If you prevent your children from computers, you better have an alternative idea for them!

If you prevent your children from using computers, you had better have an alternative idea for them!

In my last article, I spoke about other activities that young people could do in order to avoid spending so much time on their electronic devices. Apart from playing sports or music, which are excellent activities to stimulate young people’s brains, there is also playing with their friends or siblings, climbing trees and cooking. Cooking is the one I promised last week to explore a little further and the short story below is an experience I had recently of allowing my young son to cook!

Let them cook – if you dare!

At the start of my children’s school holidays during the summer, I was looking after them for one day before we went off on a family holiday. My nine-year old son had spent a couple of hours or so at his friend’s house that morning. His seven-year old sister had invited a friend around and they were both upstairs playing nicely, doing some drawing and so on. After spending about 45 minutes or so on his device, I compelled my son to get off Minecraft and other electronic entertainments, but I couldn’t really think of something specific to ask him to do. After a short while he got bored and decided to trash the kitchen by attempting to cook. I don’t quite know what he was trying to cook but I had no alternative activity for him so I let him loose in the kitchen. What I know is that his recipe included bread, nuts, chocolate powder, grated apple and God knows what. He had only been in there for a few minutes, but the kitchen was an utter disaster and couldn’t believe the amount of mess he had made. Despite that, I decided not to make a fuss but to play along with his ideas. I even went further by being brave enough to allow him to use the oven – under supervision, with me helping him to put and take the thing in and out of the oven.  I made sure I walked away after putting the concoction he had made in the oven for him so that I did very little and could not be blamed for the taste of his gourmet meal.

Under normal circumstances, I would not have allowed this absolute trashing of the kitchen, as the whole place was a complete disaster zone. The kitchen worktop was rather messy and I don’t even want to mention the floor! I decided to ignore him as, when I was nine, I had the freedom to cook and experiment with little or no supervision. Well – my situation was the other extreme as I had a little too much freedom.

As expected, what my son cooked was not at all edible and even he himself was scared to taste it after it was finished. I was not brave enough to make the slightest attempt to even try to taste what he had cooked. I did not have the sense of adventure to put his gourmet efforts anywhere near my mouth. I will say that although my son is young, for many teenagers, their experience will be similar if they have not been allowed to cook in the kitchen.

The lessons I learnt in that cooking experiment

This idea of allowing children to create mess as a way of experimenting is an important and vital part of their development. Despite the inconvenience it causes to us parents and the time we may have to invest in this, it is worth it. For me, the idea of having to clean up the mess in the kitchen afterward is a small price to pay for this excellent opportunity for this young man to learn.

The emotions I went through during all the cooking and mess making

What amazed me that day was how he took it when I stopped him from playing with Minecraft, he just surrendered and went into a pensive mood. Later on he ventured into the kitchen and started to prepare his concoction. At that time it was easy for me to accept the price of him trashing the kitchen as that is much better in comparison to me seeing him fixed to a computer or some sort of electronic device. It is a relief that his mother did not show any anger when she arrived and saw the state of the kitchen. She probably thought like me and realised the thinking behind me allowing him to trash the kitchen.

Helping young people to manage their time better

My son really does like reading and playing the piano but that does not mean that he will not spend hours and hours on electronic devices, given the chance. One thing he knows is that in the morning when he wakes up, he is not allowed to go anywhere near the iPad or any other form of computer or electronic device, until he plays the piano for a few minutes. This simple rule makes my job a little easier as I do not have to tell him what he must do before going on the computer. Yes, I have to remind him occasionally but the vast majority of the time he knows what to do before he is allowed to go on the computers.

I often sit my children down and ask them what they would like to do on a specific day. What I want them to do may not last more than an hour or two and they certainly have an idea of what they would rather be doing. I am not always successful in getting them to do all that I want them to do. However, the idea of asking them the question forces them to think about the amount of time they waste on watching TV and playing on electronic gadgets.

In future articles, I will explore further – the effect of technology on the lives of young people.

As usual, your comments are highly appreciated so please comment after reading this.