School is ending (in our house, this is the first official day of vacation) and that means it’s summer chore time on social media.
You know what I mean, right? The “helpful” posts and memes that float around on Facebook listing all the things kids need to do before earning screen time in the summer?
You know, like before you can use electronics you need to:
- Make your bed
- Brush your teeth
- Clean up your room
- Go outside for twenty minutes
- Sweep the kitchen
Wait, what? What was that one?
Why is that one always on there?
Do we really need to frame going outside as an unpleasant thing that needs to be trudged through before the “real fun” of screen time begins?
I occasionally get accused of being a bit Pollyanna-ish about screen time. People like to tell me that their kids never want to go outside or that they whine the whole time they are out there. Or that they can’t get the phone out of their kid’s hands no matter what. Or that my kids are still young so I don’t know what it’s like dealing with teenagers.
Look. That may be. But I still don’t see how making rules that position going outside as an unpleasantry equivalent to cleaning the house is going to help matters.
Going outside isn’t a chore. It’s an activity. It’s an activity that you would like your children to do. And any teacher will tell you that forcing activities is a surefire way to make them flop.
If you want an activity to succeed, try this method:
Set it up
Make getting outdoors an easy, attractive option. Give them scrap wood for building. Move the LEGOs out on the porch. Walk or bike the route to the nearest playground with them so they feel confident doing it on their own. Set some goals for the summer. Pop a tent up in the backyard and leave it there. Put up a tire swing.
This doesn’t have to be hard or expensive. My kids are currently obsessed with a $5 badminton set and the clothesline.
A little bit of prep means that there will be options that tempt them outside, or that will minimize the whining once you kick them out there.
Get your kids involved in planning
Let them pick the hike. Let them design the treehouse. Let them pick the game. Let them choose the seeds, or the birdfeeder, or the hammock.
It’s amazing how many parents I see trying to micromanage their kid’s playtime. They stand like camp counselors with their clipboards, checking off activities like it’s their job. Then they wonder why the kids aren’t interested in doing any of those things.
I used to keep an idea list of activities on the fridge, just for inspiration if the kids were bored. Want to know how many times they did those activities?
Zip. Zilch. Zero.
They just did what they wanted to do it anyway. So now I just plan it that way.
Get out of the way
If you need permission to ignore your children for the whole summer, here I am, giving it to you.
You hereby have my permission to ignore your children this summer.
Yes, they might whine a bit about being bored. Who cares? They’ll get over it eventually. You don’t have to listen to it. Walk away, get busy yourself, and they’ll eventually fill the time with something.
Perhaps you’ll come back to a mocking chalk picture of yourself in the driveway, but who cares? At least they got some fresh air while they did it.
And for that pesky screen time? Set a limit and forget it. My kids know how much time they get, and then they are done. If they want their screen time at 6:45 a.m., that’s when they get it…but then that’s a whole lot of day to fill afterwards. They have learned to choose wisely.
Don’t make your break so hard and unappealing and, well…like a summer chore. Just set it up, let them plan it, and get out of the way.
Oh, yeah. One more thing.
You are going to need to be a good role model.
You know what that means, right?
Put the phone down and get out there yourself.