A couple weeks ago after feeling frustrated and concerned and increasingly infuriated by my kids’ behavior, I put a ban on technology.
We began a technology fast.
You can’t go too far these days without reading about diets or eating philosophies that promote intermittent fasting.
And current research shows that intermittent fasting is beneficial in a number of areas — weight loss, reducing inflammation, lowering your heart rate, improvements in insulin sensitivity, decreased risk of breast cancer — to name a few.
We are now about two weeks into our technology fast. And we went from a hard fast in the first few days where there was zero technology at all to where we are now — the intermittent fasting stage.
There are different philosophies on fasting with respect to eating.
For some people, intermittent fasting means eating only in a certain window of time every day. Like you have a four hour eating window and a twenty hour window where you don’t eat.
Other people do the 5:2 fast where you can eat what and when you want for five days and fast or seriously restrict what you eat on the other two days.
Our technology fast gives us windows of time during the day when technology is allowed.
This is the stage we will stay in for the duration of the summer.
And the rest of our lives.
I don’t think it’s realistic to put a ban on all technology.
But I think it’s healthy to put some pretty serious limitations on it.
Just as intermittent fasting with food is proving to be beneficial for your health, intermittent technology fasting is proving to be extremely beneficial for my kids’ behavior.
What has changed?
1) My kids are helping out around the house consistently. Without being asked, and without complaints.
The kids have always had responsibilities around the house. But I wasn’t doing a very good job of making sure everyone was contributing. Especially once school let out.
The day we started fasting, we came up with 20 jobs that needed to be done on a daily basis to keep the house from turning into a complete sh*t hole every day.
Then we decided we’d just rotate through them so nobody got stuck doing the same job and also so nobody could be accused of having “all the easy jobs.”
I filled in the names on the chart (I used their numbers in this one so you could see what it looks like), and I saved it on my computer so all I need to do is print out a new one each week. This also makes it easy to change/add/remove jobs if we find the chart needs to be revised.
For almost two weeks we’ve been doing this now.
The kids know the fasting window usually doesn’t open for technology use until after noon, and it definitely doesn’t open until all their contributions have been checked off.
And this has resulted in the kids getting up and getting right to work so they can get their jobs out of the way.
I don’t have to remind them and I don’t have to pester them. Like at all.
It’s crazy. Good crazy.
Sometimes the kids decide to work on their jobs together because they have learned that it’s either more enjoyable or quicker to do things this way.
Which brings me to the second point.
2. My kids are cooperating 1,000,000% better.
I haven’t done a scientific study on this.
But I believe when your kids are staring at a screen for multiple hours a day, when they aren’t exercising their brains, when they aren’t communicating with each other face-to-face, they literally fall out of practice.
Also, when you don’t have a device to occupy your time and you are left with no option but to interact with your siblings, you are kind of forced to find ways to get along. There is no silent place to retreat to where you can mindlessly entertain yourself.
3. My kids are playing together. A lot.
In the first three weeks of the summer, my kids played zero board games with each other. They played zero card games. They played just about zero anything with each other unless they were in the pool.
In the last two weeks they have played multiple games of Sorry. They have played Chutes and Ladders and checkers and Uno and Go Fish.
They bicker sometimes while they are playing, but for the most part, they just have fun, and the older kids often team up with the younger ones and play teams.
More cooperation and more teamwork!
4. They are reading more.
They aren’t reading to fill out a reading log. They aren’t reading to win a contest or a prize at school. They aren’t reading because I’ve forced them to.
They are reading simply for pleasure.
They have rediscovered a joy of reading.
And that’s the best thing they can do to keep their brains active and engaged.
Not a summer math packet or finishing a workbook they didn’t finish last year at school.
5. They are sleeping more.
Number 5, 6, and 7 are all sleeping on average at least 30 minutes later than they did when they knew they could use technology immediately upon waking up in the morning.
The more they sleep, the better behaved they are and the less meltdowns we have. So that’s a win-win.
A SERIOUS WIN-WIN.
6. They are working their creative muscles.
Last week Number 5 and 7 made this out of my yoga mat and yoga block:
They also fashioned their own hazmat suits and teamed up for one of the jobs on the contribution chart — emptying the litter box.
They made collages and had dance parties and decorated the doors to their rooms.
And today Number 4 died Number 5 and 7’s hair.
I didn’t get the best picture, but the girls love their purple tips!
(Done with the inside of a purple Crayola marker and a cup of water).
And there is one more benefit I’ve seen.
7. They are playing outside more.
Just like when I was a kid.
They are swimming and picking apples from our apple tree and playing catch and riding scooters and getting fresh air. Lots of it.
The older kids are also playing with the younger kids more, especially outside, because they don’t have the option of retreating to their rooms with an iPad whenever they want.
And maybe this increased time outside is a big part of the reason why the kids are sleeping later now that they have limited access to technology.
There is no doubt in my mind that the kids’ behavior and attitude is directly linked to technology use.
We are a different family now that we are intermittently fasting with technology.
And although it’s only been two weeks, I can’t really imagine life any other way now.