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Where's the line between laziness and radical unschooling?

post #1 of 143
Thread Starter 

If my children want to play video games all day, when do I cross the line of fostering dependencies? When does it cease to be allowing for autonomy and actively encouraging addiction? It sounds like everyone wants to stake a claim on one side or the other, but is there some middle ground? Because after awhile, I want us to do something else. I want to see others discoveries happening. And it's always a freaking fight. And that sucks. I don't want to fight.

 

When is it that I've not just given them autonomy but actually given up any authority? I don't mean authority over them. I mean authority of someone who has been in this world and knows a little bit about it. When have I given up their acceptance of me as decently wise and given into their acceptance of themselves as autonomous to the point of not needing to listen and not needing to participate?

 

Does anyone have an answer to this? Because I think this is at the root of a lot of the arguments that happen. I need to know how to measure it. I don't want to just accept that it will work itself out either by giving complete free reign or by becoming authoritarian. How can I be authoritative without being authoritarian? I mean honestly, this is a huge problem in my life.

 

 

 

post #2 of 143

Personally, I don't think playing video games all day as being about developing themselves and their own ideas. To become the person they are to be they really would need to develop other habits, ideas, visit places and get out there. Sure, video games, or the internet or whatever is fun but if I was on all day I think my ability to be myself would deteriorate.

 

I do put limits on some things like video games and tv. I know some would feel this is making choices for the child rather than allowing them to develop their own idea of what "enough" is, but for me,  I am still their parent and I do have some say in their life. I know this isn't the most unschooly idea, but I tried the whole letting them do what they wanted all day thing and it drove me nuts. Sure I could have gotten over my issues but I also see us as a family, and the family requires us all working together getting work done. I also require they do at least reading everyday. I don't care what the read, when they read it  etc but yes, reading is a must. We have a general routine and the kids are used to and that semi-drives our day. We get up, early birds, eat/play, eat/play, eat/play until bed. To me, unschooling is allowing them the freedom to choose what they want to learn and do for the day but since we have some obligations, there are things that have to get done. I also found that when they were in the "video games all day", they were grumpy and uncooperative, so yep, we limited their time until they could see how their behavior changed.

 

 

post #3 of 143

I'd say that ultimately it boils down to whether the child appears happy and content. Presumably, a life spent doing nothing but playing video games wouldn't be a very fulfilling one. My guess is that kids who are truly "addicted" to this sort of activity are lacking something else in their life or within themselves that they are attempting to fulfill with this addiction. 

 

A child who is on the defensive, who has heard negative things about their game playing, who has had limits threatened in the past or present, who gets a clear message that the parent is wanting to impose something regarding game playing...well I don't think that child is going to readily look within themselves to see if they are truly happy, or admit to having a problem. So removing all limits and cutting out the negative remarks is not, in my opinion, giving in. Instead it's providing an emotionally safe place (i.e. removing any defensiveness on the part of the child) so that meaningful dialogue can happen. During which, hopefully, the child may come to recognize themselves that there is a problem, and be able to ask for help and guidance from the parent. 

 

Everybody has different ideas about what constitutes "too much" screen time. Some parents would think 3 hours a day is far too much. My kids can easily play 3 or more hours of video games on some days. So I can see a situation where, to the parent, it seems that it's all the kid wants to do but to the child they are happy and feel they have a good balance. I think that really needs to be respected. If the child is truly happy and content with their life then I don't think it's right to insist that there must be something wrong (this is a more extreme version of telling a child they must put on a sweater when they insist they are comfortably warm without one). On the other hand, if it is a problem I think the only way a child is really going to be able to recognize that within themselves and be a willing participant in change is if they are not put on the defensive.

 

So I guess my answer (suggestion) is: if you really think it's a problem I would try to foster an emotionally safe place for the child first. maybe show an interest in what the child is doing, learn something about the video games they like, take some time to share it with them. then, when the child is trusting that there is no "ulterior motive" perhaps then they can engage in an honest conversation about their game playing and how it may be affecting them, and what they could do about it with your help and guidance. 

post #4 of 143
Thread Starter 

Aeres, you seem to have chosen your side of that coin, so I'm not certain it applies here, but thanks for the input.

 

Piglet, your children may very well be, dare I say it, just a different ball a wax. And maybe I'm a different ball a wax, but your totally-void-of-any-judgment little play there sounds like something only attainable for those who are naturally inclined or those who are crazy enough to risk a whole lotta time and intention and patience. In the real world in which I live, this shit just comes out, like it or not and I'm not about to pretend that I don't have feelings or doubts in order to give the illusion that everything we do is free of implication. That just is not the world in which I live. I'm sorry. Despite my urge to let my children always know that they are loved and appreciated unconditionally, no, there is no possible way in which I can actually achieve that every second of every day enough to be okay with the constant gameplay or for them to otherwise believe that I am. The only way I can imagine that they would never perceive an iota of judgment from me (or I from them, for that matter) would be if we failed to interact much. That might very well be the case if we had a television with a game system or four computers that computed equally as opposed to the measely three of variant memory and video card-age. As it stands, no, we send and receive messages and they are mixed because we are real, flawed human beings. I cannot fathom an instance in which no conflict would ever arise about it. We all have conflicting needs and desires. I would very much like to find a way for this to not be true, but I'm not sure that it is so.

 

Regardless, it may not be that my children are actually "addicted." What I think that it is, and what I think a lot of gaming amongst children is, is easy entertainment. Same as anything else we do like that: television, facebook, etc. There's an element of interaction and challenge, yes, but it also prevents boredom simply and plainly. There is enough challenge to hold one's curiosity, enough variety for the same, and enough stimulation to keep it going for ages and ages. The problem, I think, is that we're talking about developing minds. There needs to be, I believe, a little more in the way of input there. The transitions are where we're facing the most struggle - when we have an appointment, or an outing, or an errand, or someone else needs to make use of the computer. At these times, because, I think, of the lack of structure around it, there is an immense push-back. And there has to be a more clear way of approaching that. Warnings in advance never did either of my children any good as it just made the last minutes fraught with stress. We did have a family meeting about it tonight, though, and I think that we can move forward with more clarity therefor.

 

I do wish, however, that these ideals had clearer methods of implementation than what I believe is actually provided. Mostly we talk things out, and apologize for the freak-outs that happen now and then. It just seems we never get to a good place of stasis in which I can see whether or not any of it's working. As it is, our life is full of stress, so there is just no getting it even close to perfect. I just wish we could get it closer to good enough.

post #5 of 143

Random thoughts:

 

I don't believe a parent has to be perfect and unconditional every minute of every day. I'd love to be this way, but I'm not, and I don't think I should be punishing myself. I strive for it, do my best, but I don't fake it. I'm unconditional for most of each day, for most of the days--I do my best. 

 

It helps me to think about life as being in phases. My kids are currently in the screen-phase. I know from experience that the warmer weather, any time now, will bring a totally different phase.

 

Hmm, I thought I'd have more thoughts, but I don't.

 



 

post #6 of 143

Oh AnnaK, I feel you sister. While I *get* the perspective I should have (they are happy, they are in control of their destiny, I have total trust in their choices) I have struggled with it many a time in regards to screens. I have been known to suit up for a walk and leave with a snide "well, I'm going out for some air!" and leaving them feeling guilty for loving their games more than air.  I have referred to it as "those F-ing video games!!" on more than one occasion. My son will apologise for playing all day and I feel lower than dirt for creating that idea in him. And for each of these moments I have apologised later, I have explained how it is all my sh*t, not theirs, and I need to work on it, I am working on it, I'm so so sorry. of course you can go play your games.

 

So I've ben going for walks lately, to gather myself and think about my perspectives. And one perspective continues to drift into my head. Too often I hear authoritarian parents say "I AM the parent" and I cringe at that, at parenting actions that are so contrary to how I think children should be respected and valued as people. And yet, I find myself thinking 'but they have a mama for a reason'. Yes they know best if they want to wear a coat outside, and I have no desire to force that upon them. But my experience as an adult is that our island weather is very unpredictable from hour to hour, and they may realise they need a coat later on, so I will grab one on the way out. i do not aim to 'teach them a lesson' by being cold and unhappy, with no way out, but to give them the support they need when they need it.

 

IMO, when my children, all three, immediately upon waking, turn on the dvd player and two computers, and can play for 4 hours before they note that they are hungry, that part of the day has already passed them by, and that we've not said two words to each other after my initial 'good morning', they need me to offer them a coat. We've done the 'they're in control thing' for years in regards to dvds and gaming, and while they'll comment (once in awhile) that they've used up the whole day gaming, and I've spent said day knitting, eating crap and surfing online, the pattern never changes. there has been no organic shift to more variety in their day, or mine. the habits become ingrained, and that is what keeps coming to me lately as I ponder our struggle.

 

just as I, if left to my own less-healthy choices, will eat junk and watch tv 12 hours a day, so too will the rest of my family. and sure, we may get bored of it, feel sluggish, and force ourselves (not them, us) to get offline and go out, it does not last, because as you said, turning on the screen is SO MUCH EASIER. So is eating chocolate and coffee for breakfast. making healthy choices takes time and intent, and to often my mental state lacks intent and needs the easy route.

 

So recently I'm trying on a slightly diff perspective. We aren't a family that suffers rules well. We all just forget what they are anyway and realise we've already broken them within a day. but we've talked about balance, and about how we NEED new experiences, we need to get out and see the world, and that my role is to help them (and they me) find that balance and keep it. don't misunderstand, as I type this two are gaming and one is watching max and ruby for the hundredth time. but they went to our park/gym meetup today, and helped me fold laundry, and made themselves way-cool snax, and came for a walk with me. I did not offer this, nor ask politely if they felt like it, I kindly stated that X needed to occur and which should we do first? I'm not repeating that to you as a tip, or advice. I know two mamas who's kids would balk at them if they tried to lead in such a way. that's just my kids, they are in agreement with doing a few X things before gaming, or looking at our day and seeing where gaming will fit in around our other goals. but we had to help them create those goals. when left on their own they never came up with anything they'd like to try or were interested in, other than gaming all day. It feels SO wrong to me that they ask me if they can game now each day. I didn't say they needed to ask, and I loathe being the gatekeeper, that is not the role I want in their lives. and they know it. but it has all been done in reference to what my role is as their mama. It's not healthy for me to knit all day, every day. I just did that for all of Feb. It is my nature to over-indulge and make anything self-destructive. We defnitly crossed what i feel is the lazy line. And knowing this about myself i need to find the resolve to switch it up. ditto for them. gaming every morning, and all day is their habit, and after over a year of it, and they see no way out. that's what habits are. so I'm thinking that that is why they have me, to help them see a way out, see a world that includes gaming, but also includes more.

 

your kids are not mine, nor you I, but I feel like we're swimming in this same murky pool, and recently I feel like I can find a better place to be, for all of us, but it is taking a huge amount of work, intent and mental effort on my part and dh's. the other way is super easy, but it feels really wrong for us, and we think we need to listen to that. now they do more, are interested in more. they know gaming will not be denied, it can be fit into each day, but that there is room and time to follow my ideas a bit first (or second, depending on the day). like I said in that other thread, I did not enjoy or learn from being in school, but I am starting to see the benefit of being somewhat forced to shift my focus for X hours a day. i still power down and knit and surf, but I need to force myself to do other things too, and i think they need me for that also.

 

Whaddaya think of that?

post #7 of 143
Thread Starter 

Yes. Again, we are in agreement. We joined a homeschooling co-op recently and have some other things that I want us to accomplish and that I think the children are down with. Dh and I also talked about it a bit. And we had the family meeting too. I think doing family meetings - and we also have an allowance, which our only caveat for receiving is that they are active participants in family life to partake in the family money - is going to help us a lot. And of course summer will change most of it. But I'm with you. There is a difference, I think, between being authoritative and authoritarian. I wish these lines were more often discussed though. I think mostly folks just choose a side, but it seems a whole lotta folks have trouble letting completely go of input without judgment. I think there can be a way to navigate it that makes more sense and is based on studied reality as opposed to theory.

 

I'm with you though.

post #8 of 143
Quote:

Originally Posted by annakiss View Post

 

I wish these lines were more often discussed though. I think mostly folks just choose a side, but it seems a whole lotta folks have trouble letting completely go of input without judgment. I think there can be a way to navigate it that makes more sense and is based on studied reality as opposed to theory.

 

 


YES!

 

post #9 of 143

Sorry, I must have either not gotten the point of your concern or something, i thought you were looking for other opinions on unschooling. Of course I have made my decision, but it sounds like you are unsure if the path your family is on is the right choice. I was just offering another option. *shrug*

post #10 of 143

If you fail to parent your kids, you are probably just lazy or have emotional issues keeping you from it or just seriously lack skills. Allowing your children to play video games all day every day falls in to this catagory. It you simply do not have a curriculum for everything and drive the kids to the library, science museums, tell them to play outside, let them do science experiments inside, get them knitting lessons when they ask, etc etc etc, I would call that unschooling. My children would LOVE to sit around all day playing video games. It is a pain to have to deal with not allowing them to. All my children have tried many things through the years, from knitting to robotics to biology class to wilderness survival to creating fairy houses with the sticks outside, etc etc etc. I actually don't completely unschool, but I only use textbooks for math really. I buy my children fun journals to write in. Today, my 6 yr old kept asking for school work and I said "why don't we do science?" and he said "that is not school work! That is just fun time!" THAT is exactly what I wanted to hear! My children are all ahead in science and history, at least, way ahead of their public school counterparts. Anyway, I can guarantee if I just let him play video games all day, that is what he would be doing. But I do not. None of them get to.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by annakiss View Post

If my children want to play video games all day, when do I cross the line of fostering dependencies? When does it cease to be allowing for autonomy and actively encouraging addiction? It sounds like everyone wants to stake a claim on one side or the other, but is there some middle ground? Because after awhile, I want us to do something else. I want to see others discoveries happening. And it's always a freaking fight. And that sucks. I don't want to fight.

 

When is it that I've not just given them autonomy but actually given up any authority? I don't mean authority over them. I mean authority of someone who has been in this world and knows a little bit about it. When have I given up their acceptance of me as decently wise and given into their acceptance of themselves as autonomous to the point of not needing to listen and not needing to participate?

 

Does anyone have an answer to this? Because I think this is at the root of a lot of the arguments that happen. I need to know how to measure it. I don't want to just accept that it will work itself out either by giving complete free reign or by becoming authoritarian. How can I be authoritative without being authoritarian? I mean honestly, this is a huge problem in my life.

 

 

 



 

post #11 of 143

I'm not really addressing the OP, because it's about lazy parenting, which I'm certainly sometimes guilty of, vs. radical unschooling, which we don't do. I'm coming from the tangent of video games.

 

Both my boys have been really into videogames. I never even thought about worrying about it with ds1, because he was always willing to drop the game (maybe finish a level of find a save point first) when something else came along. A buddy comes by and wants to play Frisbee? The Xbox gets turned off. His other friend calls and and asks if he wants to come up and jam? The Wii gets turned off. DS1 liked/likes videogames, but he's also very fully engaged in life outside the videogame.

 

DS2 worries me a little more. He plays a few online games, and loves to watch ds1 play his Xbox/Wii/Playstation games (ds2 doesn't really play those yet). But, there are times - quite often - when pulling him off the games is a major effort, even if it's to do something he really, really wants to do. This is typical of ds2, and some of his quirks, but it does concern me. I have no interest in seeing one aspect of his life, be it videogames or something else, take over everything else. It concerns me more with videogames than it might with other things (bike riding or solving puzzles or whatever), because he gets no exercise or contact with anything outside the screen. But, it would worry me with other things, too.

 

I guess, going back to the OP, one of the differences between radical unschooling and lazy parenting is that radical unschooling is about exposing our children to a wide variety of stimuli and experiences, so they can make their own choices from the big buffet table of life, whereas lazy parenting is about getting them out of our hair, so we don't have to be bothered.

 

I'm a lazy, relaxed-eclectic homeschooler, so I still haven't figured out where the heck I fit into any of it...

post #12 of 143

How old are your kids? You have to pay for the electricity that runs the games, the internet that connects them, the machine they play on, etc. Perhaps you should tell them that they are more than welcome to continue to play games - but that you're not going to pay for that screen time anymore, they need to earn that screen time, either with actual money if they are old enough to get jobs, or with chits or tokens that they can earn around the house if not. When they're paying for it themselves and having to tangibly give up other things to get screen time they might reprioritize. Or they might not. But at least they are putting in an active effort to get the screen time.

 

 

post #13 of 143

All day every day for months and months, or all day every day until they beat a new game, or all day every day for a couple days a week, or just occasionally all day?  The problem with the long term constant playing is that it can be a sign that video games are being used to escape from things that aren't video games. It's not actually normal for a person who has the option to play videogames all day long to keep doing so.

 

Are they missing out on responsibilities and opportunities to play the video games? If so, you need to sit down with them and make them come up with a way to fix that situation. If they don't come up with anything, you can suggest getting rid of all video games and they suddenly have great ideas.

 

Do they have games without save options? If they do, make them sell those games and get games that can be paused. Game manufacturers who create games that can't be paused don't deserve any one's money.

 

 

post #14 of 143

Is it OK for someone who just has unschooly tendencies to reply?

 

I think video games are like candy. They're designed to subvert your brain's wiring and not be able to be self-limiting. I read a really interesting article on the way they set the number of points to level up, and how they try to make them as addictive as possible. And I think video games are about the only thing they can do all day that will prevent them from learning. Imagine a kid out in the woods for 14 hours a day. How much would they learn about so many different things! Or a child playing with lego all day, or cooking all day. And then, because those activities are not so addictive, they'd move on to something else where they can learn things.

 

I think there are some things, like alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, computer games and very very fatty and sugary foods, where the brain tends towards addiction, not moderation or binging and then satiation. And I think that an adult needs to help teenaged (underdeveloped) brains from falling into those addictions.

post #15 of 143

People can binge drink and then never drink more than moderation. People can gorge on candy, or bacon and then only have reasonable amounts. Some people can smoke a few packs in a time of stress, and then only ever have 1 or 2 cigarettes a month when they go out to clubs.

 

Doing a lot of something <> an addition to something.

 

A good rule of thumb for addition with screen media is "are you still having fun?"

post #16 of 143

I totally understand how difficult it can be to limit game play.  But this:  http://www.amenclinics.com/blog/tag/video-games/  is why I limit video games to an hour a day or less.  Video gaming is different from other types of activities because it is potentially unhealthy and addictive, so I don't view it like I would other types of play.  I view it the same way that I view eating sugary foods or any other pleasurable but potentially toxic and addictive activity.

 

post #17 of 143

I do limit things like video games, because I know that I, myself, have a hard time limiting things that aren't necessarily good for me. To me, gaming is a lot like sugar. I crave it and it's really hard to say no. The more I eat, the more I crave. For my ds, computer games are the same. The more he plays, the more obsessed he gets, the more he wants to play. The more he plays, the less room he has to think about anything else. Boredom with one game leads him to crave a new more exciting game (just like when I get tired of Snickers, I move on to Mars lol). I struggle hard with my cravings for food - it is really, really difficult to fight it. I don't expect my 10 year old to have the strength to tell himself 'hmmm, this isn't good for me right now. I think I need to take a break'.

 

As with everything, there is no one rule that applies to all children. With my dd, there would be no problem having her self-regulate on screen time. After awhile she simply gets bored and moves on to something else. Not so my ds. Now, if we're talking chocolate, it's the reverse. My dd would never stop eating the sugar, and my ds probably would. I think with any homeschooling question, it's less about the philosophy and more about the specific child. What does YOUR child need at THIS moment? It's not the same for every kid. No other parent can tell you what to do. No philosophy or book is going to tell you the right answer. I think that homeschooling, or unschooling, or whatever, is about responding to your child's needs and interests at any given time - changing things up as needed and not worrying about whether or not it fits in with your philosophy. Right now, my family is in flux. My kids are bored, restless and lethargic all at the same time. I'm not sure yet what to do about it, but I'm wading through the uncertainty, trying new things and hoping that it's just spring fever and that soon they'll be engaged again.

post #18 of 143


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post

People can binge drink and then never drink more than moderation. People can gorge on candy, or bacon and then only have reasonable amounts. Some people can smoke a few packs in a time of stress, and then only ever have 1 or 2 cigarettes a month when they go out to clubs.

 

Doing a lot of something <> an addition to something.

 

A good rule of thumb for addition with screen media is "are you still having fun?"



But you would agree that there are people who can never or almost never stop at just one or two drinks, and those people need to have an external limit placed on them wrt drinking? I rarely have to limit my (very young) children's screen time because they mostly self regulate and I don't give them access to highly addictive games. And my oldest is the sort of person who'll spontaneously read a textbook for fun. But I have turned off the computer and told them to go outside, and will continue to do so as they get older and the games get more addictive. I don't view that as unbearably coercive or stifling of their free expression. Just like I get off the internet or put my book down several hours earlier on nights when my husband is home and he prods me to go to bed.

 

But, like I said before, I only lean unschooly, so my views may not be relative.

post #19 of 143


http://thenewunschooler.blogspot.com/2007/11/unschoolers-on-video-games.html

Here's a collection of links to real world experiences with removing limits on video games.

 

http://joyfullyrejoycing.com/influencing%20kid%20behavior/tv%20and%20video%20games/argumentsagainsttv.html

here's an article looking at TV watching

 

I'd love to know if that study above was done on kids who usually played video games for fun or kids who played to alleviate stress.  Even for totally innocuous stuff like reading a book or eating a carrot, I can tell a difference in how my mind feels when I'm doing those things in and of their own right, and when I'm doing them to control my feelings.

post #20 of 143
Quote:
Originally Posted by Delicateflower View Post


 



But you would agree that there are people who can never or almost never stop at just one or two drinks, and those people need to have an external limit placed on them wrt drinking? I rarely have to limit my (very young) children's screen time because they mostly self regulate and I don't give them access to highly addictive games. And my oldest is the sort of person who'll spontaneously read a textbook for fun. But I have turned off the computer and told them to go outside, and will continue to do so as they get older and the games get more addictive. I don't view that as unbearably coercive or stifling of their free expression. Just like I get off the internet or put my book down several hours earlier on nights when my husband is home and he prods me to go to bed.

 

But, like I said before, I only lean unschooly, so my views may not be relative.


Absolutely there are people who can't regulate, and there are also reasons to step in and figure out what's behind temporary increases in a single activity, particularly harmful ones like alcohol consumption. But just doing those things in excess isn't in and of itself proof of  a problem. And other people having trouble regulating those things isn't a reason for everyone to put limits on those things, which is what I thought was being implied by equating all those addicting activities.

 

Sorry somehow completely missed the last bit of your post.

 

Encouraging kids to do other things because the other things are fun isn't limiting video games/TV. Encouraging kids to do something else just to do something else is limiting video games/TV. Since you treat your kids the same way your dh and you treat each other, you're probably not limiting them in any way that will create "forbidden fruite" tendencies. =D

 


Edited by sapphire_chan - 3/23/11 at 10:14pm
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