Rhonda Jean, at Down to Earth, asks:
How are you raising your children to live simply in a techno-obsessed world? How are you, or did you, raise children who are happy without having everything their friends have?
Rhonda has hit on what is probably THE most important thing in my stage of life right now. As a mother to two girls (3 1/2-year-old Shira and 21-month-old Tehilla), I often struggle with finding gentle but firm ways to instill discipline. My goal is to raise considerate, kind, generous adults who love to learn, work, and interact with the word surrounding them in a healthy, vibrant way.
First off, children learn from example - not only outward, but inward. I need to be what I want them to become - gentle, cheerful, friendly, hardworking and creative. Otherwise, there is no hope I can ever artificially mold them into some ideal I have spun in my head but never lived upon. So first I am educating and disciplining the person who needs it most - myself.
Second, we strive to live gently, slowly and simply. The crazy pace of our world often doesn't allow parents to get their children to participate in day-to-day life, because they are so bent on doing everything as fast as possible - and little children do slow you down. Also, children are often shuttled off to too many activities to leave them any time for participating in simple life and simple chores.
My children, in particularly Shira, pick up their toys, gather eggs, help out in the kitchen, help sweep the front porch, do simple cleaning tasks (wipe the windows, etc) and hang up small items of laundry. Work is not a punishment - being allowed to participate in the adult life is a treat, an honorable badge of being a big girl and Mommy's helper. I'm not saying they do all the above with a 100%-success rate, but I do try to keep them involved on a consistent basis.
I would do all the work more effectively on my own - for now. But I know that some years down the road, I will be very glad for allowing my daughter to hang up her own underwear, taking about five minutes for each item.
Interaction with nature, plants and farm animals is important in building up character, too. It teaches responsibility and gentleness in such a wholesome, never-boring way. Seeds need to be watered regularly if you wish to get any results. Animals must be fed first thing in the morning. Chicks must be handled delicately. All of this creates a flow of learning which is only very slightly directed by us, as parents. This type of learning can be created in an urban setting as well; a herb garden in pots and an aquarium, for example, are great as a touch of nature.
If we have animals, plants, inexpensive crafts, satisfying kitchen work, stories and nature walks, we don't need many expensive toys and gadgets. My girls very rarely watch videos. When our development nurse suggests to "limit screen time for the baby", I give her a wild look. What screen time?? We are busy living life!