The first time our family played the new, electronic Monopoly game was a little disappointing. I could explain the game practically from memory; after all, I cut my teeth on Chance and Community Chest cards! For the first couple of trips around the board, I felt like this was a completely different game – the credit card, the electronic banker…it wasn’t like I remembered it at all. I was really looking forward to ‘teaching’ my kids, and I just felt like we were all learning together.
There are times when I feel that same frustration as a parent. Every time I feel confident in one area, the whole game seems to change. As fast as things change, it would be easy to stay on a hamster wheel, barely keeping up, and never getting ahead. How about you? Have you been there? Are you there now?
If you could stop…and regroup…and breathe…it may help to see things another way.
‘The Game’ has not changed. The object of The Game is to raise independent, responsible, productive members of society. The strategy? Teach them responsibility. Set boundaries, and insist they respect them. Love them. Protect them. Make wise decisions for them, as you teach them to one day make wise decisions for themselves. Is that any different than what your parents did? No. Are you going to have to take a new approach? Are you kidding? We’ve got to be on our game, but we can do it. Let’s do a little ‘old school’ thinking, and see how those ‘old school’ rules apply to today’s Game:
Know their friends. Sure, that would be a lot easier if all of their friends lived in the neighborhood, hung out in your living room, or ended up as a surprise guest at dinner. You have to be a little more intentional than your parents were. You’re going to have to know where your kids are ‘hanging out’ – whether it’s social media, game sites, or other communities where they interact with others online. Just like those ‘extra’ kids in your living room, you want to know who is influencing your child. You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised at the choices they’ve made. And on the off chance a ‘bad egg’ gets in the mix, you’ll know early enough to act.
Be visible, but not ever-present. Many parents today think if they ‘popped in’ on their kids’ Facebook page or ‘friended’ a friend of their kid’s, or signed up for an account on the latest social platform, that they are somehow violating their teen’s privacy. No. No, you are not. You are doing what YOUR parents did to keep you safe – you are doing the 2015 version of letting your kids have some friends over, but popping in every once in a while with lemonade and cookies. And if your kids have a problem with that, then maybe they don’t need to have friends over. (Get my drift?) Trust me – if your kids (and their friends) know that you can pop in whenever you feel like it, they will watch their p’s and q’s.
Attach responsibilities to privileges. When we were growing up, we didn’t go anywhere unless our chores and homework were done. We had a curfew, and 1 minute past was late. Today is no different. Taking a teenager’s phone is the old school equivalent of taking the car keys. (I’m assuming that’s already in play if they’re driving.) Hear this: your teenager does not have to have a phone. You didn’t get a cell phone until you were 30 (the fact it wasn’t invented yet is beside the point.) You are living proof that teenagers can become adults without a cell phone. If their chores are not done, they’re on phone restriction. (In my house, that also means I take an Xbox cord to work with me.) You should also have a curfew. No electronics after X:00. If you wouldn’t want your kids staying up late, being out with friends, or going out meeting new people at 10:00 on a school night, then you’d better get those phones, tablets and laptops out of their rooms.
These are just a few examples of how our ‘old school’ rules still apply to these young whippersnappers. Use these examples and think about some other challenges you face. Consider what they are doing online, and ask yourself if you would let that happen at this time of day, with those people, in that environment, if it were happening in your living room. If you would put a stop to it in your living room, you should stop it online. Hopefully that helps you translate these ‘new rules’ into the ‘old school’ game you remember.