Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Why Not a Wii??

I had a private email today asking about my thoughts on video games, house rules, etc. and why I really didn't want the boys to have a Wii/video games. So I thought I would discuss my responses here to see how others feel about such things. I am actually assuming most will disagree with us as it often appears that way in "real life", but I am always interested in learning what works for others.

We parent differently than many people, we recognize that and we are often probably looked at as total weirdos because of it. We don't expect others to live like us, but what works for others doesn't seem to work for us to create the kind of life we want to have. We have certain rules and things we plan to do in the future with the kids. I will be the first to admit that some of this might change over time, as we re-evaluate, etc. but here are some of our rules in our house with the kids:

1) Respect for everyone at all times, including your siblings. We have never, ever allowed them to treat one another unkindly. That includes saying unkind things, not saying "please" and "thank you" to one another...we expect them to treat each other the way they treat us. And believe it or not, when we catch one of them slip up, we immediately make them go to the offended party and apologize...and yes by looking them in the eye...and to give the hurt brother a hug. Going too far? I am sure some would think so, we don't. There is never a reason good enough for yelling or screaming at each other, EVER.

2) No TV, computer or phone in your bedroom, ever. This one I know we are freaks over!! We have an older computer that was given to us by a friend that sits in our TV room and is the boys' to use for their games, and often they will all gather around it with their friends leaning over their shoulders as they play games on it. Almost all those games are history/strategy games, or educational in one way or another. We have no "shoot 'em up, bang bang" games with gratuitous violence....but we do let them play with toy guns...for us there is a difference between playing "army" outside or "Police" and seeing people blown away graphically on screen with blood flying everywhere.

We want to see what the boys are doing at all times on the computer. But more importantly, we do not want them isolating themselves in their bedroom for hours on end without interaction with the family. How many kids do I know spend many of their waking hours alone in their rooms in front of the boob tube? It is not a matter of not allowing privacy, it is that they are children and they need to be connected with those who love them.

3) We do not give an allowance. We feel that the kids live in this home just as we do, and it is theirs to take care of just as it is ours. They have all always had chores that are matched to what they are capable of doing for their age. Matthew was making his bed on his own when he was the best of his ability. I did not go behind him and remake it, he was proud of what he did. With the loft beds it is very awkward so we do not make them "make" their beds each day, just pull up their blankets. Our rule has always been "If you CAN do it for yourself than you SHOULD do it for yourself!" but then I have needed to learn to stand back and let them do it to the best of their ability and applaud them for it, even if it does not meet my own personal standards. The idea is for them to learn how to do something for themselves, and for awhile it may not be as perfect as I'd like but they will never know it, they will only have me cheerleading them on.

I have not cleaned their bedroom myself in 4 or 5 years. I go in once a year maybe and help them sort out toys and figure out ways to better organize it. They clean it, and until it is clean they can not go on to other tasks. Is it always clean? No, there are days when friends are over and it looks like a cyclone hit it as legos are strewn from one end of the room to the other, but ultimately they have to clean it themselves and it has to be done 2 or 3 times a week.

They put their own dishes in the dishwasher after meals, the empty the dishwasher all together, sometimes they set the table, they sometimes vacuum, they clean bathrooms, they take the trash cans to the curb and back (not an easy task when those heavy cans are about an acre back from the road and over a gravel driveway!), they help with laundry sorting their underwear and sometimes hanging things from the drier. They haul firewood to the back door, they rake leaves, they muck out the car.

We do sometimes pay them for additional big jobs, but for the day to day chores we do not pay an allowance. We might someday, I find myself flip flopping on this one as I can also see the value in it as well. Mainly though, we do not ever want to get in the situation where they think they will be paid to do what they SHOULD be doing around the house as a member of this family.

4) We limit TV and computer time. Honestly, we NEVER hear "I'm bored" around our house. In fact, I don't think I have heard it even one time, even during the summer! We do not go to extremes where we don't allow screen time at all, but we do say "Ok, time to turn it off and go play outside or do something else.". Our kids in a normal week probably watch a total of about an hour a day of TV, and some days it is none while on a Saturday morning it might be more. We try to encourage them to do a variety of activities. None of the 3 of them are really "jocks" and are not all that interested in sports but they enjoy playing outside on the trampoline, playing in the dirt, riding bikes, or in the summer spending hours in little blow up pools or with a slip-n-slide. They read, they like crafts, they consider going to the library a real treat...and of course there are the ever-present legos.

5) We are very careful about the input from TV, computer and radio. While we don't always shelter them to the degree that some parents do, we are certainly more protective than many are. And if something comes on that is questionable, I tend to quickly evaluate it and decide if it is something that is borderline but could lead to a good conversation about what NOT to do in life (a drug scene on TV, etc.) and how we can use it as a teaching moment...or if it is just too far over the top.

6) OK...and this one is my own bugaboo...but we don't let them say certain words that others consider perfectly acceptable. We don't like to hear "butt" and ask them to say "bottom" instead. I don't allow them to say "boogers", we don't ever allow them to say "shut up" to anyone and we do not allow them to call anyone "stupid" or "dumb". They can say that something is stupid, but not a person...or they can say that someone did a stupid thing but not call them stupid. We also do not let them say "God" in any way other than in reverence or in theological discussion. One thing we have a hard time with due to other adults' insistence is we do not like adults referred to only by their first name, but because other adults often request to be called by it rather than the titles of "Mr." or "Mrs." and then their last name, we have allowed them to call someone by their first name if they put "Mr." or "Miss" in front of in "Mr. Steve". We feel it is disrespectful for a child to place an adult on the level of familiarity as their playground friends, but society today often thwarts us in that effort. We also don't let them say "I hate that" or "I don't like that" and have asked them to say it in a more kind and respectful way by saying "I don't care for that...I'd prefer not to have that.". I don't want them at someones home who has prepared a nice meal and crassly spewing out "I HATE that! Ick!".

7) We pray together almost every night as a family. God is real to us. We pray in the car on the way to school if someone has a tough day ahead of them. We pray when we pass an accident and ask God to protect those involved. Most often though, we all pray together out of gratitude...gratitude for us being together as a family, gratitude that we have enough food for today and a warm home to live in, gratitude for the kindness of all the others in our lives.

8) We don't allow them to dress in certain ways. No sideways baseball hats, no baggy pants, no T-Shirt with questionable sayings on them...including the seemingly popular ones with smart alecky sayings on them. We try to avoid, in general, the commercial stuff with cartoon characters all over the place, etc...while we have a couple things in the closet with it by and large we don't encourage it.

9) We never, ever buy them toys when we go to the store. We can't afford it, there is no reason for it, we are not obligated to, and we will not do it for bribery for good behavior. They will behave because that is our rule. Period.

10) We try to teach them gratitude and to share what you have...share your material things, share your money, share your time, share your heart. We try to teach by example, we share as much as we can of ourselves and our "stuff" with anyone we can. We try to teach them the joy of caring for others, that lasting happiness comes in the form of giving, and that receiving is second best but is sometimes a blessing to someone else giving to you. Life is about relationships and moments, not about things. Things are fleeting.

So what are your rules? How do you handle video games and computers, homework and housework? I'd love to hear from you!

ADDITION: Shannon posted in the comments: "We do not have a portable DVD player for car trips (I think we're the only ones in the world) as we never had one and use that time to talk and play car games. " We too had this rule for quite awhile, I thought it was ridiculous to have a DVD player in the car...until we realized that we took our first really long trip to California which is a 2 day drive from here. You see, we live in rural Colorado, and 5 minutes outside our town and there is NOTHING. When we drive to Denver (a 5 hour trip and one we make 4-5 times a year for various reasons) it is miles upon miles of nothing but landscape. Yes, it is beautiful and yes it is why we love living here BUT once you've seen it a few trips, you've seen it! :-) We do NOT break it out for our hour long trips to Grand Junction or Gunnison, only much longer trips when talking will have been exhausted.


TheHappyNeills said...

This was essentially how we both were raised and how we'll raise our kids. We haven't come to as many issues, kids are 2 and 4. We started an allowance for our son recently. Dad is big on financial principles--that's the point. Not "reward" at all. Just something that our kids will receive simply for being part of our family. Son gets his allowance in quarters so he can count them out into cups. Each week--2 for tithe, 2 for giving beyond tithe (we're big on that!), 4 for savings, $3 for spending, which will include him paying for some things on his own, not just for frivilous toys. Like chipping in a bit for his cousin's bday gift. Extra chores above and beyond the norm (and they get chores as soon as they can walk!) may earn extra $.

Addressing adults: our sons best friends literally ALL are adults...mostly 20-30 yrs old, although some are in their 40s. we don't expect him to call his best friends by "mr.", but a less familiar adult, absolutely. we use "Mr. first-name" most of the time, unless it's a senior.

we are working on responding to mama's and daddy's requests/corrections with "yes ma'am & sir", and to answer other adults this way, too.

being a gentleman is huge here--calvin's been opening doors for ladies since he was 2. :) ladies go first, sis gets the first xxxx, open the door, carry something for a lady, etc...

we might get a wii in a couple years. our son just LOVES it, and he loves playing with our friends (his best friends). we don't see harm in something that is pretty much simply for the sake of a fun time. strict regulations, of course. my husband and i enjoy it a lot, too! i think it'd be a fun, relaxing, regular family activity to enjoy together and invite others to join in as well. we have our friends over a lot, and it'd be fun to throw in some wii with our long evening of hanging out.

you will never find computers/video games/wii/tvs in our kids' rooms, either!

TheHappyNeills said...

and you are NOT a freak for #2! i think there are probably more parents out there than you realize that share the same values/rules!

ok, i'm really curious--what word is there besides "booger"? :) i even searched for synonyms and couldn't find any except bugbear, boogeyman, bogeyman, and bugaboo. :)

Shannon said...

Cyndi - I guess Kevin and I will join you in your "weirdness". EVERY SINGLE thing you posted is exactly what we do. Our techie friends think we're nuts, but frankly I don't see any reason to plop a child in front of a TV and let them sit for hours. This world is an insanely different place than when we were growing up and frankly there is too much "garbage" out there on TV, Internet, Radio, etc. People who don't know E very well always tell me that they are shocked that he randomly says "please" and "thank you" and has since before he could talk (with signs). We do not allow "butt", "shut up", "gimme", or any other what I consider to be disrespectful words to be used in our home. E is expected to help clean up to the best of his ability and we sit down to dinner EVERY night. He addresses his teachers and therapists with 'Ms.' or 'Mr.' so-and-so, etc. We do not have a portable DVD player for car trips (I think we're the only ones in the world) as we never had one and use that time to talk and play car games. We do not plan to have more than one computer in our home, nor do we plan to purchase a video gaming system. E watches 1 - 15 minute episode of Curious George before he goes to bed at night. On Saturday morning he is allowed to watch The Little Einsteins. That's IT! He doesn't know cartoon characters, he's never watched a full-length movie and people find that so strange. At 3, he doesn't need it and he doesn't ask for it. I've gotten pretty winded here, but this is one area I am very passionate about and I can't thank you enough for posting this and letting me know we are not crazy!! I'm anxious to see what other feedback you get. :)

Anonymous said...


I think you have wonderful rules, and I agree with almost all of them. I especially agree with limiting video time. I have had numerous discussions with teachers, and also read articles on this subject. Our kids are at an age when they are developing social skills, creativity, problem solving, reading habits, etc. A dependence on video for entertainment, particularly in isolation, inhibits healthy development. If you see steam coming out of your computer as you read this, it’s because it’s something I feel especially strongly about.

Regarding allowance: I see your point, but we do provide a small allowance so the kids can learn to manage money. They have specific chores to complete each week for the benefit of the family, and also are responsible for their rooms and laundry. If they do extra work that benefits only their parents (folding a basket of our clothes, for example) they can earn a little extra. It is their responsibility to save for items they want to buy or if they want to have spending money when we are go on a trip. Occasionally, they get an extra job doing work for a neighbor, and we might make some items to sell at our local farmers market this summer. Our family motto is “everybody helps,” and if a winter storm is coming in, we all carry wood for the fireplace.

I agree with you completely about speaking respectfully to adults and using Mr. or Mrs., + last name, or if the adults insist on first name, putting a Miss or Mr. before it. I’ve explained to the kids that I prefer last names, but part of manners is making the other person feel comfortable.

Homework is usually done shortly after getting home from school and after a snack. The kids are responsible for it, but their Dad and I help with memorizing, go over work if needed, remind them to work on larger projects, etc. I would like to get out of homework completely so it is their responsibility, but right now (third grade) it seems that some parental supervision is necessary.

My goals to teach the kids: work hard, do your best, be yourself, have fun, respect others, be responsible for your own choices. And above all, love God and follow Him (but this is a decision that they each will have to make for themselves). God’s name is holy, and to be used only with respect.

Thanks for starting this discussion; I’ll look forward to reading what others have to say.

Peggy in Virginia

Dee said...

I am so glad to see you back here! Every time I think of you I say a prayer to ask God to help y'all with the adoptions. Hang in there.

I am weird with my kids about manners and I don't allow videogames like Wii either. No TV's or phones in their rooms, either. We rarely watch TV at all.

I know you are proud of the boys for helping you out in the restaurant. That showed a LOT of maturity! Well done!

Take care,

Anonymous said...

Great!! I love to hear about other families that share our values!! And I agree with the other poster that said I think there are more people out there than you realize that share similar rules!!'s just sometimes hard to find them! You aren't weird. :) -Jen

Lindsay said...

I kept waiting for the rule that was going to seem freakish :) I can't say I found it (well, ok, Hannah has cartoon character clothes: Little Mermaid, Disney Princesses etc).

We were never allowed to call adults by first names when we were kids: always 'auntie' or 'uncle' was put in front. I have done the same with Hannah.

A lot of the other stuff she is too young for, but it is definitely the way we will be going. She has her little jobs already that she loves to help me with and she will not be having unsupervised access to the internet or TV when she is older. I've seen its affect on too many kids I teach: especially the online gaming so many are into now.

I have friends who think I am weird because Hannah has 'too many books.' I ask you, how can a child ever have too many books? I think they are weird letting the 6 year old play with Playstation every single day!

Hannah's school thought I was a bit weird before she was even two years old, because I make her say sorry for being 'rude.' Like when her teacher asked to look at a book with her and she said 'no' I made her apologise and didn't leave her at school till she had done it. I even make her apologise to the dogs if necessary :)

Despite only just being two, Hannah spontaneously says please and thank you most of the time, because that is the example she has always had: I say it to her. Currently we're working on not hitting and not spitting food out: but like I said, she is only two :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Cindy,
Everything about the list except the Mr. thing with family friends is on target to my goals...when I STARTED parenting! As our children have grown older, many things have grown harder. Our older 2 boys thought rice cakes were cookies, but their decade younger siblings had no such illusions. In middle school, the olders knew better, and were quick to share with their toddler brothers!
I fight for low sugar cereals, which pretty much worked out for the first 2, but when a college age brother keeps Frosted Flakes in his room, it's hard not to creep up on sugar intake. Another example, we stringently avoided computer games, but our 21 yo has one in his room, and I often find them cuddling in with him and his friends. Hard to stop the fun!
So, cherish the control while you have it, but once they hit high school there is a lot more give than take on rules. At a certain point you can only hope your values prevail, and while most of ours have, computer games are a marked exception. I hope you have better luck than we have on that score!
On the other hand, we discouraged high school dating, and now the older ones strongly counsel against it, which is a huge blessing since middle school girls are ferocious!
Sherry in Ohio

4texans said...

Here are some of our rules:
1. Limited screen time. We(I) recently disallowed tv time on Monday through Thursdays because it's school nights in which Olivia has homework. I was not happy with the shows she chose to watch in the late afternoon. I've always limited their tv time and we don't let them on the computers much. I do want to add I finally allowed video games in our house, actually, the wii which was given to my husband. I like the games that are interactive and some of the games have been good for her reading skills. However, I prefer to limit video gaming time to 30 minutes and it's usually on the weekends.
2. We expect them to do their chores every morning, occasionally I forget to remind them though. Even at 3, Claire had her own chores.
3. We do emphasize the importance of respect and using the proper address, such as, Miss, Mr, etc. It is very casual here in CA and often kids use adult's first names. I think it's best to say Miss, Mr. etc. I also watch their language to make sure they don't use inappropriate language like you. I don't want them to say certain words.
4. We also don't normally buy things on a whim for them. And they hardly ever ask for things at the store because that's what I expect from them. They know we are at the store to only buy certain things.
5. We do give an allowance and only started giving Olivia an allowance when she started 1st grade. $3 a week, not just for doing her chores, but for being a part of the family and contributing, for doing well in school, for doing as she is told and for being well-behaved. Occasionally she has lost this priviledge as a result of a bad behavior. I think it's very important to teach children to manage money. She has a 'save' jar, 'spend' jar and 'give' jar, she puts $1 in each. I hope this will teach her the value of saving her money and teach her about charity. I never learned about managing money growing up and wish I had.
6. Portable dvd player. We purposely bought our van without the installed dvd system as I didn't want the kids to assume we would watch it while riding in the car. However, we travel a lot and on big trips from CA to TX (and all over TX and back). Anytime we go on a trip that is over an hour or so, I will bring the dvd player, it just makes life easier, especially if I'm the only adult in the car. I would never use the dvd player within town or driving across town.

I wish I could say we pray, but we don't do this regularly, usually just on special occasions or when friends offer up a prayer. However, we are faithful and we go to church regularly, but I'm so bad about making this a habit (a good one).

Anyway, I agree with most of what you wrote and I think it's important to set boundaries and remain consistent.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tim said...

Pretty much in agreement with you except in 2 areas:

1. Words - By themselves, words have no power; it's all contextual and relative. By banning certain words outright, I believe you risk giving them "magical powers", which then may lead to unhealthy strictures or fascinations. In our family, we can be silly with "potty-mouth" words in the privacy of our home, and we use this as a teaching moment, as to propriety, and appropriate social contexts. We can also talk about freedom of speech, and the responsibilities it entails, without arbitrarily demonizing or censoring specific words.

2. Praying - Since spirituality is an intensely personal matter, we believe that we as parents should not inculcate our children with religion when they are at an age too young to form their own definitions and meanings of spirituality. Rather, we try to expose them to many different philosophies, (in an age- appropriate manner, and consistent with core ethical concepts), so they will keep open minds, and hopefully be in a position to make an informed and rational decision as to what religion, if any they will follow as adults.

As is freedom of speech, freedom of conscience is a core liberty we try to have our children grow up to value.

All in all, we salute you on your approach to child raising!

Kim Adams said...

I'm so glad you opened this discussion. I agree completely with much of what you posted, and have goals to do many of the same things (some we're still too young for).

Some of the items I agree with in philosophy but have struggled with in practice - namely, computer time. I don't want my children to grow up glued to any screen - tv or computer. BUT I struggle to get myself away from the computer, whether it's email or blogging or looking for recipes or doing necessary research, and I don't like the example it sets. Since we are moving away from family, staying in touch via computer will become even more important; even our phone calls will be via internet. I will continue to struggle with this one.

I don't want to give an allowance or monetary award for tasks that are simply part of everyday life (whether chores around the house or grades in school). However, I do want to teach my children about managing money so we need to develop a plan for that, possibly similar to what the Neills described.

Anonymous said...

It is nice to find other 'freaks' - we could fit in your house no worries. We are now at that stage that our daughter is noticing we are different to most other families and it gives us amazing chances to talk about who we are, what we believe and how we think this transfers into every day life!
Way to go for making us 'freaks' feel comfy - ha ha


Christina said...

I love your post, and like another reader, kept wondering when the "weird" rules would be written! #1,yep, we agree but not always with a hug... #2 AMEN!! Not a privacy thing, but I like my kids and want to be with them, not have them away in their room. We use reading as a way to earn video game time. The school has Accelerated Reader and after books are read, then they take a quiz (at home or school on the computer) If they pass, they earn 15 minutes of video game time. The longer the book, the more minutes earned on video games.... BUT my husband and I control the games... mostly we play Disney games (Mickey and friends) and other non-violent "plug and play" into the tv games.. We had a NO GUNS rule, but have modified that, and now have water guns (that don't look like real guns) and a Star Wars gun video game (no blood or explosions).. My kids LOVE the lego video games, when an enemy is destroyed, it is legos that break apart! Very cool as Legos are a fave toy at our house!
#3, we do all of those chores, but pay a weekly amount per child... it doesn't go for the chores, but for being in our family, trying our best, doing all of our work (homework and chores) to the best of our abilities, ect. Then, when I am asked for something while we are out, I simply ask, "Did you bring your money?" or say, "Better save your money".. The kids LOVE to save, and then buy a big loved purchase, like my 10 year old got a Rip Stick, he saved $40 and I paid the remaining $40 and it took him 4 months! Great life lesson! #5, yep! Little to no tv except in the summers, (in fl it is HOT in the afternoons, and so they watch pre-approved movie in the afternoons) Mostly only G, just started a few PG movies (Night of the Museum, the boys loved it) My kids play outside all the time, bikes, rollerblades, ripstick, playground, sidewalk chalk, ect... #6 I don't care so much about stupid, dumb, but not to call a person, but to explain something... we use moron alot in our family... :) But, we always say Mr. David, or Mrs. Kim.. last names just aren't used often enough, but all adults and babysitters get Mr. Mrs. or Ms.#7 yes we do too! Love to pray in the car together... and fights at the dinner table as to who can pray tonight (Had to take turns at the table, only 1 kid per night b/c food gets too cold)#8, I HATE the t'shirts that say rude comments like, Blame my sister, or I hate homework, or whatever... we do not buy anything that we wouldn't wear to church... We do have one that says "Worth my weight in gold" and I love that shirt... it has a bar of gold on it.. We do have Disney clothes, but only because my hubby works there, and the clothes are cheaper for us than plain clothes...
we definetly do, yes and no sir... it shows respect and the kids will do it to us and other adults

When our kids (adopted out of foster care) first moved in,they would take the sheets off the beds when they got mad at us... I said to them that I didn't care what they did to the beds, but no meals would be eaten by them until the beds were made... sheets only came off the beds once or twice per kid, and they decided it was too much work to put them back on, so they stopped almost immediately :) We clean up at various times in the day (weekends and summers) because no breakfast until the rooms are clean, and no lunch or dinner until the toys from the day are put away... They just clean as they go, most of the time... unless friends come over or whatever.. It works well... almost never feel that a tornado hit the room and once or twice a year, I help them reorganize the stuff.

So glad to hear that my kids should be able to find a spouse that has good rules!

Anonymous said...

I love your rules. Please tell me how you got your kids not to yell at each other and also to appologize to each other sincerely.
My kids just flatly refuse.

My 8 year old flings "idiot" at his brothers and sister like it was good for them. His father and I tell him he cannot talk like that. He stops when we tell him but the damage is already done and he will not appologize. Not that the other kids would believe an apology anyway.

We don't talk that way to them or each other and we do appologize when we have hurt someone in word or deed. We follow all the other rules you do too. And we pray morning and evening prayers as well as during a car ride and we regularly go to church.

Any ideas for us?