Beyond Grounding

One month ago Cole found himself grounded. Grounded from video games. Grounded from television. Grounded from technology. For an entire month. The last month of summer break.

As his punishment was decided, I selfishly thought with dread “what am I going to do with him to keep him entertained for four weeks without a technology distraction every now and then – for those moments when I need a break – for those moments when his brother won’t stop fussingย – for those moments when I’m out running and Christian needs to decompress too. How am I going to stay sane without technology? How was Cole’s punishment not going to turn into punishment for the whole family?

Cole got his video games back on Friday night, and we all survived. Not only did we survive, we thrived. Taking away his video games for the summer is the BEST thing that could have happened throughout the course of this summer.

His idea, not mine (I promise!)

Over the course of the summer, I’ve also had many conversations with Heidi as we have run enough miles together to get to Richmond, Virginiaย (to be exact: 93.45 miles covered on Saturdays this summer). A conversation that always surfaces is parenting. How do we engage our children? How do we preserve their childhood? How do we let them be boys but raise them to be men?

Heidi, once a teacher (always a teacher!) now a full-time mama, so brilliantly said – You have to let them find comfort in boredom. She had witnessed it in her classroom. If she asked a question and got no response, she had to wait out the silence. An answer would be found by her students if she didn’t provide it. As a parent, I’ve become so quick to fix I’m bored that I haven’t given Cole the opportunity to fix his own boredom. I never allowed him the time or the space to let his brain wander. I robbed him of his creativity. I’m bored has been followed up with long lists of suggestions he could say no to. I needed to provide him silence.

He’s never bored in the water

If there was ever a time to let Cole explore I’m bored, a month of no technology was that time. He was responsible for the loss of technology; therefore, he needed to be responsible for finding his own forms of entertainment. And do you know what I discovered? An amazingly creative, silly, TALKATIVE eight year old boy.

The first few days of grounding were a bit of a honeymoon. He was happy to play. He was still feeling remorse for his behavior. He was on his best behavior. Once the honeymoon ended, I’m bored found us. As soon as it found us, I waited. I responded by stating that I knew that he was bored, and that he was going to have to get creative. He was going to have to renavigate his eight year old world without technology.

Books were read. A LOT of books were read. He spent days sitting on the coach with his nose in a book. It took us the first half of 2012 to read a portion of a chapter book. He devoured the rest in just a few hours. From that book he created his own dragons. He pretended the dragons lived in our attic too.

He created. Lego renditions of the book Hatchet were created. Airplane. Crash scene. Mountain Side. He included it all. Forts were built. Stuffed animals became friends and partners in crime.

He drew. Drawing has always been his favorite activity. It wasn’t forgotten about over the course of four weeks.

His imagination came alive. I came home from work to find a dog version of Cole living in my house complete with a homemade collar, dog tail, paws, and his very own drinking bowl in our kitchen. The dog lived with us for two days (and our real dog Alex has never had so much attention!).

A portion of his Hatchet creation

One month of no technology was meant to serve as a punishment for Cole’s bad decision. While it did serve it’s purpose, it also delivered an even greater message to our family. We rely on technology too often. I’ve used it as a way to keep Cole entertained when I need one less distraction. It’s kept him quiet. Out of Sight. Out of Mind. And before I realized it, he spent a good chunk of his morning playing video games. I don’t give Cole enough credit or enough space (or enough opportunity) to be a child. There will always be moments when I need one less distraction. There will always be times when Cole wants to play video games.

It is my job as Cole’s mom to establish healthy boundaries for the usage of technology in our house. I have not been successful with this task in the past. Going forward, this changes. I owe it to my son to do better.

Books!

Technology is now limited to one hour per day in our house. It is up to Cole to manage his usage. He can choose when he wants to play (but not at dinner time!). He can decide what he wants to play. He can decide how he wants to split up the time. The rest of the day is meant for childhood living. It’s meant for exploring I’m bored. And I’m planning on helping him explore.

I can find a way to navigate the evening hours while getting all the “must dos” accomplished (like cooking dinner, homework and bathing) while incorporating Cole. He’s old enough to help prepare dinner. He’s helped the past few nights, and he loves it. He’s not bored. He’s more excited about trying new foods. And his face beams with pride when he knows he has made something yummy. Movie Nights (does this count as technology free?). Art Nights. Game Nights. Go run around and be crazy outside Nights.

His cartoon self-portrait

Our childhood is such a small portion of our life. I want him to live his childhood. I want him to love his childhood. I want him to explore all parts of his brain so when life demands that he become an adult, he is ready. I don’t want to lose my child behind a screen. I don’t want him to grown up and think life is lived through technology.

I want him to be engaged with the world around him.

Shameless Mom Bragging Moment: I cannot believe how much this process has matured Cole. He never (not once) asked for his video games back. He never complained. He never whined. He accepted the grounding with grace and maturity. I was amazed! And don’t give him nearly enough credit for how much he has grown up.

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14 thoughts on “Beyond Grounding

  1. Amen! I 100% agree. I am sorry that it took Cole getting into big trouble to figure this out, but I guess there is a silver lining to everything, right? I bet he’ll enjoy the time that he does have and continue to foster his creative side with the rest of his day. I wish all my parents were like you and TV, video games, and computer didn’t dictate so much of my students time when they are away from school. Good job Momma!

    1. I think I knew all of this before, I just never took the time to take inventory. It’s crazy how quickly technology can consume your day. I’m going to have to make mental reminders to make sure I’m always going back to reassess his (and my) usage.

  2. I’m amazed at the level of drawing and introspection Cole has showed in his cartoon self portrait. Encourage this all you can as the rewards of art are instant and last a lifetime.
    Thank you for letting me share.

    1. I wish I knew more about “art” to give Cole proper feedback on his drawings. He loves it so much, and I think my jaw hits the floor every time he shows me something he has created. We tried to get him into the ODC art program but he wasn’t accepted (sad!). Do you know of any places in the area that offer quality art classes?

  3. Oh Kristy…this is such a terrific moment for all of us mothers, when our children pass that threshold and begin to find themselves!

    How wonderful that he allowed his imagination to grow, and following through with his ideas.

    I have two sons, both in their teens, but I do remember the early years. Legos, crayon and paper, clay, blocks…they were all accessible for that special moment when they realized that mommy was not going to provide the entertainment. It wasn’t until my sons were in their preteen years, that we acquired the technology for them to connect with the world.

    It is now, and they still go for a book before the hand-held techno toy.

    Great job! He is great talent as an artist…even if you do not find art classes, books are very helpful, and most of the time, they like this best ๐Ÿ™‚

    m.

    1. Thank you! Its still crazy to me that I never had a computer in my house until I was in college. I didn’t have internet until I moved out on my own. I really wish I didn’t need/want it now, but I know that is the lazy route to take. It’s much easier to do without than it is to establish boundaries. I really hope Cole follows in your boys’ footsteps.

      1. Oh, he will Kristy…you just have to stay consistent and he will learn that his imagination is a gift. Don’t worry, he is on the right track ๐Ÿ™‚
        m.

  4. Great post!! I love it. We too are sometimes bad about giving input where we should let our five year old figure things out on his own. Respond to “I’m bored” with “What are some ways that you can fix that?” Thanks for the encouragement for us to move forward too! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. glad it worked out so well. getting away from technology and contacting directly with people beats technology every time. talk to carrie or my mom to find out what are class/lessons alanna took last year.

  6. Love this! I’m so glad that we are dedicated to creating a more creative, more imaginative childhood for our boys. It was a slow go at the beginning of the summer for us, but to see what they have done in these short 12 weeks gives me hope!

  7. Kristy! Technology can really be such a sneaky beast- especially with Chloe being so little and immobile (for now). You think you’ll do something “real quick” and seconds can quickly turn to minutes to hours before you know it. My attention needs to be fully on her, not distracted by the cell phone or TV. This is so great and such a good reminder to us all to be intentional about how we want to raise our kids and shape their childhood!

  8. I love this!!!! I think it’s so important for kids to be kids and run around outside getting dirty and being creative the way we were. I find that I’m too dependent on technology (maybe it’s a side effect of being a blogger??), but I think we can all learn from your experience with Cole this summer and try to step away for a little bit. Boredom is essential to creativity. Maybe I’ll try to bore myself a little bit tonight ;).

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