by Erich Eisenegger.
My wife and I tried many things to address the increasing hold our tablets and gaming devices had on our five children: taking away the devices for varying periods of time (or threats to do so), rewarding them to do other activities, using widely different tones of voice to try and get through to them that spending too much time on devices is a real problem. But all efforts were frustrated, in part because it was too easy for our kids, even our youngest, to point out that we were being hypocritical.
After the folks at Laug Auf asked me to play soccer with them in a tournament on a beautiful April day in Brooklyn, I went to Laug Auf’s website and read their “Minifesto” and Laug Auf pledges. It perfectly expressed what I wanted to communicate with our kids in a non-technical or scientific manner. It made sense emotionally and intellectually without being preachy. I wanted to get more involved and help them with their mission, mostly for my own sake.
I told my kids about Laug Auf and they were at first skeptical. Would this be just another half- hearted stunt? But then they saw the Laug Auf pledges printed out and left teasingly on the coffee table. They saw phrases like “Eyes Open”, “Life On”, and they saw that the pledges were not just for them as some sort of punishment, the parents had skin in the game too.
We declared that a family evening would be devoted to Taking the Laug Auf Pledge, which was met with some expected child cynicism. We sat down with each child individually and we read the pledges together. We signed them and memorialized the night with a photograph. There were immediate benefits - “Laug Auf” wasn’t a catchy way for us to tell them to get off their devices, it was a reminder of their commitment. And mine.
The first few times I told my son to Laug Auf, my son tested me - “Fine, then come outside to play with me.” I put my own phone down - it was my pledge too. And the next day when I picked up my phone in the car to check my texts, my youngest daughter immediately said, “Laug Auf, Daddy, no texting and driving.” She was right - but instead of thinking “because it’s the law”, we were both thinking of my pledge - that you are too important to me.
It came down to communication -- Laug Auf helped us communicate with our children of all ages about balancing our device and real world experiences - and about what it means to spend quality time with each other. And we literally wear our hearts on our sleeves, on our heads and chest, as a family, to remind us when we need it.