“But, Dad, all the other kids…”
(And Knowing The Extremes Sets You Free To Use Your Best Parenting Judgment)
Does your kid ever tell you that you’re extreme or unfair?
Mine do. Here’s a recent true example:
Amazing Child: Dad, can I have a soda?
Me: Yes, if you have the money.
Amazing Child: But I don’t have the money.
Me: (looking into space)
Amazing Child: Dad! You’re a health nut! You’re so extreme!
I used to think “Gosh, am I too extreme?” But I’ve changed my mind. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that it is actually our societal norms which are extreme. In this blog post I’m going to try to blow some of these ridiculous extremes into the open to give you (and me) support and perspective as a parent.
Ridiculous Screen Time
According to the Centers For Disease Control, children age 8-10 spend an average of 6 hours a day on screens using entertainment media–and for teenager aged 15-18, that amount has grown to 7 1/2 hours per day.
That’s entertainment media–they didn’t even count use of screens for homework!
Of course screens can be used for great stuff–but they are also associated with higher depression and anxiety, lower grades, and even hypertension and obesity.
7 1/2 hours of entertainment media a day? That is extreme–and extremely normal!
Even half of that time would be an immense amount of screen entertainment–with time left over each year for a kid to read 50 books, achieve moderate proficiency in a musical instrument over a year, and also exercise for an hour a day. Or even have innumerable long conversations or navel-gazing sessions.
The amount of time kids (and to be fair, parents) are spending on screen entertainment is extreme.
But not letting your kids sleep with their phone in their room–or saying, “Finish your homework before going on screen!”–or waiting an extra year to give a kid a phone? These are definitely not extreme! Even if your kid says, “But, Dad–all the other kids…”
According to the Washington Post, The United States ranks #1 in the world for daily sugar consumption, at 30 teaspoons per day–and kids are averaging over 20 teaspoons of added sugar–which is way over the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 3 teaspoons.
Sugar is delicious. Yum!
Sugar is also associated with diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay, and Medical News Today reports a growing prevalence of childhood obesity, prediabetes and diabetes. Yuck!
20 teaspoons of sugar for a 10–year old day in and day out? That is extreme–and extremely normal!
Telling your kids that if they want soda, they need to use their own money? Not bringing multiple desserts into the house? Definitely not extreme!
Ridiculous Student Loans
Here’s something extreme for those of us with college–bound teenagers.
Over 2 million recent college grads each owe over $100,000 in student loans. According to CNBC, 70% of college grads have “significant student loans”–and shockingly (at least to me) so do 80% of their parents! The New York Times says that the average student owes over $30,000–and the average parent owes even more, around $35,000. And our beloved New York City has this disturbing honor: student loan debt has grown faster here than any other city in America.
Did you ever ask your kid “if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it?”
Well, the cliff is very crowded!
Yes, I know that college is for more than getting a job–but an entire generation signing up for massive loans which will make getting a house, traveling, or quitting an unpleasant job all harder? That’s extreme–and extremely normal.
Thinking twice about going to the more expensive school? Applying to the University of Idaho (my alma mater) or City College (my sister’s) instead of a private school? Working summers? Not even close to extreme.
My kids may sometimes call me “extreme”–but I know I’m anything but. My kids have phones, paying for college will be a stretch and all options are on the table–and in the 5 minutes previous to writing these words, my 15-year-old daughter walked past me while eating a large bowl of ice cream.
Extreme? I’m not even close!
But I’m glad I am pushing back against normal, because normal is literally insane. Normal delivers bad emotional, health and financial results!
Recognizing this doesn’t solve my parenting challenges. For example, even if I think too much screen time is unhealthy, I still want to teach my kids to be in charge of their own screen time instead of trying to control them. That’s tricky!
But realizing that normal is crazy does help me to trust myself and to try to teach my kids to guide themselves.
It also gives me courage to reach out to other parents to see what they think and do about raising kids in a sometimes wacked–out world. And whenever I do that, I find out I’m not the only one worrying about these issues and trying to do my best and figure things out as I go. So are they.
So I guess that’s normal!
On To Greatness, In Parenting, Music and Life,
Founder, NYC Guitar School
Centers for Disease Control: entertainment screen time in kids https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dch/multimedia/infographics/getmoving.htm
CNN: effect of screen time on development
Medical News Today: diabetes and prediabetes in childhood
Science Daily: link between time and depression in adolescents
Washington Post sugar consumption
The New York Times: student loan and parent loan debt loads
Money Why Attending A Private College Might Not Be Worth It
Stanford University Study on Screen Time and Obesity
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