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Discipleship in the Digital Age: Helping our Family and Kids Navigate Screen Time

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By Nick Clifton, KPA Director of Student Development

It was during the early morning hours of March 20, 2014 that I realized my life had changed forever. On that morning, my first child, my daughter, entered into this world and stole my heart. On that morning, I realized that I was now undertaking the most difficult, terrifying, and rewarding journey I would ever take – the journey of receiving a child as a precious gift from God with Him expecting that we love and disciple this beautiful soul in a way that would allow heaven to come that much closer to earth through her. What a blessing!

Unfortunately, I quickly realized that our culture and society has placed an incredible obstacle in front of us as families that quite often places itself right in the middle of the that road of discipleship that we are traveling on. This obstacle, as you might have guessed from the title, is the screen. Where a fireplace and hearth was once the gathering place of fellowship, family, and discussion for the family unit has now been replaced by the TV, laptop, iPad, smartphone, or really any other item that can place media and entertainment at our fingertips.

To add a little perspective, the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that:

  • Kids under age 6 watch an average of about 2 hours of screen media a day, primarily TV and videos or DVDs.
  • Kids and teens 8 to 18 years spend nearly 4 hours a day in front of a TV screen almost 3 additional hours on the computer (outside of schoolwork) and playing video games.
  • Counting all media outlets, 8 – 18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day.

Many parents will tell you there is something about a screen that acts almost as a digital pacifier for children – turn on a screen and they turn into zombies. I will never forget the day I witnessed this very event in my own house. I came home from work to my wife playing with blocks with our oldest daughter in the living room, and turned on the TV to watch the news. The second the screen came on, my daughter was completely torn away from her mother’s play and turned to the bright colors and interesting sounds coming out of our TV. I watched as her eyes glazed over and the mesmerizing hold of the screen took control. It was then I understood the temptation that faces so many of us as parents to place our children in front of a screen – it can give us some much needed quiet time! Unfortunately, the payment for this digital babysitter is far too steep and, frankly, just not worth it in the end. Read More

Establishing Your Family’s Best Routine

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Figuring out a routine that works best for your family starts with establishing anchors in your day. Anchors are your priorities. The stuff you need to function daily. Things like, food, sleep, clothes, time together, and for our family, we need time with Jesus. When the speed of life increases, these anchors are the handle bars that keep us balanced.

What do your daily anchors look like?

“A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

It’s proof Benjamin Franklin had kids when he coined the phrase, ‘A place for everything, and everything in its place’. There is nothing more frustrating than your child releasing the flood gates of tears, theatrically throwing themselves to the floor in the rush out the door, and declaring despondently, “Someone stole my shoes!!”

No one stole her shoes.

The child just didn’t put them away. Where is ‘away’ for your kids?

We need to ‘grab and go’ so often, that easy access to the front or back door became our logical spot for a basket for shoes, coat hangers, backpacks, purse, and keys. Establishing a ‘grab and go’ spot recaptures moments of your day, prevents stress, and reserves energy that helps you make it to the end of your day without the two finger salute and premature mic drop to your husband and kids, saying “mom out.” Read More

Grandparents make kids smarter

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Emotionally smart kids grow into successful adults, and the grandparent connection plays a key role in this development.  Emotional intelligence (EQ) is different from cognitive intelligence (IQ) and is an area where we can grow. EQ relates to our ability to understand and control our own emotions and understand and relate to the emotions of others. Emotionally smart kids can successfully manage difficult situations, express themselves clearly, gain respect from others, influence others, get things done, and they have positive self-esteem.  Growing up in homes that encourage emotional growth helps children respect themselves and others.  They are emotionally stronger and better able to face the world.  Grandparents give this gift to grandchildren.

Let me share a story my mother told me about her grandmother:

When I was little, we loved going to visit our Mamma. It was always an adventure. All the cousins would come over and we’d run around all day long. We would eat candy and drink pickle juice straight from the jar. If you wanted something to eat, Mamma would make it. We created the most amazing games including a version of flashlight tag. We would turn off all the lights and chase each other, but we didn’t have flashlights so Mamma would let us roll up newspaper and light the end on fire. Read More

Intentional car ride conversations: Going beyond, “How was your day?”

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Last night as my kids were getting ready for their first day of school, the excitement around the house was palpable. Backpacks were packed, clothes were laid out, and school supplies were purchased and labeled. Although we will miss the carefree days of summer dearly, we thrive on routine in this house, and the routine of a new school year is always welcome (the early morning wake-ups? Not so much).

I’ll be honest, though. Sometimes the fresh start of the new school year is just as welcome as the routine, and one of the areas I need a fresh start this year is in how I interact with my kids on the drive to and from school.

I have heard from parents who are much wiser than I that this time in the car with my littles, while they are still little and before they are operating their own motor vehicles, is precious. And yet I feel that I squander it all too often. Maybe you can relate. So here are some ideas to make the most of these opportunities that your have with your kids in one of the most mundane environments while they are still your captive audience. Read More