There's a "golden age" for parenting. Do you know when it is? You should. The impact you have during this stage can truly change the world.
This is Part 3 of our three-part series. Part 1 focused on this statement: Parenting is hard. Part 2 focused on this reality, especially as it relates to parenting children 0–5 years old: Technology is pervasive.
Now we’ll focus on this desire: You want to raise well-balanced, contributive kids. And let me add, into adults who are stable and add value to our world.
A caveat as we move forward
Now first, let me say this: Everyone comes into this parenting job with baggage. Almost every human being on the planet has experienced some level of dysfunction in their upbringing, even if very negligible. This is part of the human condition. Not everything is perfect 100% of the time. Why should we expect it to be?
You are not destined to screw up your child even if you came from an upbringing with a high degree of dysfunction. With intentionality, prayer, therapy and the right influences, you can actually raise stable, contributive kids.
If you feel you can’t, then think about what you’d need to do so. Focus for a moment on the outcome. What do you want? Do you want your children, as adults, to perpetuate the dysfunction? I would guess most people would answer an emphatic “No!”
If you determine you need help, find a way to get it. In truth, we become more powerful and more effective – in life, and in the journey of parenting – when we constructively ask for help. Not in a whiny, burdensome way. But with a willingness to change. You have part of the solution within you; it just needs to come out (and a therapist, counselor or other qualified individual may be the one who helps you get there).
Focus on Kids 6–12
This is perhaps the most critical age of your children in the parenting journey.
Perhaps that statement surprises you. “After all,” you may think, “What about 0–5?”
Of course the earliest ages need good attention. But when it comes to lasting influence and quality of relationship you’ll have with your kids as adults, this is the age range you need to pour your energies into.
When we were first parents, we attended one of my college reunions at Stanford, baby-in-tow. We attended a “Classes Without Quizzes,” this one a large seminar on parenting. The numerous academics and researchers gathered shared some of the results of a multi-decade study involving tens of thousands of families.
I don’t remember everything, of course, but one point I do remember to this day: The quality of the relationship you’ll have with your adult kids largely depends upon the quality of the relationship you cultivated with them during the 6–12 age range. Why?
- They often still give weight to what you, as a parent, have to say;
- They often still want to be around you;
- Their personalities are still forming and open to influence (positive and negative);
But, the researches lamented, many parents abdicate their involvement with their kids during this time. They reason, “Now that they’re in school, the hard work is done.” Or, “I finally have some breathing room in my day. I’ll go back to work (or increase my hours).”
Now, I’m not saying to not work!!! (I did.) I’m not saying to homeschool (although that’s a valid option, if inclined). What I’m saying here is, be mindful of this stage! Once they move into the teen years (and often earlier), their focus is on their peers, not you.
Don’t miss this!
What does it mean to be intentional at this stage?
Being an intentional parent at this stage does not mean making sure your kids are busy with music, sports and other activities 24/7. In fact, if could mean just the opposite. Spending time – quantity and quality – is what’s needed here. Your kids will benefit 100x over as you are available (not just halfway, but with full presence) during these years.
This is how your kids become well-balanced and contributive. You are laying an important foundation, nurturing their self-esteem and understanding of where they fit in this big, wide world.
A final word on tech
What you need to do with all those devices is a bit different during this stage. And, for so many people, this stage can be so incredibly vexing! We found that to be true, particularly with our boys. How many times we struggled when trying to get them to finish their video games! (You know, those games are not designed to be finished!)
Author Greg McKeown (Essentialism) has a valuable experience to share about this. He tells of the struggle with screen time – how much it had crept into their family. It was hard (and I’ll agree) to always be the policeman (or woman).
So he and his wife set up a token system. Each child received 10 tokens at the beginning of the week. These could each be traded in for either 30 minutes of screen time or fifty cents at the end of the week. But if a child read a book for 30 minutes, they could gain another token. He reports the system worked incredibly, causing less friction and a sense of equity and responsibility in their home.
Finding that balance isn’t easy. But when parents play police in the home, kids in this stage get angry, resentful and often rebel. This rolls over into bigger problems as they move through pre-teen and teenaged years.
So devise something to work for your family. Help your kids feel a sense of ownership in the process. Cast vision for what they do in terms of the impact it has on a larger world. Because it does. If your kids can understand that now, they will be light years ahead as they enter their teens and, especially, adulthood.
What strategies do you use to manage technology with your kids ages 6–12?