It’s an incident that happened a few days ago when I was visiting my parents’ home. My 5-year old nephew was watching some cartoons on the iPad. In spite of umpteen warnings by my mother, he was still glued to the screen. A couple of hours later, my sister in law returned home. She saw his son still with the iPad. So, without warning, she just snatched the iPad from his hands. What followed next was totally unbelievable.
My nephew was first stunned. And then in the next second, he lied down on the floor, and started banging his fists and head in a full blown tantrum. Seriously, who throws a tantrum, that too over a tablet?
A few days ago, a similar thing happened with my daughter. As she is more vocal, she chose to express her feelings rather than throw a tantrum. She was playing Temple Run on my phone, when I told her to give my phone back. She first made a face, but then when she saw I was serious, she gave the phone back to me.
But not without throwing this loaded question at me – “Now what do I do?”
It made me realize that I took away an important thing from her. But, in return I was offering her nothing.
Also, threatening them with “age-old TV, phone or tablet is not good for your eyes” cuts little ice. They have heard this a million times if not more, and they don’t care. They have friends who wear cool blue, pink or yellow framed glasses and don’t think having weak eyes hampers their lifestyle even a bit.
Kids until they turn 7-8 years, unlike adults cannot stare into space or daydream for hours. They need an activity to keep them busy. And, more often than not, the onus falls on us, the parents.
I often look back upon my childhood and try to recall what I did when I was my daughter’s age. It was simple. We didn’t have TV then (except a couple of hours in the evening which at that point of time didn’t interest me much) and there were no electronic gadgets. But, I had siblings. So getting bored was never an option. There was always someone or the other to play with. I don’t ever recall my mother playing with us. She had enough on her plate with 3 children. But, today, our kids are alone. Many of them don’t have siblings. And with working parents, no one to play silly games with.
So before we snatch that iPad or phone or switch off the TV, we need to think of interesting options for our kids. It’s not right to just yell at them – Go in your room and play! No, that doesn’t work.
They need clear clues. Suggest – how about you do a bit of drawing or colouring. Get more lucid if you have to – “Would you like to draw a flower, mountains or your favourite friends?”
They need more options. You snatched their favourite toy even if you don’t think of it as one. So they are sulking. That means whatever you suggest won’t go down very well initially. Remember, how we behave when we are upset with things. We just can’t think straight or realize what is right for us. Hence, keep a multitude of options handy. Running out of them is not an option. Drawing colouring, making puzzles, playing with dolls or kitchen set, etc.
Encourage to play alone. Do not pity. Playing alone is neither a catastrophe, nor a punishment. Today’s kids have ample toys and games. It won’t hurt them to indulge in some alone time with their treasure.
Offer to play. Kids can play alone but not for long. And, you can’t have their friends over all the time. So, sometimes it’s advisable to offer to play with them. Unfortunately, I have realized I cannot play with dolls or tea parties with her. It’s just not in me. However, I can do activities with her – like I read to her, make puzzles, take her for a walk, play Frozen UNO cards, narrate stories or play board games with her. Find your niche and indulge in that activity with your child.
Don’t back down. Once you have decided to take the gadget away, stick to your decision. If you surrender now, you won’t get the same level of attention or respect the next time you choose to do it. So, however hard it may be for you, just stick to it.
At the end of the day, just remember, snatching away a gadget is not enough, even if it’s for a higher good, you need to replace it with something worthwhile (in your kids’ eyes).