“OK Johnny, that’s enough computer for now. Please turn it off and find something else to do.”

To the untrained ear, this common parental request seems harmless enough and more than reasonable. However, in this day of seemingly never-ending electronic activity (computer, video game, smart phone, DS, television, etc.), these words from Mom or Dad are powerful enough to render Johnny temporarily immobilized, his face wide-eyed and panicked, as if his mother had just asked him to cross the Grand Canyon on a unicycle.

I don’t have a problem with video games in general, as long as their use is kept in balance. However, I have noticed an increasing number of kids who become utterly paralyzed when they are asked to find something to do that does not have an electrical plug in a battery power source.

This is usually a sign that electronic activities are getting out of balance.

One of the best solutions to this problem comes in two steps:

1) Explain the need for a healthy balance. Kids need a healthy balance between many positive and necessary activities. These can include family activities, non-electronic games, electronic fun, time with friends, homework, helping around the house, inside activities, outside activities, sports/hobbies, and so on. Just as you need to eat a variety of foods to stay healthy (e.g., not just ice cream), a healthy variety of activities helps your kids develop the many skills needed for a successful life.

2) Make a “Things to Do” list with your child and write it down. Put it in a page protector and keep it in a easy-to find- location. List a wide variety of activities that your child enjoys. The list may include activities that she can do with others or by herself. The list may include activities like: building with LEGOS, reading a book, coloring, playing with a sibling, calling a friend, practicing an instrument, shooting baskets, doing a craft, doing a word search, playing with favorite toys, roller-blading, etc.  Take a few days to complete the list so you have plenty of time to make it as comprehensive as possible. By the time you are done, you should have a pretty good list.

3) Refer your child to the list. When your child follows you around the house in a zombie-like manner, complaining that there is absolutely nothing to do, just tell her to look at her list and choose and activity from it. The more she shows you that she can enjoy non-electronic activities without throwing a fit, the more balanced she will be and the more relaxed you can be.

There is something to do after all.

How have you helped your child find something to do?

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