Well, just so you know...some of my adult children don't agree with some parts of my vibe on this topic today and did not agree on it back when. When this debatable topic comes up now, I remind them that they can do things totally different with their kids. That's when they remind me, they will.
Good naturedly, of course :).
When our children were living under our roof, headphones (earbuds, etc) were absent, both in our home and in our car. Even on long trips. Like across Kansas.
Before I say why we did that, I want to clarify something.
I don't hate headphones. I have some and enjoy them. But when we started this parenting journey, and we were thinking about some of the values we hoped to instill in our children, it seemed like headphone use by our kids would hinder more than help us. Why make this parenting thing any harder than it has to be?
So, here's why headphones were absent:
-Lou and I purposely controlled what was played in the car because we wanted to introduce them to different genres and enjoy it with them. We played hours of (mostly) high quality children's music. And yes, even though it was high quality, it drove us to distraction at times. The Donut Man was a go to in this area. We played hours of good radio drama, introducing our children to stories like The Secret Garden, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little Women, and The Back of the North Wind. We'd also listen to Christian, Rock, Christian Rap, Classical and Country music, always monitoring the lyrics, because lyrics matter! We listened to favorite comedians. We listened to hours upon hours of Adventures in Odyssey, a family favorite to this day.
-Listening to all the above together gave us a shared memory. Conversations today are still peppered with quotes from things heard during car trips past.
-Listening to all the above together - especially the stories and the Odyssey broadcasts - launched conversations about easy and difficult life situations. Discussing how those scenarios were handled before you find yourself in the heat of a similar situation was safe and invaluable for when the real thing came along.
-We were trying to instill appreciation for others. I was about to say "appreciation for other's music, but it was more than that. We wanted them to see their siblings interests as...interesting! Each one of our children had their favorite music, and as the children grew older, we'd try to accommodate that preference by giving each one control of the music for allotted amounts of time. And so, for instance, Luke, who is 9 years older than Mary Grace, would get to hear what she liked, and she would get to hear what he liked. When he was 16 and she was 7, that was very different! But I hoped they learned a little about give and take and about patience. It certainly kept the music in the car varied!
-We wanted them to be present. We didn't love them retreating into their own world when others were around. We didn't want them to miss out on the ambient conversation. It's not like we were trying to say a bunch of profound things, we were just talking. But when you listen to others talk - even when they aren't talking to you - you pick up information about life and relationships.
Because our children had never known anything different, this was not a big issue in our home, especially when they were small. As they aged, they would plead the headphone cause on occasion. Quite emphatically, too. So, Lou and I would revisit this issue when we were alone, and we always ended up where we started. In our family, no headphone use was a good thing. This was a big issue for us. And we liked where we stood.
Now that everybody's post high school age but one, we basically have a no comment policy on their use or non-use of headphones. (Well, I think if we were riding in the car somewhere together, and they started to put their headphones in, I'd pull the mom card, and say something.) They are adults and I hope they enjoy their headphones and are thoughtful, wise, and relational as they use them.
If they happen to read this post and have forgotten the why behind the strict headphone policy we had when they were growing up, now I have refreshed their memory.
I hope they know it was strictly because we loved them.
Whatever your policy is about headphones, it's because you love your crew, too. Please know I mean no condemnation if your policy is diametrically opposed to ours. My heart is to provide a springboard of ideas for those a parenting step or two behind me.