Are Your Kids Living “On Demand”?


on demandIn a world where everything is at our fingertips so easily, I’m noticing a disturbing trend in our house: kids living “on demand.”

It was one thing when our kids were babies. I always breastfed “on demand” when I saw the cues that my infant was hungry. I held my kids when they held out their arms to be carried. I snuggled them at night rather than letting them cry it out, preferring the gentler but prolonged version of helping them to sleep. Basically, when our kids were little and needed food or extra attention, they got it, no questions asked.

Little by little, living “on demand” permeated our lives. It was eventually supported by Netflix and Amazon Prime. You want a show? Choose what you want when you want it. You need new shoes? Here: look at your choices, and they will be here in two days. You want a snack? Open the fridge: there are cheese sticks and yogurt tubes at eye level.

Our culture is increasingly one of instant gratification, entertainment, and satisfaction.

These luxuries aren’t only demanded, they are often expected…and without a “please” or a “thank you” in sight. However, now that everyone in our house is getting older, I feel it’s important to dial back the “demand” habit and make more realistic expectations.

It‘s my job to make sure that my children are cared for, fed, and well-rounded. It’s NOT my job to make sure that my children are constantly entertained and provided with snacks and a full fun-packed schedule.

I am a mom with responsibilities that extend beyond “what are we going to do today?” Part of our day will be fun. But part of it will include bill-paying, running errands, cooking, and cleaning. This perspective isn’t meant to be punitive; my children and I can still enjoy our day while working together. Instead, I want my children to understand that life includes participating in family responsibilities, interacting gratefully with those that support you, learning to wait before you get what you want, and often dealing with the fact that you can’t always get what you want.

To help my kids live less “on demand,” here are some habits we’re incorporating into our day:

Limited (or no) TV. We usually let each child choose a show when they are allowed the treat of watching TV. But if fights erupt over what to watch on Netflix, we go straight to the old days of live programming on PBS. You watch what’s on, or you watch nothing. We’ve dialed back screen time BIG time at our house, and one day I might try to get to no TV at all. But since it’s sometimes my only break in the day, I haven’t had the guts to try that one yet…

Lots of unstructured time. I firmly believe that less is more and that it’s important for children to learn how to use their imaginations to make their own fun when they’re bored. We hear everywhere that play is children’s “work” – it’s how they learn important skills like problem-solving and cooperation. I want my children to create their own games, come up with their own ideas for crafts (and clean up the mess after!), find and read books that interest them, and interact with the people we meet along the way. So much of our kids’ lives are scheduled and planned. I want my kids to learn what to do with themselves when it’s not.

Clear-cut eating times and meal options. My children started to think that our kitchen was an all-day all-you-can-eat buffet. I appreciate that children are growing and need small frequent meals. We are working on making these at the kitchen table and at set times not to demand food all day long. I’m also limiting choices for snacks and meals. I try to put out options so that everyone can find something they like, but I’m not a short-order cook making multiple requests to order.

Participation in chores. It helps children learn how much work goes into setting up and putting away the meals and activities we do every day. They can’t just expect to show up to a meal or activity “on demand” and walk away when they’re done. I’m hoping that as my kids learn how much work it is to put away all those toys and craft supplies, clean up all those plates, and put away all the food, they will become more realistic about their expectations and more grateful for the things we do each day.

Saying “please” and “thank you.” A lot of work goes into each day! Showing gratitude for support from siblings, parents, and friends helps make things go more smoothly.

Are your kids living “on demand”? How do you try to manage expectations?


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