Yesterday, I heard a father complain that his kids never talk to him. He mentioned that they had their heads buried in their tablets, I-pads, or phones.

I asked him who paid for the devices. He said, “I do.”

I suggested giving the kids a block of time, when they cannot use electronics.

About 20 years ago, I found that the kids were spending too much time playing video games, Pac man, Atari, and Nintendo.

Therefore, we established a family rule.

Between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., there were no electronics, no TV, no Nintendo, no music, and no phone time.

The kids could do their homework, practice piano, cook, shoot baskets, write in their journals, or do an act of service.

One or two of the kids, said they were going to call the police, on me. I handed them the phone.

It took some time, but they settled in.

We need to give kids some parameters.

All of this talk, reminded me of grandpa’s rice pudding.

Grandpa, my mom’s dad, lived on a farm. Grandma died at age 35 leaving grandpa with my 7-year-old mom, her three brothers, and one sister.

Mom and her siblings learned to work hard at a very young age.

After my parents married they moved to the city. A couple times a week, we would visit grandpa’s farm.

During the school year, we’d normally go down to the farm on Thursday and Sunday.

Grandpa picked us up because mom didn’t drive. She didn’t want to drive (and now I know why).

In the summer, we’d visit more frequently, sometimes staying the night.

Grandpa didn’t have a television or telephone. They were invented. He just chose not to have them.

There were plenty of things to do on the farm because Grandpa had animals, a huge garden, and plenty of work needing done.

In the spring, we’d help plant the vegetables. Later, we’d husk corn, shell limas, or break string beans. We’d pick the grapes.

We’d milk the cow and collect eggs from the chickens. We’d slop the pigs and feed the dogs.

For fun, we’d ride the horse Betsy or swim in Pequea Creek.

There was a little island, in the middle of the creek, where, we’d frequently make Captain Hook walk the plank.

Food was great at grandpa's. He’d make mashed potatoes, buttered noodles, and lima beans or corn. Other days, he’d make cabbage and potatoes.

Some nights after dinner, grandpa would walk outside the back door and lift the cement cover to the spring well. We knew what was coming when he’d draw up the rope.

Attached to the end of the rope was a watermelon wrapped in a burlap bag. It was cold and what a treat!

My favorite dessert was grandpa’s rice pudding. He made the best rice pudding.

Grandpa’s pudding had high nutritional value. But I liked it more for its conversational value.

When Grandpa cooked his rice pudding, I would stand next to him.

Once the pudding started to boil, it took 35 minutes of stirring to thicken.

And while it simmered, we’d talk.

That’s what was so great about grandpa’s farm.

We’d husk and talk. We’d shell and talk. We’d milk and talk. We’d cook and talk.

Parents, I’d say, long before you give the kids electronics, establish the rules.

In addition, you can also make rice pudding.


-- Diane Mack is coordinator of Putting Families First, Jackson County’s Family Week Foundation. Email her at or visit