By: Zara Maqbool
No TV dinners? Easier said than done! I work in the afternoon, which allows me an hour or so in which I have to make sure the kids have eaten their lunch, changed their clothes after being back from school and so on. Stressed out due to time I used to give in. If watching TV meant the lunch will finish soon, I gave in. If I had to bribe extra tablet time for finishing school work on time, I gave in and while I worked from home on my assignments and my toddler calmly sat next to me watching something on her tablet, I felt I had everything under control.
And then one day I realized I was being held hostage by three little human beings and how this reward and punishment conditioning which I thought was good parenting will affect their life decisions. It meant they would only act with responsibility if they are either rewarded or given undesirable consequences.
So mustering up all the courage that I had, I confiscated all the tablets in the house and formed the rule of two hours on the weekends only. I in fact handed them over to my husband lest I gave in, in a moment of weakness. Lot of protests, hue and cry came my way. Mehreen my teenager daughter said that she was sure she was adopted whereas my son Rayan called me the evil stepmother. The little one Maaneha with huge tears in her eyes and trembling lips seemed to have abandonment issues.
But I did not give in and VIOLA! Three weeks and counting and they are still taking the same time in doing the chores that they took while bribed with extra screen time and in fact finally playing in the sun soaking some much needed vitamin D.
When I posted this question on my FB wall, most moms felt it was a constant battle to reduce screen time and having gone through it myself, the word ‘battle’ fits the bill. Speaking for myself I think whether workingwomen or housewives, screen time allows us that moment of calm and peace that we crave for. When kids are self-entertaining then we don’t have to bother about entertaining them. I also feel that some of our generation of parents spends less time talking to the children or being engaged in activities with them. Taking them out to eat or driving around from one activity to another is not necessarily the same as actually spending quality time with the children.
We all know screen time is not good for our children so lets focus on how we can decrease it? So what to do? Sara Lodhi says, “We limit the screen time by signing them up for different after school activities almost 4-5 days a week. Then they enjoy reading books and get 2 or 3 books from school library every week. So it’s more of an indirect control! Also we usually allow only educational games on tablets and laptop.”
One thing to start with is not giving tablets to each child separately but having a computer or TV in shared space. Kids learn to compromise and learn sharing. This will also discourage entitlement behavior. Another important thing is to see how much are we using our phones and tablets because children mirror our behavior. So a little sacrifice is in order. Be clear and consistent about the rules and no matter what, don’t give in. It’s okay if they miss a meal or two. Be prepared for the typical question that my son asks, “Why do all my friends use it then?” Well here is an opportunity to define your family’s value system and help them respect and understand them. And most importantly I can bet that an alternative fun activity preferably outdoor will make your child much happy.
None of these things can be done overnight and the first step is the hardest. How to say NO? So muster up the courage all you parents out there and lets try not harming our kids’s mental and emotional health for some peace and quiet in the house!