If you’re like us, your childhood has probably been referred to as the “olden days” by your children. A time not that long ago for us but an eternity ago for our kids. You know the days…..there were no smart phones or iPads……we had two channels on the tv (which we had to change by walking over and change with the knob). We rode our bikes to school with no helmets often down the middle of the road with no hands! We had no guard around our open fire, no front gate to protect us from the semi trailers that hurtled past our place at 100kms per hour. We swung from trees and used tin-can lids as plates in the make-believe kitchens in our cubby huts -that we made under trees with sticks and pine needles. We would often explore creeks after flooding rains and “play outside” all day! We somehow survived, with all limbs attached!
Socially, we would just turn up at friends houses and make our own fun, forming long lasting friendships by establishing social skills that still generate new friendships today. We weren’t rich with material things but we were rich with experience, resilience, survival skills and coping mechanisms to get us through tough times! We had no choice but to “harden up” for what life would throw at us!
Remembering this makes us realise that our own kids are growing up in an age of materialistic entitlement! We have four teenage children all going through puberty, all at the same time. Which does make our life somewhat challenging at the moment and with the introduction of compulsory iPads as a “learning tool” in primary school our life has turned into a living hell.
Like most kids, our children have the capability of being arseholes at times (3 out of 4 of them, 1 is the golden child), don’t get me wrong, we love them dearly but parenting has become a whole lot harder with the introduction of social media, selfies and Snapchat.
Their social life today consists of sending the message “Hi” to all their snapchat friends to see who will respond. They fill their hours watching YouTube videos, Vlogs and taking filtered selfies to post to see how many “likes” they can get……pfffft!
Our kids have always been active kids and have grown up “playing outside” but since the introduction of these devices their behaviour has slowly turned their lives somewhat “sloth like” at times. This totally does our head in. “Get off your device, get off your device, get off your f*#king device!!”.
This brings me to the point of this story, why we failed as parents. Our kids have always had time limits with their devices. The access to wi-fi is limited to an hour a day. But, this time had slowly dragged out and we found the kids using them more and more because we, as failing parents, had got so busy with our own lives and let things go a little too far. It was our fault, we weren’t vigilant enough!
It’s a long story, but a couple of weeks ago we reached breaking point and confiscated the iPads for a few weeks as punishment for unacceptable behaviour. Behaviour caused by too much time on technology and not enough time in the real world!
To our amazement and satisfaction in that time our kids have explored, communicated, laughed, played and experienced some amazing family bonding through their precious teenage years. But most of all, they’re moving more, activity is a normal part of life (movement is not just the structured team sports they play).
So what does this story have to do with health and fitness? Too many kids are becoming too sedentary and lacking the coping mechanisms, resilience and social skills they require to lead happy, healthy and successful lives.
We often wonder how kids today, who are so entitled by getting whatever they want, and spending so much time on social media, are going to cope in the real world once they get a job. Even though some of our kids tell us they hate us for standing strong and taking their devices away. And the fact that we are labeled cruel, strict and unfair by their friends (in fact, we even had a death threat on one social media platform), one day they will thank us for not being “cotton wool” parents and thank us for taking a stand for their mental and physical health and thank us for not being too scared to take their entitlement away.
Last week we took our kids out into the wilderness for a hiking trip, no phones, no internet just us, our family unit!! We trekked three mountains over 30kms in three days. Our kids perspective has changed. They know the work it requires to climb a mountain to get the reward at the top. The view is always worth it, no matter how much whining there is on the way. Some entitled kids will catch the escalator of life and never experience the hard work required to get that genuine satisfaction of reaching the summit.
We’re not perfect as parents and this story is based on our life and our experiences. As a parent you do what works for you but be aware that kids need a little discipline, we need to say no occasionally and they do need to “harden up” if they want to make the summit in life.
Below is the “Crabtree iPad user agreement” that we drew up specifically for our grade 6 twins. You may think it’s a joke, you may copy it and use it for your kids, you may draw one up specifically for your kids, but keep in mind, kids need our guidance. After all, we are not on this earth to be their friends, we are here to be their parents. And that’s exactly how it was in the “olden days”.