ASK MOM offers parents and caretakers two perspectives on today’s child-rearing issues--one from a mom with grown children, the other from a mom raising small children. If you're looking for creative solutions, or your mom isn't around to ask, drop in!
THE PROBLEM: I’m feeling like a hypocrite. When my son was a baby, I used to be disgusted when I saw a parent plant their toddler in front of a screen at a restaurant. While the grown-ups are socializing, the kid is zoned out, staring at some cartoon or other. Now that my son is three, watching a cartoon is the ONLY way he’ll sit still. Gulp. That’s me, now. Sitting in a restaurant, plugging my son in, and (mostly) chatting with everybody but him. I don’t know how to unpack my mixed-up feelings about this. YUK!
MARY SAYS: I think we have two issues here, the first one being ‘mom guilt,’ which happens when you compare yourself to others. You know, that feeling you get when you see yourself as better or worse than other moms? There are only two things you can do with that kind of guilt. Get used to it or get over it. Easier said than done, I know, but for now, can you set it aside? We have more time-sensitive work to do.
Using screens as babysitters is becoming more common, so it’s critical to consider what the implications are. When my kids were little, there were no portable screens. Children were invited (expected!) to engage with siblings and adults. Social skills take years of practice. Why not focus these few short years when your children are small to challenge them (and yourself) to create real-world experiences? How else will they develop a natural ability to talk to people? Who would you have grown into if your social engagements as a small child all felt like Saturday morning cartoons? Give this some serious thought. Make your decision, then please let other families make theirs.
KRISTI SAYS: Sometimes we moms do things we never thought we'd do because we don't realize the circumstances that lead other parents to do them. It's hard work to train a toddler to sit for a meal. My little one is always on the go, and when we eat out, he definitely has a short attention span. While you may feel like a hypocrite, that's okay. It's okay to admit where you were too judgmental in the past. It's okay to think, "Wow, I never understood why parents did those things until now."
We all know that tons of screen time is no good for kids. But to use it on occasion so they won't run around screaming in a restaurant is probably fine. Maybe offer it as a reward for a short amount of good behavior. Like: "If you can sit here for 3 minutes, I'll let you play on the tablet for 3 minutes". Put yourself in their shoes. Sitting at a restaurant with nothing to do but watch people eat and talk is boring. Also, another option besides screen time is to let your kiddos bring a small toy or a coloring book. I find that when I do that and include my kids in the conversation, they have more fun and they behave better.
Speaking of Kids
Online phonics program blog: Musings, stories, and tips about teaching, reading, and parenting.
ABOUT MARY FOLLIN
Mary is the author of TEACH YOUR CHILD TO READ and ETHYR, winner of the Moonbeam Children's Book Award and the Gertrude Warner Book Award. She is mom to two grown sons and enjoys sharing her more seasoned perspective with parents of younger children.
ABOUT KRISTI CROSSON
Kristi is a professional photographer and homeschooling mom of three small children. She has a passion for helping other moms make healthy choices for themselves and their families. To learn more about Kristi, please visit her website.
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