I remember enjoying these gossipy, giggly, non-sleeping pyjama parties in my childhood. My friends and I used to pass each other cryptic notes in secret languages on coloured notepaper, and read each other snippets from our locked diaries (in a whisper in case the parents heard us); and we would eat macadamia nuts in bed (leaving bits of shells under the covers to annoy us all night).
The difference I noticed this time was that every one of Tillara's friends brought "her" own mobile phone and iPad and all these other things that our kids just aren't consumed by.
Technology "is" as technology "does"
Now don't get me wrong – we use some of the latest gadgets and technology in our household too. I correspond with mentors in this Young Writers' program using email and the internet; I have a mobile "smart" phone; and we have two iPads in the house. I use these devices to follow some of my Aboriginal community discussions on Facebook, as well as for convenience and personal use in our electronic age. The children can use them when they need to, with me monitoring them. Not having these things would be acting like the Luddites who smashed labour-saving devices in the mid 1800s; or those who opposed the printing press four centuries earlier than that. We could not participate in our society without these devices, these days.
Our eldest, Damian, who is turning fourteen in September has a small mobile phone for emergencies that he takes to school only, and he hands it back to me every night. He takes one of our iPads to school as he needs it for all his school work now; and he hands that back to me every night too. If he needs to do homework or assignments on it, it's done within our sight.
Eddie and I have discussed with the children that none of them will be allowed to go on any social media sites, nor get a mobile phone until they are old enough. We are so proud of Damian that he never shows any interest in worrying about all the stuff other kids his age are worrying about. For example, a girl he has known since grade 5 keeps 'asking him out' and he told her "I'm too young to have a girlfriend" her friends said to Damian "did you say no because she is white?" An Damian replied "I don't care what colour she is, it's just that I'm too young"
At church we have had so many lovely comments about Damian and about how he is growing into a great young man and that he is "very wise in his faith". If we were the type of parents to just let Damian do what "everyone else" is doing then he wouldn't be the boy he is today.
Proverbs 22 verse 6 (ESV) says: "Train up a child the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."
Letting children have their childhood
At Tillara's sleepover party, her friend (who is 10) said to her "you need to get a camera phone so we can take photos" Tillara retorted "I'm only 11; I don't want a phone - anyway I already have a camera" (she got a Polaroid camera for her birthday).
So if we can put these things off for as long as we can and help them avoid other peer pressures, we totally will.
We absolutely 110% believe in the rules we have developed and negotiated with the children. Even though we get called "strict" I think that is why we are successful. Yes, at times some if the kids (mainly the girls) ask why their friends get to do this and that; but they know everything we do is for a reason and it's to help them when they are older.
Kids need to be kids and that is hard enough in this world where they are having to grow up so fast.
The family is a team
When people (adults and kids) come over to our house they are amazed to see my kids doing chores and working in synch. They can't believe our rules and how strict we are.
And my kids are pretty good at respecting our rules and beliefs as a family. Their friends can't believe that they help around the house, but that's just how me and Eddie feel that it needs to be. Our kids don't watch TV on weeknights: it's strictly homework/assignments and training for sports. In order to have "free time" on weekends to watch TV or play the Xbox or whatever, they have to have all their chores and assignments (etc.) finished.
I was brought up by my great grandparents who were as strict as they come. If I made a mess, I would have to clean it up; if I saw something lying on the ground, regardless of whether I put it there or not, I would be expected to pick it up. So I wanted to put that responsibility onto my kids too, so they can learn how to clean up after themselves and not be lazy. This was particularly important since our household grew so quickly, with my stepchildren and foster children already partly grown when they came to us.
I used to clean their rooms but then I saw how ungrateful they were and they didn't respect their rooms or their belongings because I was always cleaning up after them and buying them new things when they broke stuff. Then I stopped and made them do it; and now I can see it has worked because they take pride in cleaning (even vacuuming) their rooms and making their beds.
I think it has taught these kids to appreciate what they have and to look after their property and that their rooms represent them. It is now very rare that I will look into the kids' rooms and they will be messy. Not many parents can say that.
I think my kids respect our rules and our family way; Eddie and I firmly believe that this will help them. We feel that working together and sticking to our own negotiated values is more important, to give them a foundation to build on, so they can make their own informed decisions when they are older.
We don't want them growing up too fast and worrying about social media or doing things just because "everyone else" is doing it.
If children you know are experiencing peer pressure that conflicts with the home environment, there are some helpful tips for dealing with this problem on this website: www.asg.com.au/resisting-peer-pressure
Tisha Williams is an indigenous home maker and mother on the Gold Coast / Tweed. He husband Edward is an indigenous painter, training to be a carpenter and teaches their children his language and dream time stories which have parallels in the Bible.
Tisha Williams' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/tisha-williams.html