your chin up. You're doing your best with everything and everyone you care for. If I could help I would. X.

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  30. Anon, my post was meant to address everyone's concerns as it relates to their own experiences. I thought when I read it back that I should have titled the post: Living in your family, because to me, that was the point of the post. I am sorry you were upset reading it but I'm not pointing a finger, I'm just trying to work out how I live in my family with our new members as well as understand how that compares with the experience of others.

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  31. Im sorry Rhonda, and also my apologies to everyone else. I understand your comments and totally agree that it was about your own families. It thought I had to the tap turned off really tight but it just got a leak. Im looking for a very big wrench right now. I will observe quietly. Thank you.

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  32. Anon, not a problem, love. I just wanted to let you know too, that I'll answer your email tomorrow. I've been at the neighbourhood centre these past two days and I've yet to take the photo you need. Will do in the morning and get back to you then. Take care. xx

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  33. Last Christmas, I brought my boyfriend to a big family Christmas do for the first time. What really struck him was that all of my cousins and my sister spend the whole of dinner, and the whole of the few days, texting their friends. We both found it a little insulting that we had travelled from a different country to be there, and they were more interested in their phones than in talking to us. So we're determined that mealtimes and family times will be phone-free zones - for us as a couple now, and hopefully when we have children later down the line.

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  34. I agree with teaching children social manners which excludes technology at the table etc. Interestingly, it is not surprising that children are being allowed do this when you see how adults are behaving. I was out with 5 women for the day yesterday and two of them spent the entire day looking at their iphones! A conversation would strike up about a cake somebody made and the next thing was they were trying to find pictures of it and facebook pages etc. It became very boring! This type of technology although useful is very addictive and not very healthy for anyone - children or adults - in my opinion.
    Rachel, Ireland

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  35. I thought of you the other day. Thinking of your earlier words about your two beautiful sons. When struggling with my six year old, I wondered how you raised your sons, but would dare asking. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    About the games: a couple of months ago, we had visiters. Two grown up, two kids. They came in our house, the kids took both there Nintendo DS out of there bag and jumped on my couch. My sun looked up to me and I could see the tears in his eyes. Not of having a Nintendo DS, but the fact the children hadn't time to play together. Hurray to technology?

    Love from Holland

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  36. This is a very interesting post, Rhonda. I often have a laugh when I am in a Food Hall at a shopping centre to see many of the young people sitting around a table using their mobile phones. I mean they are already in a group with their friends so why not talk.

    To 'anonymous'who has the hubby and son with autism, hang in there. The life of a carer is not easy and can lead to isolation because other people just don't understand. Believe me, you are not alone but sometimes knowing that doesn't help either. Be kind to yourself. I understand perfectly how you feel.

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  37. You know what...I am putting my hand up here too and saying that in my ideal world, there would be no ipods, no smaking, gentle boundaries, guidance and disipline and for the most part, this happens. However I have smacked...on occassion. I have yelled and (gasp)I have even let my children at times play on my phone to keep them entertained in a doctors waiting room or at a cafe, because you know what...that is so much better than having people turn and stare when my young children don't conform to adult expectations. my eldest is a very savvy, computer smart young boy and I actually love that he is this way inclined. In a world that is so much about computer and technology, I am glad that he has these options. Really it is incredible what some of these kids can do with technology. I believe in limits though and I do believe in manners. I allow a limited time and I moniter the content and I don't allow them at the dinner table. I am however a realist and definately not perfect.

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  38. Ah, Rhonda, you have hit on what is probably THE most important thing in my stage of life right now. As a mother to two girls (3 1/2-year-old Shira and 21-month-old Tehilla), I often struggle with finding gentle but firm ways to instill discipline, and raising considerate, kind, generous adults who love to learn, work, and interact with the word surrounding them in a healthy, vibrant way.

    First off, children learn from example - not only outward, but inward. I need to be what I want them to become - gentle, cheerful, friendly, hardworking and creative. Otherwise, there is no hope I can ever artificially mold them into some ideal I have spun in my head but never lived upon.

    Second, we strive to live gently, slowly and simply. The crazy pace of our days often doesn't allow parents to get their children to participate in day-to-day life, because they are so bent in doing everything as fast as possible - and little children do slow you down.

    My children, in particularly Shira, pick up their toys, gather eggs, help out in the kitchen, help sweep the front porch, do simple cleaning tasks (wipe the windows, etc) and hang up small items of laundry. Work is not a punishment - being allowed to participate in the adult life is a treat, an honorable badge of being a big girl and Mommy's helper. I'm not saying they do all the above ideally, but I do try to keep them involved on a consistent basis.

    I would do all the work more effectively on my own - for now. But I know that some years down the road, I will be very glad for allowing my daughter to hang up her own underwear, taking about five minutes for each item.

    Interaction with nature, plants and farm animals is important in building up character, too. It teaches responsibility and gentleness in such a wholesome, never-boring way. Seeds need to be watered regularly if you wish to get any results. Animals must be fed first thing in the morning. Chicks must be handled delicately. All of this creates a flow of learning which is only very slightly directed by us, as parents.

    If we have animals, plants, inexpensive crafts, satisfying kitchen work, stories and nature walks, we don't need many expensive toys and gadgets. My girls very rarely watch videos. When our development nurse suggests to "limit screen time for the baby", I give her a wild look. What screen time?? We are busy living life!

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  39. In our home, we set firm boundaries on technology use, but also make sure to use the technology with them. I don't particularly care for video games, but my kids enjoy them and I have found that I learn quite a bit about my children when I try to do something they enjoy. It also makes accepting their boundaries more seamless when we participate too and they adjust to change better. Nor is our time together a complacent ritual, but we actively engage them in questions, family decisions, goals, dreams, creative thought and we encourage them to have some alone time each day, unplugged of course. I remember finding out so much about myself and my thoughts in this way and I can see my kids benefiting from this as well.

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  40. Rhonda I applaud your blog today in that it has raised a range of responses!!

    I left an earlier comment (no 18 I think) where I said I disagreed with you on this rare occasion.I didn't think you would allow my comments to be shown on your site, bit I thnak you that you were gracious and did. Perhaps this gave some other bloggers permission to express theirs?

    Neverless I was both saddenned and pleased to read the comments left by the dear lady with an Autistic son and husband.Life is tough, there's no doubt, and our journeys all differ.

    I know only too well that your topic was never meant to have a go at anyone.But to those who struggle with such issues on a daily basis, take heart. I thank you all for your honesty. I guess the technology we all access - computers and blogsites allow each of us to reach another with a kind word, and to touch the worlds of others that are so different to our own!Speaking personally, I know blogsites like Rhonda's help us to connect with each other and to reduce our sense of isolation.I think it's awesome that this lady with an Autistic husband and son can vent her feelings so freely.Her feelings made me come down to earth with a halt and realize that we take so much for granted.At times as parents we do what we have to do to snatch a moments peace.

    Thankyou Rhonda for facilitating such a range of opinions,and for being brave enough to allow fellow bloggers the opportunity to respond openly and honestly.

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  41. To be perfectly frank, I think most of us would understand special needs people being on technology. It is the rest of us who have to watch or learn our manners and realize that it is indeed rude to isolate ourselves and others and act like only our immediate interests are the issue. My partner and I were walking down the main street in town one afternoon and realized that in the small crowd of about seven or eight people, we were the only two NOT on the telephone.

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    1. Aaah, but who gets to make the judgement call on this? Who decides who is "special needs"? Some people look no different to anyone else but there are many things they struggle with. Did you know you can use an iPod, iPhone or iPad to communicate? There is a program the user touches pictures to form their requests, needs, social interaction etc and the device speaks the request. Truly ingenious and lifechanging! I Only ask the question of who makes the judgement call to highlight the fact that really none of us are qualified to judge others.

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  42. Rhonda-I read your blog regularly and you've been an enormous inspiration in my life. All of your posts are great, but this one really hits the mark, especially with me. I couldn't agree with you more, and it's something that I don't think we, as a society, talk about enough. This is how we are raising our 8 year old son, and I hope that he'll be a better person for understanding the value of family over technology and money.

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  43. Great post, myself and my husband talk about technology and children often and it is a topic that comes up often with friends who have children too. We have 3 kids aged 5, 3 and 17 months. We have no tv. We let them watch a dvd film at the weekend on a laptop. They also listen to a junior radio station which they really like. I feel it is up to the parents to set rules. I have heard mums say that their childs speech is much improved due to tv. I would say talk to them instead!! I think the educational value of Tv is overrated. Our children read, draw and play outside alot. We also have them doing small shores to help with the house, getting drinks for smaller ones, sweeping, cleaning away toys, feeding poultry and collecting eggs. It is so important that they feel connected to the family and part of it. Experiencing life outdoors and nature and the seasons is much better then viewing it on the tv.

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  44. It is just a generation ago when the age of technology was taking leaps a a time. We, the adults, made the decision to not buy video game sets, the computer we had did not have kid friendly programs (just business) and cell phones were just getting started (they were that with a job buying one would be their responsibility). When visiting cousins, they would play the games, for a while, then want to go outside. The cousins did not know how to play outside or use imagination in co-operation with others (they were too controlling). They have grown up to be arumentative, controlling, self-centered adults. I have had all compliments regarding my children starting from high school. And hear nothing good about thier cousins.

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  45. I too am a full-time carer to my adult son who has autism and I give grateful, fervent thanks for technology.

    To my son, the world of people and social communication is a hard, scary and judgemental place where he is always making mistakes and getting things wrong.... words with their non-literal meanings, facial expressions, voice tone, body language, humour, sarcasm, innuendo, the list goes on and on and on.... what on earth does it all mean????

    Add onto this, the sensory world where lights are too bright, noises too loud, seats too hard or too soft and still you are expected to listen and respond politely (whatever that is) amongst all this confusing, heightened, input over which you have no control.

    The heart-breaking outcome of this condition is an isolated young man, with no friends and limited contact with a world he struggles to understand.

    Technology has been his lifeline - imagine.... devices that allow you to communicate (maybe just using the written word alone) in environments where you are in complete control.... amazing, wondrous.

    My son has made cyber-friends all over the world - mainly other autistic young men with the same interests ie gaming and technology.

    To an outsider, he may seem ignorant and rude with his head forever buried in some sort of gadget but we know he is actually happy because he has at last found a way to communicate.

    Just the other side of the coin, love Annexxx

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  46. I have recently many reasons to bless technology, ie a far away brother undergoing the very latest in cancer treatment....we can 'skype' etc. But what worrys me greatly is the lack of embodyment that is going on everywhere. Ok perhaps it is we are set to evolve into something else altogether but in the meantime here are all these lives whose physical reality is being hyjacked by cyber-space and electronics etc. Each of us is still dependant on physical reality even if we take it for granted....pull out the plugs, collapse systems and where are we if we don't have a relationship with what breaths us, feeds us, shelters us? Remote control might work for gadgets as long as you can find it and the batteries aren't flat but for life itself? What i love about being is so wrapped up in bodily experience, it would feel the greatest shame to miss this.....
    With our kids we were lucky in that early exposure was minimized because we lived remotely. I remember wanting to give them beautiful wooden toys and handmade dolls and keep things kind of pure etc but watching our eldest's fascination with crunching plastic, the teddy's label, i met with the dilema of wanting him to know the world not just my version of it..... Our kids are teenagers today and the dilema isn't resolved but now they are old enough for me to discuss it with them and explain why I take a stand often against technology. i feel a great sadness though when i look around at how much imagination and intitive are stolen by the immediate comfort and entertainment of our technological inventions and i truly believe our remote controlled lives play and our absence of 'real' relationship is a major cause to much of the worlds present imbalance.....or perhaps i'm just a creature heading for extinction??!

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  47. Rhonda, I definitely agree with you about the need for people of all ages to value work! My mother taught me to save my ($3 a fortnight) pocket money for "bigger things", and I grew up believing that your work really was your life, so the notion of instant gratification was quite alien to me. Then again, I now work in academic research, so I may be a little biased; that kind of work really cannot be left behind at an office, and there is even a saying that "science isn't a job, it's a lifestyle" =)

    As for the iPhones, iPads and iEverythingElses, I'm not so much worried about the technology itself as the notions of disposability and obsolescence that seem to go along with it now. I cannot help wondering what else people my age think is disposable and where it will stop. (I am 24 and certainly not a Luddite - if I were, I would be a hypocrite every time I used any piece of our laboratory equipment!!) Though I do think it may be easier now than it was 10 years ago to misuse the communications technology widely available. Too many functions in one gadget equals distraction waiting to happen, for me and my friends anyway - and don't get me started on apps =)I also have serious reservations about online social media, but it would take FAR too long to go into them here.

    That said, I would never judge another family's use of phones and computers, etc. I can actually remember (and would rather forget) some of the public scenes I created as a bored munchkin, and I must admit an iPad with some interesting games would have saved my mother untold stress. As for the commenters who are caring for special needs children, I cannot begin to imagine how it must feel to be in that situation - thank you all for sharing your stories and giving us more to consider.

    Hugs and Cookies,
    Amelia

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  48. Really interesting post and comments. I am divided on this issue. On the one hand, I totally agree that children should not be on iPhones and such as the dinner table, and that screen time should well and truly be limited for both the children and their parents. On the other, as one of the more recent commenters said, people in public have a very low tolerance for children behaving like children - wanting to run, to shout songs, to make cubbies out of chairs. I find myself being embarassed a lot of the time when out in public as people tut at my daughter just being a normal three year old. Yes, ideally she would be included in our conversation and sit nicely at the table. Goodness knows we try. But ultimately she is active and outgoing and can't sit still while waiting for the food to arrive and that irks people.

    Still, I am very aware of our screen time and we do many non-screen related activities at home.

    Lots to think about.
    Eliza

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  49. This is a great post. I have three young children and when we enjoy the special treat of going out to eat together, we spend our time talking and enjoying our meal. We often (too often!) observe other families all staring at their screens. Sometimes just the children, sometimes the parents. I find it rude and sad, all at the same time.

    No, you are not being a fuddy-duddy. You are being thoughtful and aware. Most of society is on auto-drive, giving little thought to these things.

    Thank you for speaking your mind on an important topic.
    Michelle

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  50. Both of our girls (12 and 14) have their own cell phones, but we do have rules that come with that. No cell phones allowed at the dinner table, the phones have to be turned off at a certain time and there are no phones allowed on family outings. They can bring them, but should not use them while we do things together as a family. The girls don't always agree or like our rules (especially since a lot of their friends don't seem to have any restrictions) but we hope they'll realize down the road why we enforced them.

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  51. We are older parents, hubby is 55 and I am 49. Our 9 year old has a DS, mobile phone, computer, Wii, portable DVD player. We have embraced technology and encourage her to do so to but she has been taught that its a privelage to have those things, not a right. Hence she has to look after them and respect that there is a time and place to use them.

    The DS comes in handy for long car trips which we do often but once we get there its discarded and she happily plays with the other kids all day. We went camping on the weekend, one of the kids found the DS and wanted to play on it, she removed it from his possession and told him it's not allowed! It was but she isnt there to play on the DS, she is there to run, play and be a kid.

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  52. I think in our house we've become a bit lax on the technology rules, I've realized that I need to be more conscious of this, and my husband can be downright terrible about it when we go out to dinner, but there are glimmers of hope! When we do sit down to a meal all together, I try to make sure the tv is off, and the phones aren't at the table. And my husband and I had two days to ourselves this past weekend, and for at least one evening and one afternoon, we rarely pulled out our phones to check facebook or twitter, and we even managed a whole restaurant meal without looking at them and had some great conversation instead! I think, on the whole, everyone in the home must be on the same page, and you have to make a concerted effort to all follow the same rules. Otherwise, without consistency, there's no point to making rules at all!

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  53. I just wanted to share something that works for our young family. My older daughter, Persephone, is two years old. Every night at dinner, we sit together as a family. We each say something we're thankful for that evening (except for Pandora who is only one) and light a candle. At the end of the meal, Sephie does her"helper job", something simple such as putting our plates in the sink. When she is finished, we allow her to blow out the candle, signalling the end of dinner and something she really enjoys. I am trying to combine simple rituals, family togetherness, and productive work in our lives and I think this routine is a good combination of those things in our hkme.

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  54. My DH and I have been teaching our GS9 nearly 10,life skills for his age group.He does these things very well.

    He can do some cooking supervised,we've made ice-cream,cookies,chocolates etc.He keeps his toys tidy and makes his bed.

    He knows to turn lights out if he's not in that room.

    DH was teaching him mens crafts,screwdrivers etc,he helped put his new bed together using the drill under supervision.

    He learnt veg gardening,growing wheat in cotton wool etc.

    Because one of his parents doesnt view these things as learning but child labour,and now the GS doesnt visit anymore and we dont get to teach him anything else.

    I feel for him as he needs to have life skills and his Dad is in another state.
    I just hope he grows up remembering what we did teach him.

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