Hour of Power

How I stopped fighting the media battle and got my garage clean

Like every mother of pre-teen boys, I spend way more energy than I’d like managing electronic devices. Despite my firm, loving approach, electronics seem to bring out the petulant side of my otherwise-awesome children.

I have had many low moments, fits of anger, and billows of smoke fuming from my ears, cartoon-style, over these devices. “Turn that thing down. Get off in 5 minutes. Two minute warning.! PUT THAT THING AWAY OR IT’S GOING OUT THE WINDOW!”

Argh.

I’ll admit, there are blissful moments too. Like when I look at my quiet children, cuddled up on the couch, absorbed in an incredibly real-looking football game. Have you seen these graphics? These games are amazing. They are so fun to play.

They are so blissfully absorbed that I can sneak away for a long, luxurious trail run. Not once do I worry they are causing mischief or that the house is burning down. I know they won’t move.

But this summer, I hit a low. In a series of lies and obnoxious behavior, they were caught using their devices while watching TV (a particular pet peeve of mine).

My memory is a little hazy from the rage. As I recall, every single device and every single power cord was shoved angrily into a deep canvas bag and tossed in the deepest corner of the biggest closet.

“Don’t. Ask. Until. After. Christmas.” I fumed.

And they didn’t.

6 months later, I am calm. We have a plan that works for everyone.

  1. Devices are off and away during the week. Weekdays are for school, homework, dinner, sports, reading, joke-telling, and sleeping. I have no emotional energy for managing devices during the week. And the science of how devices interfere with sleep is very compelling. I collect them in a basket on Sunday night.
  1. Each weekend day, they are allowed 2 hours of games. No shooting games or violent games or stealing games. Anything else, fine!
  1. Before game time, we have family Hour of Power. I make a list of household chores or projects that need doing. Make beds. Sort recycling. Dust bookshelf. Clean closet. Bag clothes for Goodwill. Vacuum downstairs rugs. Sweep porch. Organize garage.

The chores go on a big whiteboard. We work together. The kids check things off as they are done.

And this is important:

  • If they are jackasses, they lose media time.
  • If they drag their feet or hide in the bathroom, they lose media time.
  • If they are caught in their room playing with a Rubik’s cube, they lose media time.
  • If they bicker and annoy each other, they lose media time.
  • If they gripe about the rules, well, you know.

Having lost their devices for 6 months, they know I am NOT kidding.

They also know this. We all share a house. A house requires work. We love living here and we all need to help keep the space clean and organized. I love them beyond beyond and want them to become awesome husbands and partners and friends.

We listen to music and talk and laugh and have a (mostly) fun time. And now, we actually look forward to it. Their efforts and work make me happy and proud. They are such good boys.

When we are done, they can happily indulge in their games.

And I can go on a long, luxurious trail run and come back to a clean garage.