Don’t get defensive when you read this. We’ve all done it. We’ve all had prouder parenting moments, but let’s speak candidly.
More and more you notice technology in the hands of babes. It’s happening in restaurants, doctors’ offices, cars, and even the lines at Disney. Once I even saw it at church! Please don’t misunderstand. There is certainly a time and a place for these techno babysitters, but are we over doing it?
How did parents before us survive? The answer is simple. They had behavioral expectations in certain settings, and they interacted with their children. Certainly, the quality of that interaction must have waned on a nine-hour drive to the beach, but preparations were made in the form of coloring books, billboard games, and car tag challenges. Even the dreaded punch buggy game.
Do we really need to rely on an iPad to entice our children to stay in a seat and behave in a restaurant? Plan accordingly for the setting. Is it a place that you can play tic-tac-toe? Rock, paper, scissors? If not, how about a dog-eat-dog game of I Spy or 20 Questions?
There is certainly nothing wrong with popping in a favorite DVD for that drive to the beach, but do we need it playing on the drive to and from school or on the way to soccer practice?
Language deficits in children are at an all-time high. These short car rides are great opportunities for language development! Don’t just ask if they had a good day. Ask him to tell you the three best parts of the day. Or the best part and the worst part. Ask her to tell you the beginning, middle, and end of a book she just read. Summarizing and retelling books, games, movies, etc. are all great exercises in expressive language. Why not ask him to help you plan some meals for the week and even write the grocery list? When you think about it, the topic possibilities are endless.
A personal favorite is a good game of “Would You Rather”? Would you rather eat three toenails from a monkey or two fleas and a tick? Although, not ideal for a restaurant, as it may result in a diminished appetite, this game is sure to get giggles and inspire the imagination.
Yes, life is easier when your three children each have something to occupy them. They don’t argue, they’re quiet, and they’re entertained. However, there is something to be said for developing conflict resolution skills with a sibling. A few gray hairs may be acquired along the way, but your guidance with what is acceptable in arguing and negotiating may serve him well in the future.
Have behavioral expectations, but also plan for the setting. With younger children, it might be best to start out with short periods and gradually increase the time. It can be challenging at first, but you may be surprised at how much fun you can have and how much you will learn about your child!
Patience is a virtue, right? Behavioral expectations for these settings must be set and rich conversations can be had. Give it a try and see the growth and benefits!
*Without a doubt, there are certainly benefits to some electronic devices, apps, games, etc. There are also many electronic educational tools that can be used for enrichment and supplemental remediation. The key, as with everything, is for them to be used in moderation.