Wednesday Words—The Effort of Decision


Children should be saved the Effort of Decision

As summer approaches, many parents experience a sense of dread. This dread is the emotional response to a reality before them; the children lack the needed good habits for enjoying leisure. Thus, they fall prey to excessive entertainment. Neil Postman[1] makes an important distinction between work, leisure, and entertainment, describing entertainment as a time in between work and leisure.

A child does have summertime work. It is a continuation of much of the year’s work: approaching God through reading and praying, caring for the younger children, contributing to the household and outdoor chores, tending to areas in need of organization, drawers, garage, basements etc., practicing music, sport, and where needed a measure of academic work, i.e. math facts. But summertime also offers a greater space for leisure. Leisure, as freedom from work, is a time to grow in delightful practices  as handwork, painting, reading, cooking, writing, doing good for others, (whom shall I bless?), dog walking, hiking, etc.  Entertainment, well  it’s the time  between work and leisure. It is like dessert after a fine meal, a delight if not over indulged, a treat but not the meal. Habits of overindulging in amusements, and one rears thrilled, manic then sullen, melancholy children; much as if the children were fed a bowl of flavored sugar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Intuitively parents know the abundant consumption of technology is not good for the children, but what else is to be done? What’s the harm after all? If parents don’t think long and hard enough concerning the influences of entertainment on the family, they will ultimately concede to its attraction because the effort of decision is the greatest effort in life. Unless clear habits are determined upon in advance and cultivated; when pressed, parents will inevitably give way to the clamor of playing video games or spending time on technology.

We all know that such questions are difficult to settle [in the moment] because of the wear and tear on emotions and relationships, the irritated spirit and headache it leaves behind.  For this reason it is, we may reverently believe, that we are so marvelously and mercifully made that most of our decisions arrive, so to speak, of themselves: that is, ninety-nine out of a hundred things we do, are done, well or ill, as mere matters of habit…. this wonderful provision for recording repeated actions and reproducing them upon given stimuli––a means provided for easing the burden of life, and for helping us to realize the happiness which appears to be the divine intention for us so far as we become like little children––it is startling and shocking that there are many children of thoughtful parents whose lives are spent in day-long efforts of decision upon matters which it is their parents' business to settle for them.[2]

Questions to Consider:

~Why not use leisure time to inform oneself  by reading  Postman’s books listed below?

~ Why not settle the decision for your children regarding time spent with work, leisure, and entertainment prior to the summer?


[1] Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology

[2] Charlotte Mason, School Education, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1899) 20-21 (paraphrased).