The Red Hot Chilli Peppers sang, during arguably the greatest concert performance of all time (Slane Castle 2003 with the extraordinary John Fruciante):

“Throw away your television
Take the noose off your ambition
Reinvent your intuition now
It’s a repeat of a story told
It’s a repeat and it’s getting old

Renegades…”

Great parenting is a choice and it is rarely dependent on what you have or don’t have. It is primarily about love, boundaries and active attention. Plenty of active attention. It is about role-modelling the things that you would like your children to believe are of high value. The opportunity to be a great parent has not been negated by high tech society – sometimes the choices simply need to be more clearly, actively and consistently made.

Our kids (three of them) were bought up as if in something of a time warp where we held fast to the great things of the “past” but also ensured they were well equipped to take their place in society. Their “screen-time” – of any kind – was limited to 30 minutes a day with the exception being great movies we sat down and watched as a family. Television played no part of the first 12 years of our family life at all and we never bothered to watch “The News” and still don’t. We never had Playstation – or anything similar.

Most of that is about the children. As parents we ensured the active attention mentioned above. I have never had a cell-phone – I am not self-disciplined enough for having one not to massively hinder my ability to pay attention to other people. At least six times a week I sat on the couch and read to my children for between 30 minutes and an hour. We read through brilliant and complex books that to a degree formed the narrative framework of their intellect. Given that I read the Lord of the Rings out loud to them three times – it also made them supreme critics (positively in the main) – on Peter Jackson’s efforts to bring those stories to the big screen.

We played loads of music, including the RHCP of course. We went fishing, camping, cycling and took holidays around New Zealand in very economical ways. We went to church together. The kids had “chores” and we even asked about and supported homework. We dug a HUGE hole in the back yard of our (rented) home just to see where it went and made tree huts – actually from prime rimu floor boards (which we had no idea about at the time). We went to the beach – sometimes many days in a row.

From the time the children came home from school in the afternoons there was always one of us there and the three hours between 6 and 9pm were business free. Which leads me to the point of the nature of cell-phone use for many parents – mums and dads. My observation is that they are not switching off. Dedicated attention is becoming minimised and I hear so many adults saying that they simply do not do the things they know they SHOULD be doing.

You do have it in your power! Throw away your mobile – or at the very least put your phone in a shoe box on the top of the fridge from 6pm – 9pm every night (or longer) and do the same for long periods of the weekend. I think that you will find the world is pretty much in the same place as you left it when you come back…and your kids will love you deeply for it.

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