Media Maize

Children need to be taught how to think critically and use discernment.  Every day we are bombarded with images and information via computer and internet devices.  The things we see and hear do impact and influence our thinking and behavior. When your children are young you decide which movies and other media they may view but as they age they can be involved in the choices and eventually discern and monitor themselves. Always keep in mind the goal of rearing independent adults.  Practice assessing movies with your children. We may think entertainment is just entertaining, but it all promotes a message. Using discernment means to see beyond the obvious to what lies underneath; to look beyond the glitz and glamour to the substance.  Teach them to evaluate and think about the stories, the plot and themes.hollywood-sign-closeup

When viewing films at home it may be valuable to pause to discuss an issue or topic.  Even children’s movies often have themes that need to be discussed.  I often see films that have subtle anti-biblical themes or just political or social messages with which I do not agree.  Teach your children to view media through a Christian lens. Teach them to think. Are we rooting for the primary character as he or she engages in illegal or immoral behavior?  I am not suggesting we view questionable media just for the opportunity to discuss the negative themes.  However when they arise, do not ignore them.  Discuss them. God redeems the bad by bringing good from it.  We can in minor ways follow his example. Positive themes also abound and we can watch for them as well.  No entertainment is truly mindless.  There is always a theme and a message being given or promoted.  Explore it. Be critical and consider carefully the enterainment you watch and allow your children to digest.

When making a viewing decision about a movie, it is important to learn whose opinion and recommendation one can trust and whose cannot be trusted. This may be a painful or uncomfortable lesson. I have discovered that even friends from church may not judge movies in a similar manor as I do.  Accepting a children’s movie recommendation from non-parents may not be as valuable as from other parents.  Non-parent adults may not notice vocabulary or situations in a film that a parent may.  There are a few websites that I believe give valuable and reliable reviews.  Two of these are www.pluggedinonline.com and the subscription site www.screenit.com.

The world of media is rapidly changing and so we need to frequently reevaluate our family usage policies.  Parental controls can and should be used on phones, computers, gaming devices and other sources.  The more children are unsupervised the more controls need to be in place.  I believe that computers accessible to children should be kept in public rooms such as a family room or dining room and never in bedrooms. Even phones should not be stored overnight in children’s rooms. This will avoid numerous problems.

playing knights & castles

Many parents provide their young children with cell phones.  There are many circumstances in which cell phones provide convenience for parents to communicate with their children.  That convenience also presents challenges and potential dangers and the decision to give a phone to a child should be carefully evaluated.  Pay phones are nearly non-existent, yet almost every adult carries a cell phone. For example, if a child goes to a team practice, the coach will have a phone.  Is your child truly mature enough to keep track of their phone and not lose it?  Is your child mature enough to be responsible with photographing themselves or others respectfully?  Many adults are not.  Will you limit phone usage hours?  Personally I do not think children should have unlimited access to the internet.  There are many predators waiting to take advantage of innocent children via the internet.  Destructive pornography is easily accessed even accidentally.

Social media is another area where parents need to be aware of and even monitor their child’s usage.  Parents need to know all passwords, frequently view accounts and occasionally review privacy settings.  Discuss privacy and what kind of personal information should and should not be shared. Do not allow your children to post provocative pictures. The things you post paint a picture of who you are.  Employers do examine applicants’ social media activity, even old entries.  Be truthful and cautious.  Be very guarded about venting volatile emotions.  Venting should be done in a safe environment and social media is not safe. Emotions change and words cannot be erased. Once something has been said it cannot be unsaid.  One can delete a post, apologize, ask for forgiveness and even do whatever is necessary to reconcile, but there will always be a residue effect. It is like emptying a tube of tooth paste onto a paper plate and then trying to put it all back into the tube.  It is a nearly impossible task and even if done successfully some of it would be absorbed into the paper.  We must practice restraint and not speak or print everything we think or feel.

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Host child

When my four oldest children were young my friend, Wanda, explained to me how she handled  some of the competition between her children.  She devised a system of odd and even, which worked great with her two children.  On odd numbered days child number one, the eldest, received all the extra privileges and extra responsibilities.  On even numbered days child number two, the younger, received all the extra privileges and extra responsibilities.  I really don’t know how she handled it when a month had more or less than exactly 30 days.  Maybe chaos reigned on those days.  Her odd/even system worked fine for her two children, but how could I with four children possibly keep track whose turn it was for either privileges or responsibilities?

Out of her system I developed the host child method.  It was a week of extras proceeding in birth order from oldest to youngest.  Whoever was the host child was the one who went shopping for groceries and errands with mom that week. I typically did all my shopping and errands once a week on the same day every week.  All the other children stayed home. I think the one child-with-Mom time also was special for both.

The host was the one who rode in the front seat while all the others rode in the middle or back of the minivan. The front passenger seat was highly desired so anytime not both Mom and Dad were in the vehicle a child could have that seat. (Due to airbags front seat riding is now restricted to those twelve and older.  But this was not the case in the 80’s and 90’s.)

The host also received a treat of their choosing at the grocery store. A box of Little Debbie snack cakes was a favorite, but sometimes filling a bag with a mixture of individually wrapped Brach’s candies was chosen.  Most of the children eventually preferred the equivalent in cash.  Anytime any situation arose that week which meant that only one child got to do something extra or special or unusual the privilege belonged to the host child.  IMG_1079

The host child was also called upon to do small extra things for mom.  It might be running downstairs to the basement to get an item from the food pantry.  Being host did not mean becoming mom’s personal slave for the week.  There were more privileges than responsibilities or no one would ever want to be the host. Being host made one feel special.

The entire system was suspended when we were on vacation or if we had company for the entire week. The system was helpful because it left no questions or debate about who should receive whatever everyone thought to be the privilege at hand.  The week always started on Sunday and ended on Saturday.

Of course, the age of each child must be considered when assigning extra tasks and giving extra privileges.  What is right and appropriaglacier national park 025te for each child may not seem totally fair to other children.  So be it.  Sometime in their mid-teen years each of our children chose to withdraw from the host child system.  This usually occurred about the time they could drive or had more independent income than what they earned from their chores at home.

The host child system did not eliminate all fighting but it did reduce it.  There was more order and therefore less chaos.   I am confident other families can find ways to adapt it to their family’s needs and find other rewards for their host children.

My money

Everyone enjoys having some money all their own to spend or not spend in the way they choose.  Adults and children need to have some money of their own over which they have total control. Parents can certainly give guidance but must release authority to their children to ultimately make their own choices and decisions.  Of course, money can be spent only once. If a child decides to spend all they have on candy today, then tomorrow when they discover some toy that is exactly what they want, they will not be able to buy it at that time.

Dan, Dave and Tom loved to play with the four inch tall G.I. Joe figurines (not dolls).  At some point each of them earned enough to buy one with their income from a week’s pay for chores.  However, they could only spend half their pay because they were required to allocate one quarter their income to savings and tithe ten to twenty five percent.  This meant they had to wait two weeks to buy one figurine. This was an important lesson in delayed gratification and goal setting. Unfortunately for them, the cost of the figurines rose at about the same rate as their income for quite a while. Extra jobs were calculated in terms of purchasing more G.I. Joes sooner.IMG_1077

Saving money is a life-long skill.  It is an important habit to develop.  Money spent out of savings had to be planned for and discussed with a parent.  Children rapidly change their minds regarding what is important to them and why they want certain items.  Time is a good sorter of needs and wants and priorities.

As adults there will always be unexpected needs or emergencies outside of budgeted items.  This is where savings bales us out of a potentially difficult place.  Shortly after college graduation our daughter moved into her first apartment.  She and her friend selected 2006_0817(010)a two bedroom, third story apartment of an old house.  I remember questioning her about her budget and financial stability.  She assured me she could afford this move. She did have full time employment.  I asked her about handling unexpected expenses.  “Like what?” she asked.  “I don’t know what it will be”, I replied, “something you don’t know about yet.”  She did not think any unexpected expenses would occur.  Everything was all planned.  On the day before moving day she and I did much cleaning in that old apartment including washing windows.  As she slid open a double hung window to wash it an unsecured window air conditioner unit plummeted two and a half stories landing with an awful and fatal crash. Oops! There was that first unexpected expense.  Fortunately, the landlady did not require her to purchase a replacement unit.  Our daughter lived without air conditioning.   (The guy in the pic is the cousin who helped her move, not her roommate.)

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In our house an additional forced savings happened at birthdays and Christmas.  During the four weeks prior to one’s birthday and Christmas purchasing of wanted items was forbidden.  This prevented duplication of desired items and gave others time and the opportunity to give to you the things you were wanting.

Once a child is employed and earning an increased income they need to learn to do banking.  Banking is just a mature system of envelopes. They should open checking and savings accounts.  Related to them are several skills which need to be learned.

  1. How to write a check.
  2. How to record that check in the registry.
  3. How to make deposits and record them.
  4. How to reconcile an account with the bank’s records.
  5. How to do online banking.
  6. How to responsibly use a debit and/or credit account.
  7. How to keep financial records and file income tax returns.

For teens debit and credit accounts should have limits. Credit cards should be paid in full every month.  They are an important tool, not a license to spend recklessly.

Peaceful mealtimes ?

Once I had a dream of sitting down to a beautifully set table with delicious food and the smiling eager faces of my husband and all our children.   That dream never existed during the day.  Instead mealtimes often began with words such as “Yuck” and “what’s in it?” or “do I have to eat that?”   Usually by dinnertime I was tired and just wanted a little peace but seldom did a meal pass without a glass or bowl of something getting spilled or even a fight breaking out between two children.  Worse yet was the fight between a child and a parent about eating what was served.  Most parents understand this struggle.

There are several different approaches to the food power struggle.  We tried most of them.  The first is the force feeding which usually ends with some very disgusting gagging or worse.  Next is the “don’t get up until it is all gone” which can lead to some clever sneakiness and deception such as bits of food given to a dog or returned to the serving bowl or stuck in a pocket to be flushed later.  Even grosser is the plate going into the refrigerator only to be brought out at the next meal for the struggle to continue.

I propose T.I.O.L.I.  It ends the arguments and the struggle.  No longer does mom need a wall size chart of what each child hates or refuses to eat unless prepared a specific way.  Recently one of our adult children gave us a little sign to hang in the kitchen which spells out T.I.O.L.I.  Take It Or Leave It. IMG_1074

A meal with several dishes is prepared for all.  No one is forced to eat anything.  No one is allowed to use the word ‘yuck’.  This method is less than perfect in that it does nothing to eliminate spills, but it does eliminate the struggle and the nagging questions.   If a child chooses not to eat any of the dishes being offered that is alright.  However they do need to clearly understand that they will not be eating anything else until the next meal.  No desserts, no snacks, nothing.  It becomes their decision.  If they do not eat anything at a meal, then they will be very hungry and ready to eat at the next meal, especially if the next meal is the next day.  Here is where the parent must hold firm and not cave-in to whining or pleading.  This method works.  We all love our snacks and desserts, but do not let them have any.

Parents should not become short-order cooks catering to their individual child’s wants.  This is actually a disservice to them.  It is possible that there are dietary needs which need special considerations.  Children need to learn to eat whatever is served.  This will prepare them to be grateful guests elsewhere.

Eating meals as a family is beneficial to all.  Children need to learn many table manners such as waiting to eat until everyone is served.  Patiently waiting for the host or hostess and following their lead.  Praying for meals should be taught and learned.  We have had guests in our home who did not know how to pass dishes or how much was an appropriate serving size.  In our eldest son’s home the children have learned to respond with “Yes, please” or “No, thank you” every time they are offered a dish.

Mealtime conversations can and should be enjoyable for everyone.    Because all topics are allowed things can become controversial or even shocking.  All topics were allowed so that children felt free to discuss whatever was on their minds and receive some parent2006_1225(030)al wisdom regarding it. Everyone can learn to become a better conversationalist and not be an interruption.  Of course one cannot expect a toddler to converse in the same manner as a 6 or 10 or 14 year old would.

Eat your meals as a family whenever possible.  Children cannot learn table manners if they only eat with other children.  If you have many sons, you will probably need some rules regarding bodily noises and responses to them.

One last thought, spills happen.  Skip the linen tablecloths for the next decade or so.  Don’t build in aggravation.

P.S. The brown bottle in the picture is root beer.