I am really struggling with my approach to raising my oldest ds, who is 9yo, right now. Things seem to be going more smoothly with his younger siblings, who are 7 and 4. I ask for help sometimes, trying to accept the answer of "no" if it comes. Occasionally, we have a real crisis, and my ds readily jumps in and helps in those situations. He also - very occasionally - puts away the dishes. I really appreciate that spontaneous help, and he is clearly proud to have helped. The vast majority of the time, he is happy to be waited on hand and foot, and complains bitterly about helping to clean up his room once per week. I have taken to bribing him constantly with, "you won't have your computer/DS/TV time until x happens" or "you can do your game time after lunch if you've gotten a,b, and c done in the morning." I hate that! That's not the parent I want to be!
He has more tantrums than his younger siblings. The other day, he started to melt down when I announced it was time to go to house-church (a weekly dinner with close friends at rotating houses). So, I told him he could stay home, make leftovers for his own dinner, and check in with my Dad (who lives in an attached apartment) if he needed anything. He did great!! He made his own dinner, talked with my dad, read, called me to see if he could watch a TV show on netflix, and was super happy and relieved to see us when we got home. He had even put all the clean dishes away. I was stunned. It seemed like giving him real responsibility yielded a natural response of maturity.
We are building a small farm and have lots of land and activity happening almost every day. There is a lot of opportunity for him to take responsibility. We are raising all our own meat, building fences and a barn, growing seedlings, planting gardens, attracting birds, pruning trees, beekeeping, blah blah blah. Most of the time, he will choose to be inside reading, playing, or staring at a screen.
I really wonder if I'm doing him a disservice by allowing him to miss out on how to run a life and farm. It doesn't help that I'm reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder to my daughter right now. I know it's a book, and has GOT to be sugar-coated a little, but those kids were busy helping every day! They were useful to their families and knew it. They were learning valuable skills and striving to be grown-up enough to handle serious things, like the training of animals.
Meanwhile, my ds can really only talk about Pokemon. Has meltdowns regularly pertaining to screen time. Will hurry through anything to get to screen time. I would be content to have video games in our life if they didn't seem to have a strangle-hold on my kid's brain.
Last week, ds decided he wanted to buy a $150 new DS gaming device. We understand why and think it's reasonable (unless I trash all screen activity!!!). He lacks $48 in funds to make this purchase. We've offered to pay him $7/hour to move leaves or mulch into the garden. He is physically capable of doing this. It takes him 6 minutes to do one load of leaves. He spent two days moping around complaining that he didn't want to do the work. Basically just waiting/hoping some magical $48 would be given to him. What!?! How is it that my kid is waiting for something to come on a platter? This must be my fault!?!
I am really at a loss. Part of me wants to screech our screen life to a halt and ditch all of it. I mean, isn't there a better use for his mind than pokemon, go-go's, and angry birds? I am so sick of it. I would like to have a curious, industrious boy around who was simultaneously pursuing some different things, possibly including videos and games during down-time.
He does enjoy reading, and I've seen him with several wonderful books lately. But what really occupies the center of his heart, mind, and body right now is gaming. That's really not ok with me.
Any advice wise mamas?