Opposites Attack

The opposite of red is not blue. The opposite of dog is not cat. The opposite of Dartmouth is not Colby. And the opposite of hyper-controlling authoritarian parents is not bourgeois-decadent, spoiled rotten, out of control, snotty-nosed, non-compliant kids who expect to make a lot of money in their first job out of college but want to express their individuality by not getting in to work before ten.

False dichotomies set up "choices" that are anything but: "If I don't force my son to do his homework, he will attend a second tier college, marry a woman living in a trailer, and develop a predilection for domestic vintages."

Nah. If homework compliance is a gut-churning, high-decibel, power and control debacle in your house, something is already seriously out of whack somewhere. To get your family back IN whack, you may wish to prepare the ground in which you wish your children to take root. First and foremost, you have to eliminate all the screens. Not just violent video games. Not just Internet pornography. Even smart phones are a nightmare. Especially smart phones.

Actual Opposite

And don't even tell me that your 12-year-old daughter needs a smart phone for communication, that you want to be able to get in touch with her. Liar, liar, pants on fire. If arranging the after school pick up were the issue, she would have a flip-phone not a smart phone. Communication via flip-phones about soccer practice functions just fine, thank you very much, without concomitant exposure to graphic videos that would make James Bond blush.

The research is unequivocal: Time on smart phones correlates with unhappiness. Let me repeat that. The more time adolescents spend connected to social media, the less happy they are. Here's the link to a million-dollar study out of San Diego State University confirming what all parents already knew in our hearts.

"But if I take away her smart phone, she will pitch a thermonuclear fit. There will not be peace in the home. Aren't you always writing about how important it is to get along with our kids?" Meh. Quintessential false dichotomy. It's not take away the phone OR have peace in your home. Both are possible. Indeed both are likely. But parents have to step up and do the hard work. Yes, she will be miserable short term without her smart phone. Long-range she would be more miserable with it. Her FOMO (fear of missing out) never abates. She thinks "one more text" will resolve all issues. In reality every communication begets Hydra-headed offspring. There is no "last text." Small wonder she has trouble focusing on her academics. Who wants to read Pride and Prejudice--a book of infinite subtlety--when what Stacey said to Mandy about what Tracey thought Andrea said about Katy is constantly available.

Your job as a parent is to make the tough calls. Expect excellence by severely limiting electronics. Expect happiness by doing the same. Because the opposite of high expectations is not sadness. To the contrary, high expectations mixed with love and limit setting makes for a happy home and successful, content children.

8 thoughts on “Opposites Attack

  1. Glenda Addington

    In my head I have know this is the truth, but I have not acted on that knowledge often enough.
    Why am I such a wimp?

    Reply
  2. silverstein maggie Maggie

    David, yes! I love your surety here. When my grandchildren were young I would have my hand out as they came in the door – cell phones on a shelf. A tiny strike, but good for me!

    Reply
  3. jon

    While we’re on the subject, I would like to know what Andrea said about Katy. I missed out on all this stuff in high school — all boys, no phones, much less cell phones. What did she say? -:)

    Reply
  4. David Lerman

    ….when what Stacey said to Mandy about what Tracey thought Andrea said about Katy. Ok, what did Stacey say NOW!!! I HAVE to know!!!

    One of your better ones. You left out the how… I suggest contacting your phone service provider to get the new dumb phone and have it activated at the same time you have the smart phone deactivated. Just leave the new phone. (should be same number) in their room. Don’t say anything about the change or why. Well maybe “things change, stuff happens, we all have to deal with adversity, I know you will do fine. Did you notice your room is a mess?”

    Reply
  5. Colleen F

    Perfect! Watch the Ben Carson story – awesome Mom who shuts off the Tube! Reward? Two great sons.

    Reply
  6. Jennifer Bruno

    I love this one! As a mom and a professional. Professionally, I’m a family mentor working with families with adolescents and young adults, and the struggle is REAL. The result I often see is that parents agreeing to their childs’ demand for more screen time is a quick fix for the already present imbalance of power in their family system. Or at least the fallacy of a “quick fix”. So, I love that you spoke to that and would love to hear more (I often pass along your blog posts to the families I’m working with) about maybe using the power of that exploding land mine (limiting screen time) to catalyze change in How To terms. As a parent of a two year old, I just have my fingers crossed and my eyes squeezed tight and wishing that We, The Parents clear this hurdle of oh-so-many screens before my kiddo hits double digits. Thanks for your writings!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*