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Giving kids autonomy

Something I keep thinking about is if my kids will ever know the me I was before I became a mom.

I take vacations with Fatty, trips with girlfriends, solo staycations, all in the pursuit of myself.  To do the things I want to do, not the fruit of my loins wtf.

It’s nice to remember when I’m by myself the things that define me.   That I once wrote an honors thesis. That my music of choice is Broadway musicals and 2000s Jpop wtf.  That I have an amazing sense of humor *ahem* that doesn’t just include fart jokes wtf.  That I love learning and absorbing new things.  That the beginning of new friendships excite me and make me feel a little like I’m falling in love.

But all these things that make me me don’t show up when I’m being Mommy.  What they see is someone who’s generally calm but flares up when they whine (lol), whom when she’s on her phone or takes out her laptop is “doing work”, someone who dishes food into their plates for them and who they negotiate with when they’re full.  They see the nagging person who rushes them to shower, who hollers at them to get back to bed when they come out with excuses at night.  They see a person who drives them to school and picks them up, but maybe ceases to exist when they’re at school hahaha.  They ask me about my childhood but to them it’s a faraway thought that entertains them and doesn’t have any bearing on Mommy today.

It hit me the other day because Fighter is seven years old now and starting to indulge in the world of poo filled humor and sometimes snarky school age talk.  It really began after he started Standard One, where he’s mixing with a larger more diverse pool of kids.  He’s more forthcoming with his opinions and they are sometimes damn blunt wtf.  I don’t think he understands that some of the things he says (while not exactly rude) are also not very polite wtf.  Seriously every stage is a new challenge. T3T

So recently I noticed that it’s become a sort of running joke with him that Mommy is the fierce one.  Or Mommy is the grumpy one.  Once we were talking about cheerfulness and Fighter was like, “that’s like Daddy”.  It hit me that between me and Fatty, I’m actually the bubbly, silly one but the kids don’t even know that side of me . T_______T

What they see is Daddy as the fun one because Daddy makes the effort to funny and play with them.  I rarely do that because I’m either too busy doing something or other, or looking at the clock to the next thing we have to do, or annoyed with them cos I’m breaking up fights or putting up with whining. :/

So Mommy becomes the cheerless, grumpy parent.

There’s no clear one way to fix this, but one of the things that we decided to change (Fatty came up with the idea actually) was how we managed screen time.

So every day the kids are allowed half an hour of iPad time.  They set their own timers and turn off the screens when the timer goes off.  Fighter is pretty good at this, although once or twice I went into his room at night to check on him only to find him awake and furtively using his iPad.  Penny on the other hand is not so good at this, many times whining or asking for five more minutes wtf.

Generally we stick to this half hour rule but there have been more arguments and nagging than what I’d like.  So Fatty suggested we give them a bit more autonomy in deciding their day.

We asked them how much screen time they would like in a day.  They said an hour.  This hour would include not just iPad time, but also Playstation or whatever game console which I was okay with cos they wouldn’t only be looking at close distances all the time.

We said that’s fine but we also need you to have more outdoor play time – to counter the staring at close screens, outdoor play would make them look further and rest their eyes – and learning time.  Which could be anything they wanted as long as they learned something new – reading, drawing, doing workbooks.  Most of the time they choose reading!

They agreed to it and even suggested themselves an hour for learning time.

How has it worked out so far?  Pretty okay I think.

Because screen time is not as scarce as before, they don’t go full retard on it.  Sometimes Penny even chooses not to do iPad time.  And because they made the decision themselves, they’re pretty good at sticking to the times.  Sometimes they forget about reading time, but when I remind them they do it without much fuss.

When it comes to reading, they always prefer me to read to them! *pulls hair out

Fighter can read on his own for a few years already but he still wants me to read to him especially at bedtime, while Penny has only recently been reading on her own.  So I don’t know if Fighter is just being lazy or he has such good memories of me reading to him since he was a baby or what wtf.  But this bugged me a lot cos I think at his age I was already reading full story books on my own.  I love reading up till now and it really bothered me that my kids didn’t seem to get the same joy.  Is it a matter of too many distractions or what I also don’t know.

But because of this (mandated) learning time, I think they’re starting to enjoy reading for its sake.  Like Fighter snorts and giggles his way through certain books and keeps trying to tell me what happens in the story.  Baby definitely gets satisfaction in being able to complete books on her own without my help.  It’s not what I would call ideal lol but it’s okay!  They’re on their way! (to liking books)

Anyway I digressed off the point of this post.  The point is that this was an experiment to give them more autonomy to make choices to see if it would also give them more sense of responsibility.

And I think it worked! (for now wtf)

What are your thoughts?

 

  • proudzebra

    I think parents always tend to forget that a child is his/her own person who also has his/her own likes and dislikes. I’m not a parent, but I would have loved more autonomy growing up. My parents were pretty strict, but giving autonomy showed that they trusted me to do things right and “handle myself” right. There’s a reason why children with strict parents always tend to end up with a rebellious stage. I also think when given more autonomy, kids hone their critical thinking, logical and reasoning skills, to help them make decisions they won’t later regret, even if it’s just small things like less TV/iPad time now. It may be big decisions next time. Hope you don’t mind the two cents of a non parent.

  • Francisca Lim

    Rules are so important when it comes to screen time. Many parents complain but then that’s it. I started setting rules and my kids comply splendidly!

    It’s a total of 2 hours gadget time/ day but always 30 mins max at one go. This way, they split their 30mins quota into 4 sessions throughout the day ( but in reality always 3 times only because after school homework etc etc, it’s bedtime already lol). Incase they did use up their 2 hours/day and want extra 30 mins, they can either write a 100-word, practice piano 15 mins, read 20 mins etc.

    Bottom line is, set rules and involve them. Works like a charm.

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