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What turning off wifi for a week revealed about my parenting

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Cecilia Pigg - published on 11/16/21

You can learn a lot by challenging yourself to stay off screens at home for a little while. Here are my takeaways.

Recently, I had a very strong desire to downsize. And by downsize, I mean, move from a house with a yard and running water and electricity to a one room yurt with no utilities or plumbing. I thought about how simple and cozy life would be. We would be free from all the distractions of modern life, so we could focus on our kids. I would be an amazing wife and parent if I lived in a yurt.

Basically, all of my problems would be solved if we radically changed how we lived. However, my husband and children, at least at the time of this article, really don’t want to trade going to the bathroom inside for my yurt dreams. I understand. Instead, we’ve decided to try some baby steps towards a less comfortable, more intentional lifestyle. And one of those baby steps was turning off the internet in our home for a week.

It turns out that not having wifi actually helped me be a better parent. It made me realize how many distractions I allow to interrupt my day, and thus my attention to my kids.

First, some quick context for this experiment: We don’t have smartphones and neither of us work remotely. But, like most people, we manage a lot of our lives on the internet, from communication to finances to figuring out when things are open. So, when we needed to check email, our local public library was a few minutes away and we used the internet there. 

Here are some benefits I found in my parenting from our week without internet at home…

Mealtimes improved.

It made me realize how many times we pulled up Google during dinner to answer a question or do some more quick research about something we were talking about. Or how often we wanted to share a piece of content from our day so we opened the laptop to pull it up. Instead, our mealtimes got longer and less staccato.  

We found ways other than Mr. Google to answer our questions.

Our research became more intentional, and we didn’t find information instantly. When my kids had questions about school or life that we wanted to explore more, we tried first to find a resource at our house or at the library that we could leaf through together. I started a little notepad where I wrote down the burning questions I had that I would usually have googled immediately (and then spent more time than necessary on the computer after finding the answer because I would get distracted by other open tabs or by checking my email).

Looking through my notebook later on, I found most of my questions were not as pressing as I felt they had been in the moment. It also turns out that when you try to find what kind of bird is in your backyard in an actual book, the experience is much more satisfying than quickly clicking the first two results in your search engine. 

Less screen time meant more creative play time.

This was true for both the kids and myself. Instead of putting on a video when the afternoon breaking point hit, I took my own advice and instituted 30 minutes of outside time. The rebellion and angst was real, but pretty quickly the sounds of happy play instead of muffled protests reached my ears. And because I didn’t have a screen to tempt me, I did what fills me the most in my moments of free time — read books and turn to God.

We grew a lot in the virtue of patience.

Instead of feeling constantly pulled throughout the day between my screen and my kids, I just focused on my kids. Then, when I drove to get internet, I was entirely focused on the screen, and went through the list of the most pressing concerns without wasting much time at all. I didn’t feel like I could spend time poking around when I was online, and it was amazing how much more efficient I became in just a few days. The kids’ behavior was better, and my behavior was better. Our increased attention to each other helped some discipline issues simply disappear.

It also just so happens that I’m not dreaming of yurt life as much anymore. Our day to day isn’t a perfect fairy tale, certainly, but none of us really wanted to turn the internet back on when the week came to an end. I’ll let you know if we ever do.

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Parenting
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