Monday, February 1, 2016

The other night, a friend told us that his son and daughter-in-law parent by “negotiation.” What? “Negotiation?” Who taught a six-year-old how to negotiate? I would have loved it if my father had said, “Well, sweetheart, what would you like to give me in return for my allowing you to play doctor with Richie Gray next door?” Will you clear the table tonight and take out the garbage? Are you effen kiddin’ me? I did what I was told, and I had no voice at six years old. I did what any kid in the 50s would have done, I snuck out the screen door with my plastic stethoscope and yelled for Richie. 

The issue of children from age one to eighteen burying their faces in their technological devices, a tiny ear plug in their ear is a growing concern for grand-parents, and, hopefully, for parents. At what age should children be allowed to play with I-phones or tap tap tap on a computer screen? How long should “tech time” last? Is this the 21st century parents’ answer to “keep them quiet?” It works. The kids are quiet, but they can’t carry on a conversation, they don’t know manners, their thumbs will be the subject of surgery one day, and Lord knows what all the games and visual fireworks are doing to their brain cells? Negotiation? No. No negotiation. In my humble opinion, if parents don’t set ground rules about devices early on, they are going to have hell to pay one day when their kids are sitting in shrinks’ offices.

Here’s my way to negotiate:  
“Here, kid. Here’s Mommy’s I-phone. You may play with it for five minutes, and then I will put it away. You will play with it again when I say so. If a guest enters our home, you will take out your ear bud, and you will engage in conversation in the polite manner you’ve been taught. When you want to leave the conversation, you ask permission, and wait until I grant it. You then go outside and play with the squirrels.” How’s that for negotiation? The fallout, of course, is that the kid will be healthy from the sunshine, stimulated by learning to converse with others and respectful to his elders. Now there’s a concept.

What moron came up with the theory that giving your kid a ten-minute explanation of every rule you set down is healthy for them? Does the kid really want all that explanation? I don’t think so; he just wants his way, and if he doesn’t get it, he will throw a fit.

I remember when my kids wouldn’t eat the meals I would spend hours cooking. I got so frustrated, I turned the cooking over to my husband. When they wouldn’t eat his either, we gave them a choice:  mac n cheese from a box, peanut butter and jelly sandwich or bed. Unfortunately, the less healthy mac n cheese won out most of the time, but they learned that they had to eat something, and they couldn’t whine their way away from the table. Rules were rules, and negotiation was one-sided. There were no toys or devices at our table; it was family time. I saw their eyes and heard their giggles; I wasn’t staring at the tops of their heads. Of course, I didn’t have a phone in my hand either.

I do not blame kids for becoming addicted to technology; I blame parents. If you want your kids to be articulate, they must learn how to express themselves in words, not thumbs. If you want your kids to learn respect, them model it. If you want your kids to know the beauty of the stars and the joy of a walk in the summer breeze, then send them to the woods or the beach, with no i-pod, I-pad, cell phone or laptop. If you want them to be caring compassionate human beings, they will not learn this by tapping a screen or listening to wild rock music blaring in their ears 24/7. If you want them to grow up, then don’t cripple them by enabling them to become dependent on techno toys to socialize, and teach them that society has rules, and they must follow them, even when it doesn’t suit their mood.