Do you need a coach to wean kids off phones?

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Before smart phones. My kids learned to be creative at the beach.

What is one of the major things parents want help with? Why do they hire coaches? In an article in the New York Times by Nellie Bowles, she explains that they are worried about screen time.

There’s a new trend in America to hire coaches to help parents in everything from bedtime to getting into colleges. I’ve read about parenting coaches in several articles and wrote about it here. Also, I was interviewed by a reporter, Jennifer Graham, for her article about parenting coaches.

Here are some excerpts from the latest article in the NY Times about screen time coaches:

Parents around the country, alarmed by the steady patter of studies around screen time, are trying to turn back time to the era before smartphones. But it’s not easy to remember what exactly things were like before smartphones. So they’re hiring professionals.

A new screen-free parenting coach economy has sprung up to serve the demand. Screen consultants come into homes, schools, churches and synagogues to remind parents how people parented before.

Rhonda Moskowitz is a parenting coach in Columbus, Ohio. She has a master’s degree in K-12 learning and behavior disabilities, and over 30 years experience in schools and private practice. She barely needs any of this training now.

“I try to really meet the parents where they are, and now often it is very simple: ‘Do you have a plain old piece of material that can be used as a cape?’” said Ms. Moskowitz. “‘Great!’

“‘Is there a ball somewhere? Throw the ball,’” she said. “‘Kick the ball.’”

When my first born was a toddler, I went to a mommy and me class put on by the city. I guess in a way it was like having a coach. We sat around on the floor with our kids in our laps and sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “I’m a Little Teapot.” I knew those songs from my own childhood, but it took the class to remind me of them. Next, we let our kids work on a simple craft followed by snack time of grapes and cheese heads. It was a short little class a couple days a week and it helped me with parenting by connecting me to parents of kids the same age.

In my town, we don’t have a lot of kids, so getting to know other parents was vital. We formed our own little mommy and me group and spread blankets on the grass at the park and talked while our kids played on swings and slides.

My kids’ younger days were before screens took over. We had an apple computer and a few disks with children’s programs and smart phones didn’t exist. My biggest battle back then was with Barney. My son would literally freeze and get glued to the big screen when that purple dinosaur came one.

Here’s more from the NY Times article about screen time:

Among affluent parents, fear of phones is rampant, and it’s easy to see why. The wild look their kids have when they try to pry them off Fortnite is alarming. Most parents suspect dinnertime probably shouldn’t be spent on Instagram. The YouTube recommendation engine seems like it could make a young radical out of anyone. Now, major media outlets are telling them their children might grow smartphone-related skull horns. (That, at least, you don’t have to worry about: no such horns have yet been attributed to phones.)

No one knows what screens will make of society, good or bad. This worldwide experiment of giving everyone an exciting piece of hand-held technology is still new.

Gloria DeGaetano was a private coach working in Seattle to wean families off screens when she noticed the demand was higher than she could handle on her own. She launched the Parent Coaching Institute, a network of 500 coaches and a training program. Her coaches in small cities and rural areas charge $80 an hour. In larger cities, rates range from $125 to $250. Parents typically sign up for eight to 12 sessions.

“If you mess with Mother Nature, it messes with you,” Ms. DeGaetano said of her philosophy. “You can’t be a machine. We’re thinking like machines because we live in this mechanistic milieu. You can’t grow children optimally from principles in a mechanistic mind-set.”

Screen “addiction” is the top issue parents hope she can cure. Her prescriptions are often absurdly basic.

“Movement,” Ms. DeGaetano said. “Is there enough running around that will help them see their autonomy? Is there a jungle gym or a jumping rope?”

Nearby, Emily Cherkin was teaching middle school in Seattle when she noticed families around her panicked over screens and coming to her for advice. She took surveys of middle school students and teachers in the area.

“I realized I really have a market here,” she said. “There’s a need.”

She quit teaching and opened two small businesses. There’s her intervention work as the Screentime Consultant — and now there’s a co-working space attached to a play space for kids needing “Screentime-Alternative” activities. (That’s playing with blocks and painting.)

In Chicago, Cara Pollard, a parent coach, noticed most adults have gotten so used to entertaining themselves with phones, they forgot that they actually grew up without them. Clients were coming to her confused about what to do all afternoon with their kids to replace tablets. She has her clients do a remembering exercise.

“I say, ‘Just try to remember what you did as a kid,’” Ms. Pollard said. “And it’s so hard, and they’re very uncomfortable, but they just need to remember.”

They will come back with memories of painting or looking at the moon. “They report back like it’s a miracle,” Ms. Pollard said.

The No-Phone Pledge

When I was a child, I played with Barbies. I made puppets from Woolite bottles and fabric and yarn. I drew and colored. I made perfume out of rose petals I pounded with a rock and mixed with water. I walked into the woods with a machete and chopped trails into blackberry brambles. We also rode bikes and picked wild blackberries so mom would bake us a pie. I also read a ton of books.katrob 2

What were your favorite activities as a child and how do you limit your children’s screen time?



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