Most parents seem to believe some version of this, and I certainly have my moments.
But a few things have led me to wonder about this recently. First of all, if a belief causes me stress (and this one definitely does) then it’s worth investigating. And secondly, someone told me recently about a woman who is now in her eighties, and who as a child was chastised by her parents for reading too much! When I thought about it afterwards, I remembered hearing about other people who’d had the same experience. And it also struck me that perhaps when today’s parents complain about children spending too long on computers we aren’t really all that different to parents in generations gone by.
So, following on from my last post, where I did The Work of Byron Katie on a common belief about parenting, this post is also an inquiry into a belief that causes many parents stress.
(If you are not familiar with The Work, I suggest you start by reading the About Inquiring Parent page. As you read the inquiry you will get more from it if you notice where you hold similar beliefs or reactions.)
Children spend too much time at computers and watching TV.
Is it true?
Um, it feels true, yes.
Can you absolutely know it’s true?
No. (I can’t see into the future and see where this behaviour might lead.)
How do you react when you think this thought?
- I imagine that I can see into the future and tell where this behaviour will lead! I remember snippets of articles that said that too much time spend on computers are making children anti-social or unable to communicate normally. I imagine my kids as adults unhappy and not able to communicate because of spending too long on computers.
- Images come into my mind of sitcoms with “nerds” who are incapable of behaving normally! (Oh that is totally crazy, yet until I started writing this, I had not realised that sitcoms, which are totally exaggerated, were one of the sources of stress for me on this subject.)
- I try to restrict the length of time my kids spend at computers, watching TV or playing on various electronic devices, but even as I do it I realise that trying to use force won’t work, so I try to use persuasion to get them doing other things. There’s a fair amount of guilt involved: I feel guilty about not being able to persuade them, about trying to coerce them – and then I also feel guilty about not enforcing stricter rules. So it’s damned if I do, damned if I don’t! (A good recipe for stress.)
- I worry about the long term effects of radiation.
Supplementary question: what are you afraid will happen if you drop this thought?
That I’ll be a bad mother. I’ll leave the kids to do what they want, not set limits and they will do nothing but play on computers or watch TV, and not fulfil their potential. Ah, and that other parents will disapprove of me for not agreeing with the overall consensus. (Or what I imagine is the overall consensus.)[Okay, so it seems there’s a lot of wanting approval here. Even as I was typing this inquiry I could sense a fear that people reading it would think my kids spend all their time at computers. I almost felt the need to add some explanation. It still amazes me, after years of doing The Work and the Sedona Method, how sometimes something can be staring us in the face and yet we still can’t see it. This belief has been largely based on wanting approval, wanting to be part of some imaginary unified body of parents – yet while I half knew that I pushed that awareness away and went on stressing about it.]
Who would you be without this thought?
Lighter. Much lighter. I am feeling much lighter now.
Able to trust that, even if I can’t see it, there is value in the time my kids spend at computers. (For a start it helps me see where I create stressful stories.)
Turn the original statement around:
Turnaround 1 (to the opposite):
Children don’t spend too much time at computers and watching TV.
1) The reality is they spend as much time as they do.
2) They also do many other things. They have spent a lot of time doing things on computers recently because they have been ill, but they also read books, talked to each other or to me, and in the last day or two they have gone for walks outside to get fresh air.
3) For all I know, the time they spend on computers could be exactly what they need to “fulfil their potential!” One of my kids has written 3 novels on a computer, and both know Photoshop and movie making programs far better than I do. Those are useful skills.
4) They’ve spend lots of time with other kids either making movies or playing their favourite games together and then chatting about them, so it is far from anti-social!
5) For me, this turnaround is true because the time they spend at computers led me to do this inquiry, and I get to see where I am still wanting approval and therefore not free. I get to see where I am deceiving myself.
Turnaround 2 (to the self):
I spend too much time at computers and watching TV.
1) I do spend hours each day at the computer, since as a writer it’s where I work. That doesn’t seem like too much, but where I can see I do spend too much time is in thinking about it, wondering whether my kids shouldn’t be at theirs, imagining consequences!
2) As for television: I watch very little, but the same about imagining it could apply.
3) When I’m not working, I often think about it and think I should be working, so that’s another way I spend too much time mentally at the computer.
4) I could probably be more organised in my work and that would mean I’d spend more time doing other things, and less in front of a screen. (This could well be another inquiry!)
How does it feel after doing this inquiry?
I feel lighter, and pleased to see that what seemed to be an unsolvable issue is actually about something different. I have done enough inquiries and releasing to know that when this happens the issue generally eases on its own. I had been so focused on what was on the surface, that I forgot to look deeper to see what I was bringing into this.
I went upstairs just now, and my kids were playing “Minecraft” on a computer. At first, I reacted in the old way, thinking, “Here we go again.” But then, I looked a little deeper, to see what this could be telling me, and I realised that when I believe they shouldn’t be doing something (be that “something” playing on the computer or reading a particular book) I don’t get involved with what they are doing and just judge it as in some way wrong. This puts us instantly in conflict and creates tension. Perhaps they turn to those computer games because of that tension. Without the thought I am free to engage more with what they are doing, and we can all relax more! That sounds pretty good.
Update: as an example of the Turnaround “Children don’t spend too much time at computers and watching TV” here’s a really interesting article from Apple on how one school has turned around poor engagement and results to create a vibrant school – by using computers more!