Q: My wife and I enjoy being connected with family, friends and favorites through various social media platforms. But it seems like the tech is starting to dominate our lives -- and even negatively impact our marriage. How do we keep things in balance?
Jim: Like so many areas of life, the simplest solution makes the most sense: You just need to take control. Make it a priority to manage technology instead of letting it manage you.
One way to do this is to draw up a household "mission statement" to govern your use of social media. I suggest you begin by asking yourself some basic questions, such as "What am I hoping to accomplish through [Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever]?" Sort these questions out with your spouse and write down your answers in the plainest possible terms. For example: "Use Facebook to stay in touch with Mom and Dad, my sister Jan, cousin Frank, and Bob and Jean" or "Follow these 10-15 individuals on Twitter." Then post those guidelines on the refrigerator and/or bathroom mirror and stick to them. Strategically limit your social media circles to your closest ties.
It's also important to set limits on the time you engage with social media -- and help each other stay accountable to those standards. Along those lines, you might find it beneficial to cut down the number of devices you're using to access your accounts.
Finally, give yourselves permission to set tech completely aside while you're doing more important things -- for example, a dinner date with your spouse or a household game night. Some families find it helpful to have a "No Tech Box" where phones and tablets can be laid aside voluntarily as a way of disconnecting for a while. You can probably come up with additional strategies of your own. Remember, you're in the driver's seat.
Q: I'm really struggling trying to teach my two-year-old to clean up after herself. She'll go into her sisters' room and trash it, then won't help with the mess unless I threaten to punish her -- or she only picks up a couple of things before getting distracted. Honestly, it's easier to just clean up myself. My older daughters complain about the unfairness of having to clean up when their little sister doesn't. What else can I do?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: One of the most challenging elements of raising a toddler is setting boundaries. It's a necessary lesson with lifelong application.
First, take time to validate your older daughters' concerns -- this IS frustrating. But they can be part of the solution by modeling good behavior for their little sister.
Begin by limiting her play areas to give her a sense of healthy limits. If she consistently trashes her sisters' room, make that place off-limits. Keep play spaces confined to her own room or a family room.
Within those "approved" areas, limit the number of toys she has access to at a given time. Then, show her how to clean up one thing immediately before she moves on to the next. Use music, an audio story or a timer to make cleaning up enjoyable or competitive in order to drive motivation. Admittedly, it's a slow process that requires time, creativity, consistency and patience.
The good news is that the lesson of cleaning up a few toys will transfer to greater responsibility in years to come. Resist the temptation to swoop in and clean up for her -- but remember that you need to model what "clean up" looks like. The extra time and effort now will be well worth it as your daughter grows.
We have lots of other helpful tips and ideas at FocusOnTheFamiy.com/Parenting.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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