Mama Gone Back on Her Word!
I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s (yes, I am that old…don’t laugh!) and enjoyed the lifestyle of not having a phone dictating my behavior at every “bing” and the joys of having true friendships where we would talk in person and have real conversations without whipping out a phone in order to better express our side of the conversation.
We played with toys – not digital toys – actual toys where you had to use your imagination in order to really get the effect!
We read books. Ones where you would feel the weight of the hardcovered book in your hand and be able to physically engage your fingers in the soothing feeling of turning the pages!
We took pictures on cameras that had to have the film developed, but you could actually hold the photos in your hand and place them in albums where you could pull the photos out when you wanted to have a closer look.
Those days were more personal. More intimate. I believe that people were more connected to others and to the world around them on another level.
Those days are disappearing all too quickly and now toys are toys that actually talk back and tell you how to play with it.
Books no longer contain pages that you can actually be a part of. They are electronic and have pictures that come alive instead of ones that trigger imagination.
Photos are “scrolled through” and uploaded into a Cloud. If you print a photo album, the photos are printed onto the pages instead of giving the opportunity of holding the photo in your hand for a more personal look.
Since day one, I swore that I would never allow my child to play with a tablet or a phone.
I have always been a big believer in toys and books and I have never liked the high-tech world of today. “Ok, Angela, you’re a bit of a hypocrite because here you are writing a blog!”
Well, I am also a bit of a hypocrite in the sense that (Ahem) I also gave in and bought my son a tablet… and he plays with it – sometimes.
History of The Infamous Tablet
Every year, my sister would host Christmas at her house and all of our younger cousins would come in and we would have board games, coloring books and story books piled up in the living room ready for them to play with. And they loved it! They played with each other, laughed, talked and got silly!
I will never forget the Christmas when they all walked in with their tablets and phones and sat in a circle in my sister’s living room and just played on their devices.
They didn’t talk to each other.
They didn’t look at each other.
They didn’t acknowledge each other.
They simply sat there – completely engaged in their device.
And the board games, coloring books and storybooks just sat there, too.
The change from one Christmas to the very next was so extreme, that I swore that when I had children, such devices would not even be allowed in the house.
And that, if people entered into my house with those devices, then they would be asked to put them into a basket at the door because my time with that person is important to me and I would not want to spend my precious time watching that person play with some phone or tablet.
Then, I had my son.
And I still swore that he was not going to have a tablet…even though a close friend of mine gave in and bought one for her daughter, who is the same age as my son.
When my son was a year and a half old, he started to have constipation that was so severe that it took up most of our lifestyle.
He would spend just about every night screaming and crying and acting as though he was in terrible pain. I would spend most of our time together rubbing his back, rocking him and giving him every natural constipation-reliever I could think of!
The doctor said that he was holding it in because he did not want to go.
My son loved the phones and anytime someone would come over, he always found a sneaky way to get ahold of one and play with it. Then, he discovered my friend’s daughter’s tablet and that was it. He was hooked!
So, one night, after he spent time on the toilet screaming in pain, I finally realized that if I give in and bought him a tablet that he can earn if he poops, then maybe our problems would be resolved.
I finally gave in and my friend helped me purchase the right tablet with plenty of age-appropriate games for my son.
When it arrived, I showed it to my son and said, “If you poo poo, you get to play with the yellow!” (It’s a yellow tablet).
Well, it never really worked.
He would still have trouble with bowel movements and would still hold it in until he just couldn’t anymore – which always ended in screaming and crying.
As he got older and started acting out in restaurants, I started bringing the tablet to curve his behavior so that we could have quiet meals with friends and family.
I also started bringing it on long car rides….and then I used it to help him transition to his new daycare.
I started giving it to him upon request.
I started giving it to him when I needed him to leave me alone so that I could get some things done.
And then, I realized, he was no longer receiving it as a reward!
He was receiving it whenever he wanted!
I had lost control of the infamous tablet!
And, if a parent as strict as me about technology could lose such control, then, no wonder why our children are so addicted to all of these electronic devices! They are so enticing that parents can barely control their grip on their children!
Turning Over the Original Leaf
Upon realizing this, I immediately, yet slowly, started fading the tablet.
In order to do this though, I had to find other activities that would hold my son’s attention.
You see, the one thing about an electronic device is that it is so engaging that it is hard to ignore.
What I needed was to simply be more engaged with my son!
Children are so quickly ignored because of a parent’s additional responsibilities that it is easy for them to become more attached to a device that will pay them 100% attention rather than for them to be attached to a person who only semi pays attention.
I have limited my son’s use of the tablet by telling him that it is “sleeping” and that we are going to do another activity together instead.
I have done a better job of involving him with other household activities that I have to complete, such as asking him to help me add ingredients to the bowl when I am cooking or handing him his pajamas to put away when I am folding the laundry.
When there is not much that he can do, I will give him an activity to do within the same room that I am in so that I can still talk to him and act silly around him while I’m working.
For instance, he loves to stand on the step stool and play in the kitchen sink. I allow him to do this while I am working close by in the kitchen.
He also loves to practice climbing up and down on the bed, so I encourage him to do this when I am trying to fold a pile of laundry that is on the bed.
I feel as though I never had a hard time keeping other people’s children occupied, but when it is your own child and you are with them all of the time, it can prove to be more challenging!
“But, Angela,” you may say, “I love my child’s tablet because they leave me alone and I can get things done.”
Okay! That’s alright.
But, what is not okay is when that is the only interaction and the only activity that they are engaging in.
Lack of engagement with others can lead to isolation and lack of social skills.
It can lead to feeling disconnected to family and friends.
And feelings like this in children as they grow older can lead to some problems down the road.
I truly believe that too much involvement in video games and other electronic games has played a major role in the mass shootings that have been on the rise over the years.
Even though there are games that we try to control, sometimes, we do not know what else our children may have come across.
My son came across a children’s game on his tablet and I was appalled when I saw him playing with it the one day.
It was a baby bear that needed a bath and you could put him in the washing machine to bathe him. (Imagine the ideas my son could get from this!)
You could also make a rain cloud wash him, but the cloud would electrocute him.
I was horrified that they would even make a children’s game like this and had it pulled off the tablet.
But, my son had been playing that game for awhile and I did not pay attention enough to realize what he had been engaging in.
I urge parents to find as many moments as possible to review what your child is watching on these devices!
When they are asleep, open up every game and play it for yourself and then ask yourself, how is this game going to have an impact on my child?
I also highly encourage parents to talk to and to engage with your children as much as possible!
Ideas for Engagement and Activities
It is so hard to engage with your children when you are trying to do other activities.
I couldn’t believe how hard of a time I was having trying to keep my son engaged.
Like I had mentioned, it is one thing to keep a child engaged when you are only with them a short period of time (such as for a grandma to entertain her grandson on a visit), but to try to do this 24/7 while trying to complete other necessary chores and activities as a parent, it is truly tough!
And I think that is why it is so easy to resort to an electronic device to help with this.
When TVs first came out, parents often resorted to these as a source of entertainment for their children.
(I still resort to the TV, but much of the time, I put the music station on while my son plays)
Make certain your home has plenty of toys and games for your children to play with.
My job often had me going in-home to work with children and I could not believe the lack of toys parents had for their children.
One of my jobs was to teach the children how to play, but I had such difficulty with this because the parents did not have anything for them to play with!
The entire living room and dining area of my home is dedicate to my son’s play.
He has a toy roller coaster, a pool filled with toy balls (like a ball pit), a large basket of bouncy balls (that we bounce all over the dining room) and an area of a variety of toys in baskets that he can play with. He has a couple toy ride-alongs, a toy vacuum and a couple of those old fashioned ball poppers that you push around the house and they make that popping sound!
I do not own a kitchen table because it is just him and me and we often eat in the living room anyways.
I do not want one because I enjoy the open space that it leaves for him and I to play in.
We have a small house, but most of the living space is dedicated to his play.
I am not saying that you have to go and get rid of your kitchen table or other furniture and let your child take over the house, but make certain you have a room that is dedicated to his/her play.
Fill that room with plenty of toys that allow for imagination and creativity!
Or you can turn a finished basement into a large play space and set up a toy kitchen set or other sets that would foster age-appropriate play.
I really like the products that Green Kid Crafts have to offer to assist with building learning skills and encouraging creativity.
As hard as it is, take advantage of seconds in the day to talk or to engage with your child.
When we are getting ready in the morning, I allow my son to play with the squirt bottle I use to wet down his hair.
He tries to squirt me and I run through the house while I put away his clothes and grab items we need from the bedroom.
Then, I take the squirt bottle and pretend to chase after him while I am really packing up his belongings and loading the car.
Just me saying, “I am going to squirt you!” and make as though I am coming after him, not only gives me a quick minute to do what I need to do while he runs away, but it also keeps that connection – that engagement – going with him while I am trying to get things together.
It has really made a difference in our relationship and I can see that he is so much happier and wanting to be with me more.
Instead of having meltdowns in the morning, he is saying, “Mama, come play with me!”
YOUR Engagement Is Most Important
It is real easy to get wrapped up in our responsibilities as parents and to lose sight of what is most important.
There is no greater connection that your child can have than the one with YOU.
Not a tablet.
Not a video game.
Not a phone.
Your influence – even if you can only give seconds at a time – means so much!
Your child will grow up happier, more connected and confident in the world around him/her with YOU as their main source of attention rather than with an electronic device.
And think of the INFLUENCE you will have….
We have a choice every day…
To raise a child who is going to grow up feeling lost and alone
To raise a child who feels loved, prepared and excited about life.
For you and your family, you will make the right choice in however you decide to achieve it!
May God Bless You!