Dear Parents, as I embark on a slightly challenging but earnest attempt to steer our children out of addictions, especially of devices, I would like to hark back to the letter I wrote to you emphasising the importance of setting examples to our children.
One of the biggest hurdles to making measurable progress in life is an overweening attitude of omniscience that makes us believe that we know it all and we need no counsel from whosoever; that as parents, we are the masters to our wards. However, in believing so, we often fail to see our own faults that might have an unintended effect on our children. I don’t deny the chances of left-handed advice coming our way, but being open to discussions and pointers will bring breakthroughs that we may probably know but don’t immediately think of. There are lessons to glean from everywhere and everyone.
I was recently in conversation with a very aware parent who said there were set rules in the family with regard to use of gadgets. I was amazed. Is it feasible to draw lines when, as adults, we spend a humongous portion of our day hobnobbing with gadgets for everything from work to leisure? He said it was. The conviction with which he spoke about setting margins made me realise there was merit in collective regulation, and it becomes effective when we, as parents, resolutely follow it first.
To begin with, let there be a family gathering to address the issue, and if you are a gadget freak yourself, confess it to your children and remind them how it is impacting your life. For this, we must honestly admit to our habits and make a pledge to control it, which is where the role model point comes into play.
In the meeting, have open communication with regard to the children’s concerns and challenges. A student of mine once said to me that it was not the social chats but messages from school groups regarding homework and study that distracted him and made him want to look in the phone frequently. It was a genuine dilemma to which we, as parents, are victims too. Don’t we keep checking our phones for messages — some personal and the others official? How are we going to stop our children from checking their screens when we cannot do it ourselves?
Make a plan for yourself first and share it with your children. It will not be easy, for we need to wean ourselves out of it before we instruct them; but as adults with higher cognitive power, we are more equipped to solve problems than they are. We must wear our critical thinking caps and devise a feasible gadget-use plan that can be introduced in the family meeting and be implemented.
Include the children in the plan and tell them that each one is an observer and no one can flout the rule, parent or child. It might sound frivolous at the outset and even impractical, but the efficacy lies in the intention. Start with a self-control programme and filter it down to the children by laying out the initial difficulties; sharing your own challenges with it; and assuring them that they are not in a lonely battle. The key is to get the children to agree to the commandments, and this can be accomplished only if they know you are all in it together. And be firm: follow the rules or you will be grounded — father, mother or children. Happy Parenting.