The Screen-Free-Week, or, How To Grow Your Childs Brain in One Easy Step

Minecraft, you will find if it happens to you, swallows kid’s brains.  Since Minecraft entered our household ten days ago, we’ve heard about little else from our six year old.  Withers, Creepers, Spiders and the Netherworld are all conversational topics in our house at the moment.

We are strict about screen time in our house.   We have a Screen-Free-Week for the kids every second week, which means no shows, no games, no YouTube, no laptop, no iPad, no phones.

We’ve done it this way for two or three years now.   We noticed early on with our first child that screens seem to supercharge frustration.  We strongly limited the amount of screen time our kids had from the first moments they watched them, but as any parent will know, scope creep happens easily.  We noticed that play was becoming less imaginative and more structured around shows.  That was ok with us, because kids will get inspiration from the whole world around them.  Then “I’m bored!” became a common catch-cry while they waited for their screen time.  Arguments became more commonplace, and team work became almost non-existent.

So after the usual banning of screens as punishment we tried regular Screen-Free-Days.  That didn’t give the kids enough time to get used to having no screens, and they would ask repeatedly all of that day.  We then tried whole weeks occasionally, and immediately noticed the behavioural difference.

After a year or so of doing a week off screens every month or more, we committed to every second week.  The boys now know it’s coming, and they emotionally prepare themselves.

The hardest part of Screen-Free-Week is the lack of babysitting.  It’s harder for me and my wife than the kids.  We have to be much more available to coach and provide options if they need it.  This is absolutely a good thing, but its harder than plopping the two of them down with an iPad.

We find that the boys play much better together during these weeks off, however they need more coaching around learning to relax after a big day or understanding when they are tired.  Screens provide much needed chill-out time, and finding alternatives has been challenging.  Getting an eight-year-old and a six-year-old to just sit around when they are exhausted is surprisingly difficult!  Drawing and colouring has been an effective replacement, but it depends on the level of fatigue.

Screen-Free-Weeks make an effective consequence.  As much as I dislike consequences and punishments in general (I would prefer my kids to behave themselves because its the right thing to do rather than being coerced through bribes or threats), when one is required, the SFW cuts to the quick.  Bad behaviour is sorted out rapidly.

What has been remarkable is the behavioural change we’ve seen in our boys.  They are almost like different people in the SFW.  The change was most noticeable when they were younger and more emotionally charged.

In a screen week we often see arguments during play, and the boys tend to organise play around the times they get screens.  They are often bored and listless while waiting to watch (we usually set hard times around screen consumption).  They are sometimes so emotionally caught up in their shows and games that they can barely play.  The six-year-old often argues with us about screen times and almost everything else that doesn’t go his way.

During a SFW all that changes.  Their play is super-imaginative, dynamic and exciting.  The boundaries they set around games are broader and more inclusive.  They work together as a team and help each other much more.  They tend to be more empathetic.  They are more receptive to their own body signs like hunger, thirst and toileting.

My wife and I enjoy those weeks too, because we interact much more with the boys.  They help us with cooking, or we play card games.  We watch them read or colour or draw, and we listen to their conversations, which are invariably bright and beautiful.

During a Screen-Free-Week we don’t have to fight with media for attention.  With my long-term view towards loving and communicative relationships with my sons, this is a major hurdle that we have overcome.

Violence Is So Damn Easy, or Why The Hard Way Is So Hard

Sometimes, having kids is just the pits.

Particularly when you’ve made the commitment to an upbringing that abhors violence and uses communication instead.

Violence is just so damn easy!

Your kid ain’t doing what you asked? Slap him across the face!

Your daughter is talking back to you? Smack her on the bottom and send her to her room!

Your son is tantruming, screaming and crying over some nonsense? Scream and yell back at him, getting in his face with emotionally violent language about how he’s ridiculous to feel like he does, perhaps calling him a girl for crying!

face slap backhand

See? Just so easy!

Unfortunately, I’ve committed myself and my wife to methods much more difficult. We are living the middle path between a violent or neglectful adult-centric lifestyle, and a permissive, child-centric one.

The Hard Way.

What is the Hard Way?

The Hard Way is taking a step back, assessing the situation from an altitude of 50,000 feet.

The Hard Way is letting go of your ego, which is really a video flashback to how your own mum and dad parented (if it was good enough for me, it’s GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU).

The Hard Way is creating connection with your child at all times, but especially when they are upset, regardless of whether they are sad, angry, tantruming, or any uncomfortable behaviour.

The Hard Way is letting your kids be sad or angry, as long as they are not hurting anyone else.

The Hard Way is not letting your kid have everything they want.

The Hard Way is being flexible, sometimes giving your child what she wants.

The Hard Way is ensuring your kid has regular screen-free time, even when you need a babysitter.

The Hard Way is coaching your child through success and disappointment, rather than being a cheerleader.

The Hard Way is finding and spending Quality Time.

The Hard Way is prioritising family over work, and Quality Time over money.

The Hard Way is loving your kids, loving them hard, and loving them always, even when your ego is reaching for a backhand.

The Hard Way is hard work. It’s a damn sight harder than the bullshit “Good-Enough Parenting” style that gives parents a guilt-free out every time it gets tough. But if you want to grow happy, satisfied, loving and unspoiled kids, the Hard Way is the only way.

Letters For My Sons

Hello boys.

Life is a beautiful thing.  We are so lucky to be experiencing it, with all its happiness, joy, satisfactions and pain.  All of it is beautiful in its own way.

The most beautiful, and yet the most terrible part, is that we have to die.  It is beautiful because it forces us to take notice of life.  We have to be a part of life, whether we want to or not, and when we find death, we start to take notice.  Weirdly, I didn’t find death until I was blessed with new life: you boys.

Before Tay was born I was a couch-sitter.  I had my adventures, but most of my time was taken up with simply dreaming and wishing while I was sitting and blobbing. When you were born, something changed.

This was absolutely NOT me.  Far too active.

Firstly, I had far, far, far less time for myself.  With so little time, I made the most of what I had.   I had no more time for doing nothing, only for creating something.

Secondly, I wanted to be a dad to be proud of.  I wanted to be a man you two could emulate.  This meant I had to recreate myself as a man worth emulating.  It’s a work in progress, one that will continue until my last day.

Being a parent brings into stark relief one of the silliest results of evolution – my kids have to learn all my lessons over again.  All the hard work I’ve put into learning about myself and the world, all that knowledge, it will disappear when I die, as it did when my ancestors passed away.  There is no download button as yet directly into your brain from mine.

Thus I’ve made this blog.  I want you to know what I know.  Of course you won’t know it until you’ve experienced it… but there is a time and a place for all knowledge, and I hope that occasionally the right phrase will be there for you at the right time and the right place.

I love you both of you boys, more than anything on the planet.  Let’s get this party started!

9 Things Fathers Don’t Talk About

So you’re having a baby.  Congrats.

Perhaps.

Fatherhood is overlooked in the months of pregnancy.  With all the changes happening to the woman, the man, as usual keeps silent and gets on with life.  There are however many unexpected events in a father’s experience that no one talks about, and many men think they are alone in the experience.

 

1.  You won’t love your child.  When they first come out, and for the next few months or so, your primary thoughts will be “What the fuck was I thinking?” and “Will anyone notice if I accidentally drop this thing in the bin?”

The only thing that keeps most kids alive, I believe, is the fear of butt rape by professionals in a large prison.  Otherwise most babies would go into landfill.

 

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!
WAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

 

You won’t love your child at first.  They are tiny balls of flesh with no personality and nothing attractive about them.  They look incredibly ugly, and yet strangely delicious.  Modern movies however would have you believe that little Northeast will have manga eyes that communicate the secrets of the multiverse with a serene buddha-face that says silently “Don’t worry Daddy, everything’s gonna be alright, the world is an amazing place” as you gurgle into a purpley puddle of affectionate goo.

Bollocks.

Most men, and many women for that matter, have no feelings whatsoever toward their children for the first weeks and months.  It is a lie that we have been sold.  I had to learn to love my boys, especially the first one.  They do nothing, say nothing, screech like animals, and shit all over your nice things, especially your hands (and occasionally your face).

 

2.  You won’t get a full nights sleep for between 3 and 10 years.  That’s right bitches.  Depending on how many kids you have you can look forward to behaving like a alcoholic retard for the next few years.  My vocabulary went down, my immune system died in the ass, and my work capacity went from a ten to a four.  Two to six hours sleep a night for years will do that to you.

Then when they do sleep through, you will wake up anyway because you fear they might be dead.  They aren’t of course.  But they might be.

 

3.  Babies are boring as hell for the first six months.  Especially for the first one, impatience can really get to you as you wait for little TimTam to roll over, smile, goddamn it, just DO SOMETHING!  You want them to do stuff.  They are so, so ridiculously boring.  There really is very little return on investment during this time.

 

4.  They are WAY smarter than you think.  Before having kids I believed that they didn’t develop brains until around five years old.  I have no idea why I thought that, or what I thought happened in that five year period, but there you go.

I thoroughly did not expect my boys do develop intelligence so early on. In their almighty struggles to move, communicate, experience and manipulate, babies and toddlers will educate you on how you became the way you are.  From the moment they are born they are trying to talk and move, and everything we say strikes a chord within them.  You will constantly be surprised (when you are not hideously bored) at the little ways they demonstrate smarts.

 

5.  There are approximately 843,982 ways for the mother and baby to die during pregnancy and birth.  There’s a reason child and mother mortality rates were at holocaust levels before modern medicine; it’s hideously dangerous.  Once I polled all the mothers I knew and found that, had they given birth 200 hundred years ago, over 50% of them would have died.

My wife and I spent several months wondering if I would wake up with her dead beside me from a placental bleed.   If she had sustained a major bleed she would have died in under a minute, and there would have been nothing I could apply pressure to, cos it would come from her vagina.  Fucking great.

 

Just like this

 

The hippies will tell you birth’s the most natural thing in the world.  It is.  For some mothers.  After you’ve seen a woman writhing around for 24 hours or more trying to eject an enormous parasite you may have second thoughts about how simple it is.

 

6.  Yelling at or spanking your kids makes them either a) harder to control, or b) easier to control now, but a bunch of shitheads later.  I’ve been following a no yelling policy with my boys and things have never, ever, been better.  It forces me to get down to the child’s level and understand the context of what is happening.  My boys feel like they are understood, which is 90% of the battle won.  How many times have you felt misunderstood, and crave understanding?  I’ll wager your childhood was full of frustrated moments of incomprehension.  Turn that around for your kids and you’ll reap the rewards.

If yelling is lazy man’s parenting, then spanking is unemployed junkie parenting.  Spastics, tough guys and the uneducated are simply not creative enough to find a reason for misbehaviour.  Well done, by hitting a child you’ve given a solid lesson on how your world works.  You don’t try to solve problems through open discussion, rather you enforce obedience through violence.  You will raise frustrated and (physical or mentally) violent kids.

 

7.  People without kids and parents with twenty-something children know how to parent better than anyone in the world.  That’s the impression you’ll get anyway, after the fiftieth slack-jawed fuckwit tells you “All he needs is a smack on the bum and he’ll be fine.”  Thanks for the info, cocksmoker.  That’s why one of your kids is in a juvenile justice centre and the other one won’t talk to you.

I’ll be the first to take advice if it’s useful, but most of the tards that approach you will be vomiting the same advice: Beat your kids, don’t discuss things with them cos it breeds impertinence, and, oh, beat your kids.

 

8.  Your wife/gf/significant other will create a nest almost as soon as she gets pregnant.  This will mean a change of home, buying a new house, repairs to the existing house, and other large financial changes you may not expect.  The hormonal impact of a pregnant woman has to be seen to be believed.  My wife was, compared to some of our friends, relatively stable, but we still ended up buying our first house very soon after pregnancy.  She was an unstoppable fat juggernaut, which changed our lives for the better.  But it is a little surprising if you are not ready for it how single minded they become on fixing a home for their brood.

 

9.  The vag will change.  Here’s a couple of interesting facts for you to ponder.  If your partner has a vaginal birth, chances are she will be incontinent for a while.  Or perhaps the rest of her life.  Many mothers I know cannot run or play on a trampoline for fear of pissing all over the kids.  This can be solved with pelvic floor exercises, but most mothers are too lazy busy with young ones to practice.

There’s also a little thing called the hierarchy of perineal lacerations.  Not only is it great bbq conversation, it also characterises vaginal tears from childbirth according to size.  First degree tears are tiny, while fourth degree lacerations extend to the anus.  Delicious!  After you pick your lunch off the floor, get your missus some photos off the net, and maybe it will motivate her to do some pelvic floor exercises so you don’t have to fuck a vagina the size of Saturn.

 

There you have it.  If any of you experienced anything and thought you were alone in it, leave it in the comments below.  I’d love to hear it.

 

Ritual De Lo Habitual, Or, I’m Reasonably Sure Jane Was Addicted To Her iPhone: #NoNothingNovember

Breaking habits is Zen in action.  I have to be aware every waking moment, for  my Autopilot works far better than I thought.  He’s basically a fully functioning human being without the capacity for reasonable thought.  He has no problem doing the things I have banned.  It’s slightly scary that he is in control 80% (or more) of my day to day existence..

 

Autopilot
And this is what he looks like. Pretty much a spitting image of me

 

My phone use is proving the most interesting at the moment.  Several habitual situations have reared up like superbly muscled stallions attacked by a bee swarm:

1. I can’t check email on my phone.  This was a deliberate decision, but I  found myself this morning tapping the icon before I’d thought about it.  Autopilot 1, Me 0.

 

2. I can’t check my blog dashboard.  This led me to an internal discussion about what is important about checking Google Analytics, which is the only reason I would visit my site on my phone.  I justified checking by saying that I needed to stay abreast of what was working to attract visitors and what was not.

I then countered with the argument that at this stage of the blog (less than 6 months old and less than 1000 page views a month) checking Analytics was nothing more than useless ego masturbation or crushing ego defeat, depending on what the numbers said.  Statistically, very little would affect blog progress, and there was nothing that couldn’t be handled at the beginning or end of each day.  I then congratulated myself for such a sensible and cleverly constructed argument, and toddled off for a well earned rest.  Me 1, Lawyers 0.

 

3. I like to read phone articles on the toilet.  So now I have to read old piss-stained editions of National Geographic. Did you know a teaspoon of nicotine contains 111 lethal doses?  Useless Trivia 54, Me 0.

 

4. I like to check my phone in bed in the mornings, on weekends and in the evenings sometimes.  Now I have to pay attention to my wife, who also joins me in bed it seems.  Because I don’t have a phone in my face I can put a vagina there instead. Me 4, My Wife 8.

 

5. More seriously, I often look for a moment’s reprieve from the loud, insistent, and occasionally cute onslaught of children.  This is one of the main reasons I have quit the phone for the month; I don’t want to be a role model with a phone in my face 50% of the time.  So many times I answer “Just checking something on my phone”, or “Just sending a message”, and my wife is much worse with constant FaceDouche updates.  My kids think it’s normal to have parents with phones for faces, and I don’t like that.

In addition, this momentary time I get on the phone is never good quality.  I get interrupted constantly, and am rarely able to finish what I am reading.  “What is the point?”  I asked myself in a moment of lucidity, after getting pillow-raped in the head by a five-year-old.

I decided then to actually be there with my kids.  So while I enjoy taking time out for a moment’s rest, in the long run I would rather be an awesome dad, and make the most of the time I have with my fast growing children.

Quality of Life 1, iPhone 0.