Category: Family Systems

Screen Free for a Month! WHAT?

What if you went Screen-Free, as a family, for a WHOLE MONTH!! Do you think you could do it? Would your family go nuts? Would everyone crack up? Would the fighting increase? Yikes!! A whole month!!

One of the main tips I give to help families connect better and more often, is to manage technology better. Turn off your digital devices, ditch technology – just for a while. Have technology free moments every day. For example, you could have a TV, computer and no phone hour just before bed. When you’re willing to let go of technology for even short amounts of time you will be surprised at how much time you can open up for your family. Finding a few moments each day to turn technology off is a good idea.

A few years ago, I met a family that goes screen-free for a whole month, once a year. I got all the details from the mom, Courtney, and I want to share them with you because I think you will be so impressed that you might consider making this a tradition in your home.

So, what is screen-free you ask? No TV, no movies on TV, no computer time, no games on the phone or TV, no screens!

HOW TO MAKE GOING SCREEN-FREE WORK

Here is how the Smith family makes it work:
1. Prepare your kids ahead of time. This family goes screen free in June, every year. However, one year they didn’t begin talking about it early enough. They usually begin talking about it and making plans about a month in advance. So, for the sake of having a successful Screen-Free Month, they moved it to July that year.

2. Presentation is everything. That’s my phrase and you’ve probably heard me say it before, but it is what they do. They talk it up. They talk about all the great things they’re going to be able to do as a family, how much fun they’re going to have together, and the family reward at the end of the month.

3. Get everyone to buy in. As Courtney was telling me how they get their kids to cooperate I said, “Oh you get them to buy in.” She smiled and said, “Well I didn’t have a term for it but yup, that’s what we do.” They get their kids to buy in by allowing them to pick a reward they would like to have at the end of the month. It could be swimming, camping, eating out, going to the movie theater, visiting grandparents, a road trip, whatever the parents want to throw out there. When the kids pick it, plan it and talk about it – they are IN.

Here is their families one caveat concerning rewards – They don’t use screen time as the reward. They don’t want to reward ‘no screen’ time with ‘screen’ time. : )

4. Parent’s have to be honest! It isn’t the kids who struggle the most, it’s the parents. They really do have to commit. Courtney told me that the hard part for her is at lunch. She usually has lunch when the big kids are at school and her little one is taking a nap. She likes to read Facebook, watch a show, catch up on the news, whatever, as she eats lunch. It’s a challenge to read instead or call a friend.

It is also challenging for her and her husband in the evening when everyone is in bed. They usually veg out a bit in front of the TV, just the two of them but – YIKES – it’s their screen-free month. She told me that they have learned to play games together or read to each other. It’s become really fun.

The one adult caveat – They do occasionally check email, pay bills online or prepare church lessons. Just no screens for entertainment purposes.

5. Plan ahead. Get the games out. Check some great books out of the library. Stock up on popcorn. Know in your mind what you’re going to say to your kids, how are you going to direct them when they come and ask to watch a movie or use technology. Get mentally and physically prepared.

This family goes screen free in the summer months because they feel that in the winter you’re shut in and it’s more difficult to disengage from TV, videos, games, etc. In the summer you can get out, walk, go swimming, go to the mountains, etc.

THE RESULTS

Courtney said that it’s challenging the first few days because it’s a serious transition, but then they settle right in. They have a lot of fun. They play together, they talk, and they laugh. She said that it’s something they all really look forward to each year.

They feel more connected at the end of their Screen-Free Month. It takes a while for screen time to become important to them again. The break feels good – after the first few days. : )

In fact, Courtney shared this with me, “Last time we did it our kids wanted to continue for more than a month! And they hardly ever asked when it would be over.”

So why not consider it and give it a try. You just might find out how much your family likes to read, play games, hike or swim.

Who else out there goes screen free for a day, a week, a month? What is your experience?

Your shares are the best compliment!

Flying By The Seat of Your Pants Is Uncomfortable!

Being a mother of seven busy children was a BIG job. One of the difficulties I ran into was managing all the mess and work that comes with a family. Believe me, you don’t have to have seven kids to figure out that a family takes work.

I do a lot of mentoring with mom’s and dads who feel a bit over the top with managing all that they have on their plates and still finding time to enjoy being in their homes with their families. One thing that we always take a good look at, as we analyze feelings of frustration or anger, are family systems.

I had a mom tell me that one thing that really got her down was that after dinner everyone scattered and she was faced with cleaning up the mess by herself. She felt she was in this bad place because she didn’t have a system.

Here was the real problem – she had a system that didn’t work well for her. The system that she and her family were using was that after dinner everyone scattered and mom was left to clean up. Yup, that was their system. It was a system by default but a system none the less. Flying by the seat of your pants is uncomfortable!

When looking at family systems I have a parent make a list of the top three things that happen in a day that cause them to feel like leaving home, you know, those times when they feel most frustrated or angry at their children or family. Then we take a look at what system is being used. We take an honest look! Once we know what has been happening over and over we can design an experiment to determine what might feel and work better.

I LOVE experiments! When a scientist wants to see if they can get a certain outcome they design an experiment. If they don’t get the outcome they want then they try something else. The scientist doesn’t berate him or herself at the end of a failed experiment. They just try another experiment. But moms and dads can be pretty hard on themselves if something doesn’t work out well the first time. Maybe that’s why we fly by the seat of our pants so often and have systems by default. We don’t want to fail. But as I said, you can’t fail with an experiment because, that what it is, an experiment. So, begin taking a hard look at your family systems.

As I help someone design an experiment we take into account their desires, energy level, family personalities, etc and come up with something that has a chance to work in their family. Over the years I have seen many successes.

I devised some very successful systems over the years to manage my own life and family. They worked for me but they may not work for your family. But I want to get you thinking about your own systems.

THREE SYSTEM EXAMPLES

A. Laundry
With seven kids clothes and towels can become a chaotic mess. I was doing piles and piles of laundry every week. I couldn’t keep up and realized that I need to upgrade whatever system it was that we were using. My experiment had three prongs to it and although parts were certainly not what most people would choose, it worked for our family.

1. One of the items of clothing that became problematic was pajamas. We had a really terrible system. You wore them, took them off, dropped them wherever, and then the next night you got clean ones. Yup, that was our laundry clogging system.

So I put hooks on the kids’ walls. I didn’t feel that we needed clean pajamas every day. So in the morning they hung them up and put the same ones on at night. If they ended up on the floor then you had to wear them anyway. PJ’s were good for at least 3 days. It really helped cut down on laundry.

2. Towels were another issue. Often towels ended up on the floor, and remember I had seven children. By morning, especially in the summer, the towel was sour and headed for the laundry. Uggggggh I hated that because 4-7 towels a day was excruciating.

So I added another hook for their towel. I gave each child a towel and it was the only one they got for a week. If hung up it was good for a week because it was used to dry a clean body. I didn’t give in to cries of, “But my towel stinks.” If your towel was on the floor and got stinky you had to earn another towel. It wasn’t a very popular system but it worked and the kids soon learned to hang up their towels.

3. Here was the third prong to the new system – when you were 12 you did your own laundry. I took the time over a number of weeks to help a new twelve-year-old learn how to do their laundry. Then they were on their own. I didn’t monitor their laundry. There were a few times that someone had to borrow underwear from a sibling or wear a dirty uniform to gym class but it was a great learning experience and everyone got better at it.

B. Cleaning rooms

I had different systems for getting kids to clean their rooms over the years. As their ages changed so did our systems. At one time I had five kids over 12 and under 18. Their rooms were horrible and we didn’t have a system at that time that was working and I was weary of talking and cajoling to get older children to manage the mess.

So I told my older children that I wasn’t going to remind them to clean their rooms anymore. But we did have some rules:

•Your mess cannot spill out into the hallway.
•If you choose a mess you have to keep your door closed.
•If it smells you will have to take an evening or afternoon off and clean your room. No activities until the smell is gone.
•Every bedroom has to be put in order once a month. You can do it or I can do it. If I do it then I get to decide what stays and what goes.

I know lots of moms are gasping right now but I love cleaning and I loved getting my hands on those kid’s rooms. : ) This was very workable for me.

I had two sons who couldn’t care less about their stuff so, often as not, I picked up their rooms once a month and I chucked a lot of junk. It felt fabulous.

I had a third son who cared about all of his stuff and I rarely had to go into his room. Two of my daughters fell into this over 12 under 18 category and for the most part, managed their own rooms because they didn’t want me messing with their stuff.

Sometimes, as I began a room a horrified teen would come running in and say, “I got this mom.” You may think this was a terrible system but it worked for us.

THAT IS THE POINT!

And that is the point, do you have systems that are working for you and your family? If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and angry at your family or children then take a look at your systems.

DESIGN AN EXPERIMENT, CREATE A NEW SYSTEM

•Write down the top three things that make you most upset with your family or children.
•Stick with three items because what you want is movement, not overwhelm.
Narrow your list to the one that you want to change most.
•Honestly look at your current system. Acknowledge those that are systems by default.
•Design and experiment with a new system based on your desires, energy, family personality, etc.
•If it works great, and if not, go back to the drawing board. Design another experiment.
•Remember, whatever you can get your family to ‘buy into’ they will take more ownership of and it will work better and longer.
•Be clear that very few systems work forever and be open to new experiments every now and then.

When we take responsibility for how we feel and stop blaming our family or kids, then we can come up with solutions that help us feel better. We will be able to look at our current systems honestly and design something that works.