Responding to one of my earlier letters in this space, a millennial mother wrote to me about how “parenting has become more difficult now than ever.” This has become a new age maxim among parents who in a multitude of voices echo the frustrations of bringing up children amidst umpteen influences.
Was parenting easier in the past? Perhaps not, but the challenges might have been different and the fact that they were tackled at domestic levels and we all grew up to be successful people in our own right proves how present-day challenges too can be handled with some inventiveness and clever thought.
While still on games and gadgets, which seem to be the biggest bane affecting our children’s lives presently, I would like to suggest a simple (but not easy) hack. Stop hyperventilating about it. Their habit is far from healthy, but when we add our own parental obsession to their addiction, we only end up compounding an already complex problem.
When we lose grip on our own response system, we end up creating a situation that will not be conducive to problem-solving. Instead, it will make the atmosphere vicious and children will resort to various ways – from blatant aggression to passive resistance – of expressing their defiance. So, find your own anchor to contain your ire when triggered by their objectionable act.
Instead of a random tirade, firmly remind them of the house rule you had previously set. It may not work; they may not pay heed, but it is important to keep calm and just let them know that you have noticed. The aim is to not to provoke them, but to make them feel guilty of a violation. If you thought a loud reprimand will set things right, you couldn’t be more wrong.
The house rule must stipulate the gadget time allowed each day and for what purpose. Don’t take away their gadgets and stop their recreation; instead ration them. Moderation is key when it comes to setting boundaries and expecting compliance. The idea here is to make children realise that you are not against their having a good time, but you take serious exception to overdoing it, that too for the right reasons.
Nothing works in isolation. We need to pull out every trick in the bag to make things work. Conversations, house rules, moderation, light reprimands – they all work concurrently.
For our part, we need to acknowledge the role of gadgets in our tech-dominated lives and admit that children cannot be deprived of them. Hence moderation. It is true that gadgets provide educational value, aid social interaction and be a platform for creativity. Balanced consumption in ounces will not only prevent over exposure, but also help them pick up important life skills, preparing them for a real world outside.
Deprivation is an ineffective way to handle children’s gadget craving. It will only encourage sneaky behaviour and hostile responses. The idea is to know the merits of moderation and apply them with common consent. It might be tempting to reject these methods as ‘unfeasible’, and be in a constant demur mode, but the truth is, nothing can be set right unless we give it an earnest shot.
Before signing off, here’s a little secret that will restore your peace – children wean off most juvenile addictions (especially the techy kind) sooner or later. Every interest has an expiry date. Until next time, happy parenting.