will dinnerThis blog has been in my brain for a while now and I am finally putting my thoughts down and together. It all started a couple months ago when my family was going to go out for dinner. It was not a fancy restaurant, but it wasn’t a chuck-e-cheese either. My 4.5 year old son and my 1.5 year old daughter were coming with us and three other adults. I don’t know about you but there is always a little anxiety about how they are going to behave. Right before we left, my husband said, “Should we bring the Kindle for Will?” I was surprised by my reaction but I said, “NO. Absolutely not! We are not going to be that family that doesn’t talk to each other because we are all staring at a screen!”

I said I was surprised by my reaction because I never really thought about it before that moment. Of course we have all seen that group of people out: no one is talking, everyone has their cell phone or tablet or game boy (or whatever kids use these days). But I had never thought about what I was going to do as a parent to prevent that with my own children. The more this idea sat in my brain, the more I felt compelled to write about it.

So, I will ask the question again: Do your kids now HOW to be bored? Do your kids know how to BEHAVE when they are bored? Dinner at a restaurant with a bunch of grown ups is not fun for most kids. They have to sit still, use inside voices, have polite conversation, eat different tasting food, etc. This is dreadful for the average 4 year old. Is it easier to give them a tablet and have them play angry birds for an hour? Of course it is! Does that teach them anything? Absolutely not.

ellie box

As a parent I believe it is our job to make sure our kids are capable of entertaining themselves, speaking clearly to other grown ups, sitting for five minutes without some kind of electronic entertainment. If every time they are on a road trip they can watch movies in the back of mommy’s seat they will never play the alphabet game with their sister. If every time they are sitting in a waiting room they are playing with a cell phone they will never play I Spy with mom. If every time they are bored at home they play on the computer they will never go on a treasure hunt in the back yard or play pirates with their brother. If every 5 mins. mommy has an activity planned they will never learn to have fun with only a box. If every time they are at a restaurant they have a tablet to stick their nose in they will never learn the importance of small talk and table manners and the joy of sharing a meal with the people that they love.

will treasure

I am grateful that my grandma used to tell me to sit up straight, and say ‘yes’ not ‘yeah’, and to put my napkin in my lap. I LOVE that my husband takes off his hat when he sits down at the dinner table. I love that my family still all gets together to share meals. And, I love that when we do, we don’t watch TV.

Kids are naturally resilient and creative and have amazing imaginations. As parents we don’t need to do much other than occasionally say NO. Say no to the TV. Say no to the computer. Say no to the constant requests for ‘mommy’s full attention’. It is okay to tell your kids to ‘just go play’. It is not mommy’s job to constantly think of things for your kids to do. Every day doesn’t have to be planned and structured with mom as the entertainment. They will naturally figure out what to do. Sure they might fight you a little. It might be frustrating at first, but worth the trouble! Besides, they have their whole adult life of no creativity or pretending to look forward to!

Let’s all take a pledge: I hereby promise to have at least 5 dinners per week without any electronic entertainment! I will unplug (at least partly) on the weekends, and encourage free play (for kids and parents!). I will teach my kids that even though they are bored, they still HAVE TO BEHAVE. I will be firm with my children when they misbehave in public (or at home).

I will teach my kids that ‘mommy will not have that shit!’