We have probably all heard a lot of snippets, articles and advice regarding screen time. For many families, the choice of ‘how much, at what age/stage, and how to engage’ with screens is a very personal one. And as we engage this conversation screen time this month, I am wary of what I heard someone recently say: “the quickest way to pick a fight, is to give a parent advice on how they should raise their child(ren)”.
Truth is, a lot of us are already feeling a tad bit inadequate in our parenting knowledge/approach and output.. and hearing one more person tell us how our particular parenting approach is going to cause our children ADHD, Social Anxiety, Aggressive tendencies, or sociopathic qualities etc.. does not exactly encourage us in this journey. We all just end up skittish, fearful, ticked off and defensive.
It’s unfortunate that parenting decisions can divide us like this especially as believers.
It reminds me, before kids I used to see this wonderful mommy-group bible-study at my church that would gather around the fire place in the church lounge. I’d see them talking and eating rice krispie squares together and I’d think, “Wow! how blissful! How wonderful to have that bond of motherhood binding them together! When I’m a mom, I am going to join the “mom” bible study and be a part of this sisterhood of parents.”
That was a few years ago and the group has long since dispersed. But I was talking to one of the ladies the other day and inquired about that seemingly blissful rice krispie sisterhood of moms that I used to see.
“Hey what ever happened to your mom-bible-study group? It always looked like you were so close.”
The lady snorted,
“Ahh yes. That infamous mom-bible-study. What a disaster”.
She proceeded to fill me in on underbelly of that seemingly bonded group. She said that the group died out because in the end there were so many arguments, prejudices and snide comments made about other people’s parenting. They all went home each week so offended by each other that they decided to pull the plug.
Ouch. All I could think of was how unfortunate (and seemingly unnecessary) that outcome seemed.
Parenting approaches are super personal; There is always a spectrum of choices. And its so sad when believers are divided in Spirit because of secondary/debatable issues. Its important and so good for us to learn from each other. But at the end of the day, the only way we will be brave enough to keep doing this is if we know that sharing is happening in Love, which didn’t seem to be happening. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:2 “[Even if I] can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing”.
So we realize that discussing ‘Screen time’ is about as sensitive in the parenting-boxing-ring as cloth diapers, refined sugar, and how many Easter presents did you buy your child. But I think we have the capacity to share our experiences and insights into these topics graciously, if we do so from a place of love. While recognizing, that Christ forms us and leads us differently at different times. The more advice we hear swirling around, the more tempted we are to develop our own parenting law and wear it like bullet-proof armour (so that no one can pierce us with accusations of sub-par parenting).
But maybe God doesn’t want us wearing more armour.
Maybe in order to live in intimacy and authenticity with each other we need less armour, and more honor.
Honor for the journey; Honour for our fellow travellers; And honour towards the work of the Holy Spirit guides us into Christlikeness in His time.
As we process screen time and making healthy choices for our families, maybe his leading will surprise us. Maybe He’ll say something like the following to you this week:
“Put the TV on for the kids and come have a coffee in the kitchen with me. You need to rest”
“Why don’t you delete that app on your phone for now? It isn’t helping your mental/emotional space space this week”
“You could consider this other app, it will feed your mind with good and fruitful information”
“Why don’t we take the TV out of his bedroom? He seems tired and weary lately, it might be affecting his sleep”
“I know you want to finish that project for work, but why don’t you watch a show with your family for 40 min, you guys need this time with each other”
May our journey together of healthy parenting be Spirit led and shared in gentleness.
And may we continue to open our hands with our parenting choices and screen time.
“What are You asking of me Lord? This week? This day? This hour?”
His voice may surprise us.