Parents throughout the country, this is your call to arms. Detaching your beloved child from their tech is becoming a near impossibility. The fact they’re unable to talk to you in anything other than monosyllables (while apparently being able to hold a conversation with everyone else on the planet with an onslaught of tweets, hashtags, emoticons, emojis and decaying Snapchats), means it’s time to act. With recent figures showing that 28% of people between the ages of 2 and 15 are overweight, it really is time to get your offspring up and outside.
Like most things about parenthood, it’s going to take guile, persuasion and a little bribery. Nothing wrong with that, if it helps you to regain your teenager. It’s time to get brave.
1. Join the dark side
If the constant battle to get him or her off the sofa and into the fresh air, or even downstairs, is turning into a lightsaber duel of wits, know this: there are a number of tools, tricks and weapons in your arsenal. The first of which is to give up all hope of positive encouragement and go guerrilla. By which we mean, sit on the sofa next to your little Sith Lord and see how long they last with you wanting to get in on the game. Asking a barrage of obvious and inane questions will stir up a reaction and break the inertia. It’s childish, but it might just work. We said play the game, not play fair!
2. Gadgets to get them out
If tech is keeping them indoors, then tech can get them out, too. Invest in a drone with a camera to pilot into space – it may only be a few feet above the ground rather than a galaxy far, far away – but before you know it they’ll forget about their indoor tech in favour of flying. In fact, you could do the research together, so you know what you’re buying and what it’s capable of. Just be sure to check out the rules and regs before letting him or her loose! If a drone doesn’t do it for them, there’s no shortage of other gizmos and gadgets to choose from.
3. Set screen time and lock down
A sure-fire way to get them off their tech and out of their virtual reality is to limit the amount of time they can spend chatting to friends on social media, gaming or watching zombies run riot on Netflix. You pay the bill. You set the rules. You set the WiFi password. Restrict access until they’ve done their fair share of chores and finished their homework.
Maybe even one of those “chores” can be chatting to mum and dad! And don’t fall for the “I need the Internet for my homework!” ruse, or at least check what the homework is before giving them access. Even Sith Lord’s tell the truth from time to time.
4. Escape pods
Considering the shocking report that some kids spend more time indoors than prisoners, it might seem counter intuitive to book a day out that locks them in. Check out the new escape room craze. Rather than using persuasion, guile and a number of other personal skills to remain holed up in their room, your Sith Lord – and their minions – will get the chance to use teamwork, logic and yes, talking, to solve complex, themed puzzles and break out.
It’s against the clock too, so there’s less incentive to sit down and take it easy. There are also plenty to choose from around the country with different themes and sets ranging from World War 2, to virtual reality, code breaking, pirates and… a biochemistry mystery!
5. The beautiful “bubble” game
Your Sith Lord doesn’t have to be a football fanatic for this one. In fact, it might help if they really didn’t like the game at all, because when you pull up to the pitch for this version of the beautiful game, their jaw will drop and they’ll be racing to get on the pitch. Bubble soccer is what the Germans call “loopy ball” and it’s easy to see why. Along with the usual shorts, t- shirt and boots, you get to wear a huge bubble of air around your body.
The idea of the game is to score, but also knock your opponents over. It’s not a game for the faint of heart or if you’re weak at the knees but the sheer joy of bouncing off each other will get the most sedentary Sith Lord’s heart pumping. If that fails, there’s always two-ball soccer. Yep, two balls. Each team has one ball and tries to keep it and capture the other team’s.
6. Set their sights on something higher
Each level your Sith Lord completes on their favourite game proves one thing to you: they can achieve a goal and have the desire to keep going until they meet the big bad boss at the end. All you need to do is find an outdoor – or out of their room – equivalent.
Easier said than done, but that’s what the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme is there for. Tailored to the needs of young people from 14-24 years old, it’s designed to boost self-esteem, build character and allow kids to push their boundaries in a positive, supportive way. It’s all about broadening horizons and giving kids the skills and confidence they’ll need to live and lead a fulfilling and rewarding life. There are plenty of heart-warming stories to inspire them like Emily Mailes who used to take her son with her on expeditions! And James Burte-Carty who volunteered at Kingstanding Leisure Centre, which he attended as a youngster and where he coached football and helped children with their arts and crafts.
7. Reverse psychology
This one will require some detective work. Be honest, do you know who your kid’s idols are? Who inspires them? Who do they want to be like? Find out and build up an idea of what those people have done and how they did it. Engaging with your Sith Lord is as much about understanding who they aspire to be, as understanding who they are right now.
Once you’re armed with that knowledge, put it to use. Casually drop in that there’s no way on Tatooine that Darth Vader would be where he is today, if he’d sat at home in front of the gogglebox all day. In other words, become your Sith Lord’s very own Emperor Palpatine.
If they reply with the “What do you know about it?” line, you’ll be prepared. You’ll be able to say that Vader wasn’t born a Sith Lord. He had to work his way up by building C-3PO, a pod racer, winning the pod race – all by the age of nine – then wage single-handed war on an entire tribe of Sand people and construct his own lightsaber before he was allowed to set foot in the Death Star!
Disclosure: This is a collaborative post