One of the things that Lee and I talked briefly about is the difference between parenting at home, and parenting at Grandma’s house with cousins all around.
For one, our children watch more TV, play on the computer more, and play video games. They’ve done more of these activities in a week than they normally do in several months. Assuming there is no bad content, is this activity change a bad thing?
We have also noticed that we don’t interact with our children as much. This might be because the children are more occupied, but it also might be because we’re more preoccupied. Maybe it’s a little of both. David and Bethel are playing with their cousins outside or up in the attic playroom most of the time. The children (except Laurel) eat with the other young children, and we eat in the dining room. Consequently, there are far fewer opportunities to obey or disobey. That’s not exactly true with Laurel, who is one. She isn’t quite able to play with Stephen (age 2) without frequent conflict, so we do have to watch her more carefully.
Now, we do direct them all as parents. We have to direct them to get ready in the morning. We intervene when there is a sharing dispute. We help Laurel “come” when she is called. We help David go to sleep, although usually he’s ready to drop by the time the cousins go to sleep (and because all the older cousins sleep in the playroom it doesn’t make sense to put him to bed earlier). Taking naps is very hard for David, since he needs them here, and his cousins don’t. Bethel’s biggest struggle is when she has a conflict with Stephen or Laurel, but other than that, she plays on her own or follows her older cousins around (and they’re remarkably sweet and patient with a youngun tagging along). Laurel’s biggest struggle is her desire to take books off the bookshelves here. I haven’t done much except take them away (and I haven’t made it clear that she shouldn’t be taking them out), so maybe I should be dealing with this better.
For the older children, the discipline of choice here is separation from the cousins or the activity, and it seems to be quite effective. Just now Bethel pushed Laurel away when Laurel tried to take a bike away, and so I had Bethel sit on the couch while Laurel played with the bike. David became angry with Jon because he wouldn’t let Tommy play a video game, and as a consequence he was not allowed to be in the playroom watching them play video games.
I’ll have to think a little more. I’d really like to turn the parenting role off, and that’s probably not a good thing. But I think it’s okay to parent less. The question to think and pray about is knowing the difference.
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