Waldorf institutions tend to talk a lot about protection; protecting childhood in general, protecting children from media influence, protecting children from the cold, chemicals, too much clutter in their environment, permissiveness, early academics,… the list goes on. These things are important considerations in the life of a child because of the benefits this protection can offer as a foundation for the rest of their lives. However, some of these things, if pursued dogmatically and absolutely, may not always serve the child in the short or long term, nor work optimally in every family situation.
In my home, we have experimented with varying levels of media usage. One request from Tamarack Waldorf School is that children, if possible, have no exposure to media and at least none on school nights. This is to protect children from media imagery and leave their minds fresh for learning at school. This also gives their minds an opportunity to “digest” this learning while at home and at rest. When I began only allowing TV on weekends, there were some beautiful things that happened in my household: My two children, who most often are complaining, “She looked at me” or, “He’s making those humming noises again,” started to do things like look at beautifully illustrated vegetarian cookbooks and plan our next meals, together. Elijah would chop carrots while Halea stirred the stir fry. It seemed idyllic. However, there was another thing that happened as a result of banning the TV, which I will call the forbidden fruit phenomenon. They would incessantly ask how many days until Friday when we can watch TV again (kind of like,” are we there yet?”) The only days that they looked forward to were those which held the possibility of viewing the telly. I’m not a big fan of television and I considered throwing it out altogether. In the end, what I decided on was that they would be allowed to watch it within reason, even on some school nights. I even allowed a video game system in my house (I know, the horrors.) What has happened is that they play for about an hour or two a week or every other week with the agreement that if it becomes a problem it will go away for awhile. We also go for a family bike rides or hikes, play board games in the evenings or weekends, scooter up and down the block, do chores together, listen to music, eat meals together, sing blessings together, read stories and many other activities.
You may be wondering, what is the point here? The point is BALANCE. And, well, another point is that just as no two individuals are alike, so too are the needs of each family and child unique.
I hear so many stories from parents, caregivers, and teachers about their personal experiences with children. And what is striking me recently is that although there are always common threads to stories about the challenges and blessings with children, what really rings true in each of these scenarios is the UNIQUE, individual nature of each story. The best method of protection may vary from family to family, child to child. What type of life will our children face? What will they be exposed to? What will they need to be prepared for? We as parents must do our best to simultaneously protect our children yet offer them those experiences that will best prepare them for a balanced approach to the lives that they will encounter on the rest of their journey.