I’ll never forget the time my preschooler asked me something that sent me into a cold sweat. (No, it wasn’t about the birds and the bees, but that would’ve been a piece of cake by comparison.)
“Mommy, why don’t I have an iPad like all my friends do?” What had started as a light-hearted moment walking to our car suddenly felt like a treacherous trek through hidden landmines. As I took my son by the hand, I began to stammer and stutter. “Well… you see… I think—it’s not about—It’s…Wait, wha? All your friends? Are you telling me all your friends have iPads? Surely not all of them…”
He replied by ticking off a list of names of people who he was “for sure” had their own devices. To be fair, we had seen quite a few kids with their little noses in iPads.
My husband and I had discussed the potential dangers of technology and had decided expensive toys should be avoided as long as possible. We agreed but hadn’t thought about how to convey that to our kids. I mean how do you explain all that to a 5-year-old without making the iPad seem like some type of forbidden fruit that he will then covet for every birthday and Christmas for the next 10 years.
“Can I get one now?
Can I get one now?
How about now?”
That old trick had worked on my parents when I was a kid and desperately “needed" a new puppy. As I pulled the minivan out of the school parking lot, a lightning bolt of inspiration hit me.
“Every family has priorities!" I sputtered out to his saucer-like eyes. "Priorities are a fancy way of saying you get to decide what are the most important things in your family. Your dad and I have priorities for this family. Can you think what they might be?”
After a few random answers, he threw out the word "prayer." BINGO! “That’s right! Dad and I put God first in our family. We think God is very important, so we pray a lot. Then comes our marriage. And then comes you and your brother and sister. And then our friends, and extended family… but technology—things like iPads and shiny new computers, or phones are lower on our list of important things. We have them, but they’re less important.
We order our priorities and that helps us make good decisions every day. When you get old enough and live on your own, you will get to decide what the top priorities are in your family.
And our friends, the Smith family, they may have a different order to their priorities. What do you think theirs might be?” He quickly answered Hawaii. “That’s right, high on the Smith’s priority is travel. They’ve decided as a family that they will spend travel time together because Mr. Smith works a lot so they like to spend family time traveling.”
I was pleased as punch with my AMAZING answer!
Then, “so… no iPad, Mommy?”
While admittedly, my son has asked for all number of technological gadgets since then, I think something universally clicked for all of us that day. We have ordered priorities in our family. Regularly naming and discussing those priorities (in our family huddle) allows our family to make choices that support that order. That happily allows us to stay on mission and achieve our goals as a team.
Once we had set the parameters for our kids, they were (mostly) happy to operate within those boundaries. My kindergartener is now 13 and still no iPad or (gulp) iPhone and our priorities are ordered exactly as they were back then.
No big surprises in store for him.
It even helps me. That giant shiny SUV that costs a small fortune, but sure is swanky…it doesn’t align with our family’s priorities either.
Have you ordered your family’s priorities and discussed them with your kids?
Consider the things that you do most in your day-to-day life. Do those things match up with your ideas of what your priorities should be?
For instance, many people will rightly put their marriage at the top of the list, but how often do they nurture that vital relationship from which all of the other relationships in a family are fed? Do you go months without a date night or time alone? Then I would argue that your relationship is a lot lower in the priority list than you might think.
Nothing a little effort and time can’t fix.
If you put faith or God are at the top of your family’s priority list, would your kids be able to point that out?
Do you pray together regularly? Do you attend church weekly?
Do you volunteer to help the needy?
Once you’ve gone through your list and properly ordered them, try to reconcile action with importance.
I remind my kids that if we thought technology was a top priority, we would be the people who would stand in line for hours for the new iPhone, or pay boatloads of money for the latest gadget. But they know that’s not our family’s thing.
It’s so liberating that they understand our family’s identity from the get-go. This has even helped us understand and support families that are different from us. For instance, we have some friends who devote a lot of their time before and after school to a particular sport. They put a lot of effort into the sport because it means a lot to them.
Not us. That’s perfectly fine. Thank goodness, I said what I said way back when. It has made all the difference!
What do you think your kids would say are your family’s priorities?
Would yours match up with what they’re seeing?
Take time and order your family’s priorities today. A little time and a little order will make a huge impact.
If you’d like to avoid the technology trap in your family, check out our technology guide. It will put your kids’ day back in order and break them of device overload!
Mary Jo Gerd
Mary Jo traded in her media career interviewing celebrity actors and filmmakers for the more rewarding, albeit less glamorous vocation of full-time wife and mother. She hasn't looked back since. Well, maybe once or twice. She lives in Denver and enjoys blogging about family life and her reversion to the Catholic faith on lateforchurch.blog