"We are unable to roll back time. Most of us wouldn't even want to. Our concern is for our children who are growing up in a rapidly changing world where modern technology can take away their childhood."
--Barbara Patterson, Beyond the Rainbow Bridge
1. Unscheduled time and a long leash: Your child does not need every minute of every day scheduled and supervised. He will not die, either of boredom or "stranger danger."
Alvin Rosenfeld, author of The Over-Scheduled Child, calls it "Hyper-Parenting." Keep extracurricular activity to just one or two at a time. Let your kid be bored. Boredom leads the imagination to great discoveries.
At the same time, don't be afraid to let your older child out of your sight. Teach your children to listen to their intuition, and give them the tools they need to be both safe and free.
2. Outdoors time: There's been much discussion of nature-deficit disorder in the media, but I'm not even talking about the woods. I'm talking about just going outside:
A major study came out [in 2005] that said that the rate of obesity in children is growing faster in rural areas than it is in cities and suburbs. Again, it seems counterintuitive. But it's not so counterintuitive when you think about the fact that the family farm is fairly nonexistent now. Kids in rural areas are playing the same video games, watching the same television, and they're on longer car rides.
The minute the sun comes out here in Oregon I kick those two girls out of the house into the yard. This year we're planting a bean tent for the kids to play in; consider planting a sunflower house with yours.
3. Limited electronics: We watch TV at our house. The girls are limited in what they can watch, we have to approve of it, and they don't have TV in their room (and never shall). They don't have iPods and are not allowed to wear headphones in the company of other people. We don't have a game system, not even the grown-ups, to the complete shock of other men John's age--they almost can't believe it. The computer is for school and a little bit of goofing around. We don't have a DVD system in the van. The girls don't "text." In short, if it comes between you and your children, or your children and the world, it's not a helpful technology. Ditch it.
4. Marketing awareness: Teach your children about advertising and how companies try to sell them things. Branded merchandise is not a good influence. Understand what brands are trying to teach your children. Usually the message is how to be a consumer. Is that what you want for your kids--a passive life as a consumer?
For instance, we don't allow Bratz merchandise in the house because we don't like the relentless shopping and flirting promotion attached to a toy marketed to pre-teens. We also don't like the sexualizing of pre-teens and even babies in these toys.
First you have to get clear about this stuff yourself. What message are you wearing across your chest? And why are you paying to advertise for some company--shouldn't they be paying you?
5. Family first: If you read TNH, you're probably either already putting family first, or longing to. For some families, it means a parent at home full-time. For others, it means that and homeschooling. Just as with electronics, if something comes between you and your family, re-evaluate, whether that thing is a paid job, a volunteer job, a hobby or even an attitude.
Final thought: All of these things are of a piece. Limiting electronics means fighting consumerism, which leads to more time outside which leads to less over-scheduling which leads to more time for families which leads to less reliance on consumerism and electronics both...
It's all of a piece, my dears.