We are three hours into taking away electronic watching and gaming devices from our children. In our home, this constitutes denying anyone ages 6 and 4 access to three very coveted machineries: the laptop, the iPhone, and the iPad.
The decision to impose the moratorium happened when my husband and I could take the crying, fighting, and stand-offs no more: GIVE me the iPad. Put DOWN the iPad. And when my husband’s unimaginable words traveled, seemingly in slow motion to our children’s ears, they landed, settled for a moment, and promptly exploded nuclear.
There were horrified screams (no words, just the sound of tortured souls grasping for air), a vicious reprisal (we will not eat breakfast without watching), and desperate attempts at negotiation (“We put on our shoes, now can we watch?”). But the words have been spoken and I am confident my husband and I have introduced a healthy and positive change into our home.
I may also need therapy as a result. I mean, come on, who introduces a no-watching policy in the summer? My kids are enrolled in day camp and are participating in hours of hot, sun-filled, sweat-inducing activities that can be qualified as nothing but wholesome. They are returned back to me looking like tired tie-dyed rags, a walking mix of paint, sunscreen, sweat, and sand: Sticky human popsicles programmed for meltdown. Now is the time to take away a quiet, stress reducing activity? Unfortunately, I know, the answer is yes.
You see, we introduced watching into our home to encourage cooperation and compliance among the younger folk. And it did just that, for a while.
My husband and I were working hard with our children to modify some challenging behaviours and a few minutes of clean, educational watching time was earned for a good day at school or the completion of a sticker chart. It was a much more convenient, cost effective, and less clutter-filled reward than a trip to the dollar store.
But it also proved surprisingly addictive. Requests for watching began drifting into my dreams at 5 a.m., when my son awoke desperate for electronic entertainment. Around the same time, shows like “Shezow” and “Star Wars” replaced parentally sanctioned shows like “The Backyardigans” and “Bubble Guppies.” Our children, naturally creative and opportunistic, identified any free (or not so free) moment as an ideal time to imbibe, and began hiding under bed sheets and even in bike trailers to grab a few extra hits of “Scooby Doo.”
Band-aid solutions, like phone codes and timers, helped but didn’t solve the underlying problem that our children were addicted to watching. And then, the internal fighting began between my husband and I (Whaaat? You are letting the kids watch again? I already gave them phone time…). The computer, iPad, and iPhone had become a source of conflict in our home rather than a solution for it.
So, what happened when we took away watching? Well, I will let you know.
So far, the children cried, the parents panicked, and everyone still made it to camp on time. I know my husband and I will have to steel ourselves for after-camp, when our children are accustomed to their 20 minutes of cartoons. But hopefully, they will be strong enough, and we will be strong enough, to survive without daily watching rewards. And the dollar store will probably do well this summer because of it.