The ancient Roman playwright Terence is credited with the proverb: Moderation in all things. Unfortunately, in our modern age, moderation is something we practice…only moderately! But learning to be more moderate in specific areas could help us achieve better balance in our lives, promoting the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of each member of our families. The goal of this seminar was to examine five areas in which families struggle to exhibit moderation and/or in which parents seek to teach moderate behavior to their children.
Specifically, we focused on finding better balance and moderation in:
During the seminar, we considered several important questions as we took a look at these subjects:
The purpose of the seminar was two-fold: Assess the causes of extreme behavior and habits, and brainstorm about how to regroup and infuse our families and homes with a greater appreciation for the benefits of moderation in all things.
Moderation in Media
The two issues at the heart of media moderation are overall media exposure and inappropriate media content. Typically, studies show, parents who assure moderation in the first, by limiting the hours of media exposure, also have more success safeguarding their children from inappropriate content.
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s study “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds" reported young people spend 7:38 hours engaged with media each day. That doesn’t include media multi-tasking, such as surfing the net while watching TV, or listening to music while reading a digital magazine. Such multi-tasking brings the average time to 10 hours and 45 minutes. Clearly, parents all across America from all walks of life are struggling to limit the time in which their children engage with media versus other activities.
The president of Kaiser Family Foundation noted that the amount of time children spend engaged with media each surpasses a full time job.
Similarly, parents have reason to be concerned about media content. Studies across the board indicate that violent, hypersexual, disrespectful, ill-mannered content has a measurable impact on the behavior and attitudes of children and teens. There’s no such thing as benign media; it is all educational and it all reinforces certain messages and values.
How much time do you spend engaged with media? Are you a media-multi-tasker? How important is media in your daily life for work or general tasks within your home?
How engaged are your children with media? Have you ever actually counted the hours your kids spend engaged with things that have a plug or operate on battery power?
If you rank your child’s favorite things to do, how many involve various forms of media? Can you kids name at least a dozen things they love to do that don’t involve a device for media?
Do you have rules about media in your home? What are they? How do you enforce them?
Moderation in Diet/Nutrition
One of the most important goals we can achieve is to moderate our diets and improve family nutrition. Applying the philosophy, “all things in moderation,” the goal of should be to enjoy a variety of foods – including occasional, moderate sweet treats and snacks – without falling victim to poor eating habits that follow our children into adulthood.
Lack of moderation in media consumption also impacts diet and nutrition because media use impacts recreation, physical activity, and ultimately eating habits. Kids who recreate largely by playing video games, watching TV, or using a computer or tablet are simply less active than those who spend more time playing outside or engaging in sports.
Perhaps no aspect of home life is more influenced by parental behavior than diet and nutrition. Kids are not in charge of grocery shopping or meal preparation, and as well, they grow up to adopt the tastes and habits of their families. As parents, we have to take responsibility for helping our children learn about healthy nutrition, as well as for providing the foods we know are best for them.
Unfortunately, too many families are failing at this important task, and the result is a generational spike in childhood obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control:
Do I set an example of healthy eating and moderation in my own life? Do my kids see me refusing things that aren’t great for me, and enjoying them occasionally without guilt? Or am I teaching them a disordered relationship with food by the example I set?
Are my children overweight or obese? Am I making excuses for their weight by calling it “baby fat” and exacerbating the problem with the foods I offer in our home?
In my effort to help my kids feel good about themselves regardless of how they look, am I overlooking the health risks brought on my childhood obesity?
What can I do in our home to implement habits of moderation in our food and nutrition? What am I doing already that works? What have I tried that didn’t work?
Moderating the Family Calendar
Another important aspect of moderation is time management for families, a problem that stems from trying to achieve several conflicting goals:
Is our calendar running us instead of the other way around? Are we reserving time to just “be” and not to be active?
Is our family committed to having meals together on a regular basis (families that give up shared mealtime tend to exhibit other signs of stress)?
Do my children resist going to activities? Do I have to “remind” them that they like it, made a commitment to it, or are obligated not to let others down? Am I teaching the value of responsibility, or is it possible that my child is trying to tell me he or she is overextended?
Does every member of the family have something important to him/her? Or is the family’s time and budget spent primarily on one person’s activity?
Tips for resisting the overwhelming family calendar:
Moderation in Competition
In today’s culture, children hear two conflicting ideas about competition:
Neither of these messages promotes the idea of healthy competition! Artificially limiting competition neither promotes genuine self-esteem nor challenges children to do their best, while creating a hyper-competitive culture saps children of the desire to learn new skills or take risks.
Hyper-competitive parents cause problems for their own children and others. Families who try to engage in competitive activities but limit their involvement to healthy commitments of time and resources often find themselves pressured to participate in ways they prefer to avoid.
The outcome of hyper-competitive adults in youth activities – including sports, performing arts, STEM activities and other programs – is that children tend to want to quit because the adults take all the fun out of it. In the worst cases, adults (parents, coaches, instructors) can do serious harm to a child’s emotional health and to relationships by pursuing “excellence” at all costs.
Is there balance between activities that provide healthy competition and others that are done for pure enjoyment and pleasure?
Is the family identity wrapped up in the competitive activities of the child/children? Or does each person have a passion or pursuit that defines him/her without being forced to follow in the family footsteps?
Does the competitive activity offer opportunities for learning and fun even if the competitive aspect is not “successful”? Is there appropriate focus on self-development, making friends, sharing memories and appreciating the efforts/abilities/successes of others?
How much of the child’s involvement is driven by the parents, or does the child lead toward deeper engagement in the activity? (This is KEY to determine whether it’s the parents or the child who wants to participate!)
We live in an emotional culture! From reality TV shows to radio shock jocks, road rage episodes to public celebrity melt-downs, it seems we’re confronted at every turn with extreme emotionalism. It’s not unusual to see this trend exhibited in our own lives.
Whether we’re listening to a family member rant about a parking ticket, or trapped by a friend in the school parking lot complaining about a teacher or a school policy, it seems each day includes at least one incident of “venting” to which we and our families are subject.
It used to be that controlling one’s emotions was considered a sign of maturity. Stoicism was admired as a virtue. The people to be admired were “calm, cool, and collected,” not the hyper-emotional folks who went on and on about things.
Emotional moderation means we’re able to express our emotions appropriately (to the right people and to a mature degree), without shutting ourselves down or going overboard.
Emoting without self-control is a sign of immaturity. When wee ones do it, it’s called a temper tantrum. As we get older, we allow ourselves to “rant” or “vent,” and it’s certainly healthy to get feelings off the chest and out in the open sometimes.
It is crucial that we help our children to identify the variety of feelings they experience and express them in a healthy and appropriate way, and that emotionalism can be managed. They don’t have to be victims of their feelings, and they aren’t required to tell everyone how they feel at every turn. Monitoring their hyper-emotionalism gives them a sense of self-control and helps them achieve genuine self-esteem because they grow to understand how their feelings inform their responses to things that happen in their lives.
Is our family communicative about our emotions? Do we express emotions freely and feel safe sharing with family members? Is the home either hyper-emotional or not emotionally engaged?
Are emotions the main thing that are discussed in the home? Do kids focus exclusively on their feelings in all situations? Do they exhibit signs of being overly emotional?
Do the adults model healthy emotional expression, or do parents “vent” or fume over small things? Do parents model thoughtful emotional behavior rather than teach by example that feelings must always be discussed and indulged?
Do we teach attributes of maturity as behavioral goals, including the notion that learning to keep emotions in check is a sign of mature behavior?
Kaiser Family Foundation Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds (full report in pdf) https://www.kff.org/other/poll-finding/report-generation-m2-media-in-the-lives/
Center on Media and Child Health Parent Resource Page http://cmch.tv/parents/
CMCH Suggestions: Establish Time Limits http://cmch.tv/special-features/time-management/
American Academy of Pediatrics search results for “media” http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/search?fulltext=media&submit=yes&x=0&y=0
University of Michigan Health System resource page on media literacy: https://www.mottchildren.org/posts/your-child/kids-and-digital-media
CDC Facts on Childhood Obesity https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm
Let’s Move https://letsmove.obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/
Family Time Management tips http://www.more4kids.info/607/family-time-management/
American Academy of Family Physicians: Family Time Management https://www.aafp.org/fpm/2000/0900/p76.html
Overcompetitive parent https://web.archive.org/web/20151102050603/http://articles.familylobby.com/471-are-you-a-competitive-parent3f.htm
The highly sensitive child – quiz http://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-child-test/
Parenting strategies for highly sensitive children https://www.familyeducation.com/life/parent-child-relationships/essential-rules-parenting-discipline-dos-donts
On emotional health, especially for kids:
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