A couple of weeks ago we had a stake conference for church. We have these typically twice a year where about 10 or so congregations meet together in one big conference. There is an adult meeting on Saturday night and on Sunday the whole family goes to the meeting instead of their normal church services.
So during these meetings, Jon and I felt inspired during several of the talks that we needed to turn off the screens in our home more to allow less distraction from the Spirit. I am sure different people got different messages from the talks but that is the one we felt was meant for us. Jon and I talked about putting a limit on how much screen time our kids had and we came to the decision to limit them to 90 minutes a day and only 60 of those minutes could be television.
I was a little worried about the big fight I anticipated getting our kids to limit their screen time. So I decided to call a family meeting to discuss the matter. It went FAR better than I expected. Here is what happened:
Mom: So kids, how does Heavenly Father talk to us?
Sabrina: Through the prophet.
Annie: Through the scriptures.
Lauren: When we pray.
Mom: Yes that is very good and when we pray, how do we HEAR Heavenly Father's responses?
Sabrina: Through the Holy Ghost.
Mom: Yes. Exactly. So what about when you are reading the scriptures? Can Heavenly Father use the Holy Ghost to whisper what the scriptures mean to you?
Mom: What about when you are listening to the prophet speak? Can the Holy Ghost tell you which thing the prophet says you need to do better at?
Mom: Well what about at church? Can the Holy Ghost tell you when you are at church that you should be doing what the bishop or the speaker is talking about?
Mom: How important is it to do what the Holy Ghost says when He whispers something to you?
Kids: VERY important.
Mom: Yes it is very important. We just all went to stake conference today and while we were there Dad and I heard the Holy Ghost whispering some things we needed to do in our family. How important do you think it is that we follow those whisperings?
Kids: VERY VERY important.
Mom: Yes. That is what Dad and I think too. One of the things we heard at conference was about how important it is to have the Spirit in our home. The speaker talked about what the missionaries do when the go to home to teach a lesson and they want the Spirit to be there. Do any of you know what they do?
Mom: Yes they do pray but even before they pray they go into the house and they ask that the television or radio or video games be turned off. Then they say their prayers. In fact, missionaries do not watch any television and only get to be on the computer for a little bit of time each week to send letters to their families. So while Dad and I were listening to this we both felt that the Holy Ghost was telling us that we need to turn off some of the screens in our home that can distract us from feeling the Spirit. How do you think we can do this?
Sabrina: Maybe we could put a limit on how much screen time we have.
Mom: That is a great idea Sabrina! Kids what do you think would be a fair amount of screen time everyday?
Sabrina: How about one hour.
Mom: That is very good Sabrina. Dad and I both thought that an hour of television would be a good limit and the fact that you also came up with that number seems to suggest maybe the Spirit is whispering it to you too. We thought we could do an hour of TV and maybe 30 extra minutes of any other kind of screen or 90 minutes of screen a day and only and hour of that can be TV. Does that sound good to all of you?
Mom: Great. I will put a tally for each of you on the fridge and when you want to watch TV or play a Wii Game or computer game just let me know and I will turn on a timer to keep track of your time. If you don't use all your minutes in a day you can carry them over to the next day. That way if you want to watch a movie on the weekend you can save enough minutes during the week to do that. We will start fresh at 0 minutes accumulated every Monday. Also flash cards online or other school/work related screen time doesn't count. Mom and Dad will be doing this too.
I was shocked at how well this went. I really feel like the Spirit was there helping me direct the discussion and helping inspire Sabrina along the way. But I still wondered how hard the implementation would be. The next day I tried to plan lots of activities to keep myself busy so I wouldn't be tempted to turn on the TV.
When Lauren wanted to play the computer I told her that was fine but that it would count towards her 90 minutes of the day. She said that was okay. Then I asked her how many minutes she wanted to use. She said 15. I turned the kitchen timer on for 15 minutes. She played and when the timer dinged she closed the computer.
When Annie did the same thing she was in the middle of a game when the timer went off. I said that was fine and turned the timer on for another 5 minutes. She closed the computer before the 5 minutes were up. I made a sort of checkbook like sheet for each kid to track their running screen time tally. There was no fighting, arguing, begging, or whining. I couldn't believe it. The kids began to evaluate how badly they really wanted to watch any given show or play any given game. It has been great.
The best part has been the feeling in our home. I noticed a marked different even the first day. I really could feel so much more peace in our home. I felt the Spirit more. It has been a really good change for our family.
Now all that being said I have to throw out some disclaimers. I have not been as good about keeping the "checkbook" up since. After a week I started doing a more mental tally and we have kept pretty well under the limits. EXCEPT for when Sabrina and I went to California. We didn't have screen time too much but I am fairly certain there was an abundance of Daddy/daughter Wii time here at the house.
I am leaving myself flexible for road trips and times when kids get sick or other out of the norm circumstances. And I don't count my blogging time because I justify that as doing my own personal history and journal writing.
I know that at different seasons of our lives different things are important or right for us to do in our families and personal lives. Our priorities shift with our circumstances. I am sure this would be FAR more difficult to do if I were in the middle of morning sickness or if all my kids were younger and needed more constant entertainment. But for now, for us, this has been an incredible blessing. Who knows, maybe there are a few who are reading this now and feeling those "whisperings" that this might be something they need to do. If that is you -- I say Go For It! Making those Whisperings a Reality may be easier than you think.