I have been thinking about how we use technology in our house, especially the freedom the children have to decide for themselves. Since coming back from the Green Parent meet, and totally inspired by Radical Mama Claire, we have taken the (I thought at the time) drastic step of going fully autonomous. The three big areas of challenge for us were food, bedtime, and *gulp* technology.
What pushed me to make a change is less disatisfaction with how things were then just the niggling thought that it was a bit, well, hypocritical to keep insisting that my children are able to make decisions about how much to eat and when to eat, but not what. Thinking that my children can and should critically evaluate their own learning choices and play times, and yet not the influence of television. Feeling comfortable (and slightly self-congratulatory) saying that they sleep when tired and eat when hungry, but still occasionally battling over my insistance that they are tired and *must* go to bed...
Basically I think it is mostly about knowing your own child. Looking at them, and really thinking about what our motivation is for controlling certain aspects of their lives.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not going to go out buying sweets for them, but if there are sweets in the house why shouldn't they have as much right to decide to eat something unhealthy as I do? If we didn't own a TV for my own reasons, then fine, they would have no access to TV. They only have free choice in so far as the life I live, and when we are outside the house their options broaden slightly, but not dramatically (for example they may want KFC, but I'm not going to go there and they aren't old enough to take themselves, so it is basically tough luck). ;)
And we are still co-operative. My needs get met too. Once in the past fortnight this has meant that I have gone to bed, and they have been allowed to keep their light on and play in their room saying "we're not tired", and at silly o'clock, Martin found them both asleep with the lights on. Sometimes that has meant that there is still a no to an activity - but the emotional difference for me is that suddenly their desire to paint has been equal alongside my desire to leave the house on time, and I have only made the final call because we cannot agree and I know we will all be disappointed later if we missed this particular trip. Rather than the previous, "I'm the grown up so I decide what is best for you". I actually am suddenly shocked at how often my decision making has come down to that recently!
The biggest one to some of you will be the TV, I'm sure. And I want to report, after a couple of weeks, it really hasn't been. No battle ground, no upsets, no struggle to find a compromise.
I have learnt that my children are SO able to take everyone's needs into account. I have learnt that their skills of self-regulation are astounding. I have learnt that the things I thought I needed were actually just imposed on top of my own belief in trusting my children. I have learnt that Jenna in particular is astonishingly able to critically evaluate advertising, and can articulate why many programs are "rubbish" and not worth watching, and that junk food is often only tempting when it has the lure of the forbidden. She prefers watching an hour of ballet in the afternoon to hours of junk-food cartoons in the morning. And emptying the washing machine is apparently still more fun than any TV option.
My only concern so far is that one day last week Jenna came downstairs, put the computer on, loaded the internet, played on her favorite maths games, typed in the URL for another site she regularly uses that isn't in our favorites, and checked her friends' blogs! HOW ON EARTH does she know how to do all that??! Now knowing that I trust her and DON'T trust the scary huge world of the internet, I have been forced to put a password entry on the PC... I am somewhere between proud and scared that she was just that capable - though it certainly reaffirms that she *can* read far more than she currently chooses to let on to me...