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Sunday, November 17th, 2013
I had a sitter the other night who the kids love. But this time they were antsy. Bored. They wouldn’t let me get ready. Emmett wailed when I tried to leave the room.
“Fine, you guys can watch a Super Why,” I said.
Yes, it was the path of least resistance. Yes, it was easier. But according to some new studies, there is a real danger in what I did.
Research is showing that kids who watch a lot of television and play on the iPad, iPhone, etc., are growing up to have “sustained attention” problems. Now before you stop reading and think, “Yeah, yeah I’ve heard this before,” hear me out. There’s some really new–and interesting– information surfacing. You have to remember that middle and high school kids who are growing up with this modern technology are giving us more and more insight into what it all means and the impact it is having. This is important stuff. Here’s the scoop:
When you walk in the door with your phone or text in front of your kid, you are sending a message to them that they aren’t as important (yes, we’ve heard that before). But you’re also sending a message that this device keeps your attention a lot of the time. When’s the last time you sat in the doctor’s office doing nothing while waiting for your name to be called? Or just sat quietly, not on your phone, waiting for your take-out meal to be ready? How many times have you given the phone to your kid at a restaurant because you want to enjoy your meal? I’m guilty on all counts.
All of the above is teaching them that technology soothes. What’s happening is kids are losing the ability to “self-soothe.” They aren’t just sitting still, using their imagination. Kids need to be bored in order to figure out how to become “un”-bored. They need to misbehave to learn how to behave. If they are being difficult at a restaurant, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that giving them your phone is the wrong thing to do. Have them color or play some sort of game. Or leave and give them a time-out. Yes, your meal gets cut short. It sucks. But giving them a phone when they whine is not in their best interest. Especially as they grow.
The brains of infants through preschoolers begin making deep connections that teach them to use their imaginations and creativity to “soothe” for lack of a better word, when they’re bored. Researchers are now finding that kids who grow up watching television when they’re bored and playing on the computer/iPad, are getting to middle and high school and not being able to complete “boring” assignments. For example, if you have to read a boring book and write a term paper about it, which when I was in school, was a reality, you had to just push on through. Nowadays they are finding kids don’t have that deep connection to even get through the work. So academically many kids are hitting a wall. It’s a wall that apparently could have been prevented if parents hadn’t been so quick to let them watch a lot of television or play on the computer.
It then trickles into the work world. They get a job. They are bored. They quit. The consequences are dire.
My pediatrician gave me some tips.
- Don’t even let your kids see the phone. Put it in your purse or your pocket when you walk in the door.
- If you have to go send some emails, leave the room to do it. Tell them you have some work to do for a few minutes and to entertain themselves.
- When you are with your kids, focus on them during the crucial times. She gave an example: 30 minutes of play, then dinner, bath, book, bed=NO PHONE.
- No more than an hour of television a day.
(I’d say we usually let them watch 1 1/2 hours a day. On weekends more. Yikes).
- No TV for kids under 2 (which I know we’ve heard and has been hotly debated by the American Academy of Pediatricians).
I’ve failed on that and now Em gets excited when Fia gets to watch a show, so I’m not backtracking. What I will do is cut down on the TV she is allowed to watch, so he naturally will, too. And honestly, he watches for about 10 minutes then leaves the room and plays with his cars or something.
The thought of my kids growing up not knowing how to use their imaginations to their full ability because their brains weren’t trained properly is really scary to me. I am not one to sit still and I’m not promising when I’m at the doctor by myself, that I won’t pull out my phone while waiting. But I don’t have to write term papers in 8th grade. My brain development is done. Actually I’d say it’s on the decline judging by my meat fiasco last week. So I take that back: Maybe I should work on sitting still and doing nothing. That’s what my meditation app is having me do. Okay, I’m going to make a commitment to do this.
My guest blogger Joe Deprospero decided to stop playing Words With Friends on this phone because he could feel the distraction it was causing at home. If we each decide to change one part of our technology lifestyle, think of the ripple effect that could have. Especially on our families. And you don’t have to go all or nothing. Just tweak.
I did cut down a lot on technology after I wrote about it last year. But this is a good reminder. Anyone else want to join?
Controlling Your Child's Digital Interactions
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Pic of girl on iPad via Shutterstock
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ADD, ADHD, boredom, computer, imaginations, ipad, iphone, sustained attention, technology, technology addiction, video games | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
Supermodel Heidi Klum is getting flak for paying her kids $1 a day to drink a smoothie. I wonder if all the people who are freaking out have young kids? My guess is that their kids are either grown and they don’t remember what it was like, or they never had any. Because unless you have a kid who is a bump on a log, most people have to bribe in some way or another. Except we don’t call it bribing. We call it realistic parenting. And frankly I’d prefer to pay a dollar, or in my case, tell Fia she can have dessert after her dinner (since she doesn’t understand the concept of money) than not have her eat properly. I’d also rather bribe her with a small treat than the Ipad. Seems like too many parents may be using that as a crutch…but that is for another post.
The other day I was at a birthday party for one of Fia’s friends. A pregnant woman was there too. On the table was a huge birthday cake and then a platter of healthy sandwiches. As Fia ooh-ed and aah-ed over the cake, along with the other 3 1/2 year olds, I said half-joking:
“Hmm, I wonder what she will eat first?”
The pregnant woman piped up and said, “Healthy should always come first.”
I nearly shot her.
Come on. Talk to me when your kid is 3 and in this situation. I would bet my entire life savings that your kid won’t eat the avocado and sprout sandwich first. And I bet that superior attitude of yours will go out the window. Why? Because we were the same way. Until we had kids.
So yes, Fia ate cake for dinner. Followed by a small sandwich. And she survived.
I regularly use bribes. For awhile I gave her a treat after her gymnastics class for participating. A hershey kiss. Not a large milkshake. Or a box of cookies. Just one teeny tiny piece of chocolate. Two classes was all it took to get her out of her shell. And the chocolate I gave her? Gone. Both from her bloodstream and her memory. Now she runs happily onto the mat without prompting.
At a restaurant if she misbehaves, I tell her she won’t get dessert until she sits quietly. I rarely bring out my phone as entertainment. I don’t want to start that habit because for some reason those devices seem to embed in a toddler’s memory and they come to expect it. They also seem like the easiest thing to rely on. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the best (do you guys agree with that by the way?).
Just this weekend we gave her $5. We went as a family to explore downtown LA’s Grand Central Market and Little Tokyo. I told her she could buy whatever she wanted–not that she understands what $5 can get. We talked at length in the car about all the options.
“Mama, what about a giant lollipop?” she said.
“Ooohh, I know! Fia, let’s find you one of those swirly ones. The big round ones that have different colors on them!”
Even though she didn’t know exactly what I was talking about, she nearly ripped herself out of her carseat with excitement.
We even discussed what the man or woman selling it might look like.
“Do you think the lady will have brown hair?” Fia asked.
“Hmm, I don’t know. Maybe blue?” And so on went our speculation.
Sure enough, we found the lollipops. The man selling them? Dark hair. Straight. Not blue.
I had her ask him how much it cost. $1.99. He gave her change. She beamed.
I let her lick it for a solid 10 minutes. We still have the lollipop. We are using it in increments. She ate Udon noodles in Little Tokyo knowing she could have a few more licks after. She ate sauteed spinach at dinner. Same reason. Call it a bribe if you want. But I would much rather have my kid eating well and without a fight for a few licks of this or a few coins of that.
I think that in order to parent properly you need to be practical and prudent. You know when to set the limits and how far to go. Sounds to me like Heidi is doing just fine.
P.S. Here’s a short clip of me talking about it on the show The List.
Picture above is Fia at a salon. She just got her hair cut and I was getting mine cut too. To keep her occupied, I relied on a ring lollipop.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Newborn Care
Wednesday, November 21st, 2012
Barf. Poop. Pee. Fly.
Those four words about sum up my latest airplane excursion with my two babes. I should clarify: my SOLO airplane excursion. As in, no Phil to help me.
I took Fia and Emmett to New Orleans to visit my Aunt Nancy (a.k.a. Baba Yaga, above). It’s a 4-hour flight. I bought two seats, toddler headphones, and an iPad.
This is the first time I’ve flown with them by myself. In Fia’s first year, we went on about 20 flights. I had it pretty down, but I would never say it was fun. I did think my experience as a veteran would help. But it didn’t. Because I’m not a veteran of flying with two kids.
I got to LAX. I check the boards: Flight Delayed. Of course. It said by 20 minutes. At least we were in the terminal and not on the plane for the delay.
We get breakfast. I am slow moving and calm. A picture of peace and tranquility. We sit down to eat. They are both doing great. I have a moment of clarity. Wow, we are off to a stellar start. I kid you not: at that exact moment, Emmett projectile vomits. I hear a collective gasp. I look over to see a table full of young, single, European men staring at me slack-jawed. I look at Em. As the world’s happiest baby, he is giggling. And covered in goo.
“Sorry guys,” I say.
“Well, at least he’s laughing,” one of them remarks. The others just look away.
I pull out my favorite burp cloth and begin to wipe up the mess. Since Em was in the stroller, everything is covered. I throw the burp cloth in the garbage. I don’t even care. I’m not having this, I think. Stay calm. Breathe. This is no big deal.
Then Fia, who no longer wears diapers, screams, “Mama, I have to poop!” I once again see the horror in these men’s faces. They will never procreate. I have single-handedly helped reduce the world’s population.
I scramble like a bomb is about to explode. If I have to clean up sh-t in her pants, then I swear, I’m not getting on the plane, I say to myself. All my inner calmness goes out the window. The real me is back. We rush to the bathroom, nearly knocking over a man with a food tray. I am pushing a barf-laden baby in a barf-laden stroller and dragging an almost-pooping toddler in her almost poop-filled underpants. Why didn’t I just put her in Pull-Ups this morning? I curse silently.
We fly into the bathroom just in time. Thank god I had back-up outfits. At this point, Em is the only one who needs one. We clean up, I get my calm back, and we go to the gate. 10 minutes later:
“Attention folks. There’s been a gate change.”
Groan, grimace, move.
We get to the new gate. Flight now delayed 40 minutes. We sit for about 20. Then:
“Attention folks. Really sorry about this, but there’s been another gate change.”
This gate is completely at the other end. I really must have been truly horrible in my past life.
Finally, an hour later, we board. Which means we land in New Orleans smack dab in rush hour. We will have an hour-plus ride in the car getting to my Baba’s house near Slidell.
I manage to get us settled for about 13 seconds before I see the lucky passenger who gets to share the row with us. I could see his face change as the stages of grief hit: sadness, denial, anger, horror. I smile apologetically. Yup, you got the short straw dude. Sorry.
I am already cursing myself for not buying Emmett his own seat. Since sitting still isn’t part of his genetic make-up, I put Fia in the middle and Em and I at the window. As soon as we take off, I boot up the brand new iPad and Fia watches Olivia. Emmett falls asleep. I look around. Can this be? I pull out my Kindle. I look around again. Am I actually going to read on this flight? I do! For about 20 minutes. I feel like I’ve won the Olympic gold. Moms don’t get to read on planes, right?
About 40 minutes in, Em wakes up and never calms down. He never cries. Instead, he shrieks in delight, jumps up and down on my thighs, pounds the window…I mean, the boy is out of control in his happy energy. I figure people can’t be pissed because I have the world’s happiest baby, right? Fia continues to watch the same episode of Olivia 11 times. In a row. Obsessive or normal toddler behavior? Not sure. Don’t care.
Before we land, I take them to the bathroom. Fia’s backside is soaked. She has peed her pants. I also don’t care. In some cultures people drink their pee. So there.
We disembark, run into Baba’s open arms, and make our way to her bayou home where there is a pet bird, a pet dog, a wild frog, a wild lizard, a toy truck, and a bottle of wine waiting (the latter for me). Vacation is off to a stellar start.
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
When Fia was born, the internet saved me. Now, it’s killing me. Lately I have been writing about how I decided to unplug and what I discovered in unplugging. In short, my mind isn’t constantly racing and I feel more in-the-moment with my babies.
It was a different story with Fia. The web was my connection to the world. I would spend hours giving and getting advice from moms. I’d scour blogs and read everything from sleep training to reflux. I’d write about my own mental health. I’ve often said it wasn’t my husband or my therapist who pulled me through those early months. It was other moms. Many of whom I never met in person.
So it’s no surprise a recent study says that new moms who are in the blogosphere feel more connected, less alone, less stressed, even less depressed.
“That potentially is going to spill out into other aspects of their well being, including their marital relationship with their partner, the ways that they’re feeling about their parenting stress, and eventually into their levels of depression,” says Brandon T. McDaniel, graduate student in human development and family studies, Penn State.
He and his colleagues at Brigham Young University surveyed 157 new mothers who had babies under 18 months. They asked about their use of media, both in terms of blogging and social media like Facebook. The social media aspect didn’t have much impact. But writing and reading blogs did. I think therein lies the difference.
When you are texting and checking your phone all day for emails, your mind spins. You feel less-connected to just about everything. It becomes an addiction. When you’re blogging or reading blogs you feel more a part of something. I’m not tooting my own horn here. For me, the phone is my addiction, the blog is my salvation.
I think the author of the study explained it well. He pointed out several potential benefits for new mothers who blog:
- It gives moms a way to connect with family and friends who live far away.
- It gives moms a creative outlet. They can showcase their hobbies and accomplishments, especially the stay-at-home moms.
Both of these make sense to me. We moms often struggle with feeling under-appreciated. I know my blog gives me a sense of self that I may have lost otherwise.
In the study, the moms reported spending about three hours per day on the computer and using the Internet. That was only behind sleep at seven hours a day and caring for their babies at nine hours a day.
I think about the generations of moms before us. On the one hand, their lives seemed simpler. They weren’t checking iphones and texting all the time. What did they do with those extra three hours? I often wonder if they were more focused and present? Or if they were more stressed and depressed? We know by Betty Friedan’s, The Feminine Mystique
that many were questioning their purpose in life. Housewives were admitting their unhappiness and realizing motherhood wasn’t always enough. It still isn’t for many of us. In that regard, I think we are lucky to have all the technology at our fingertips. We can connect and feel connected. For many stay at home moms, blogging has even turned into a career.
How you manage it is the key.
There’s a fine line between fulfilling your life and dominating your life; between oversharenting
and not sharing enough. Should you be writing about your kids or spending time with them? I guess it comes down to finding your own personal balance. I know I’ve been working hard to find mine.
As for why social media like Facebook
did little for the moms? Here’s what I think: Social media, for all its good, is a time-suck
. I know it doesn’t leave me feeling content. Blogging, on the other hand, is writing. When I get to sit down and use my creative energy to put something organic out there, I feel purposeful and accomplished. Plus, if it helps others, I actually feel useful. Writing inspires me. It keeps my brain functioning in a way that diapers and breast pumps don’t.
But how do you embrace social media, disconnect from the internet/Blackberry, blog about motherhood, and not feel hypocritical?
I have said before that I’m going for quality over quantity. Set limits for your online time/your kid time/your wife time and stick to them. Put the phone away after a certain time of day. It takes discipline, but I think in this day and age, it’s the only way we can straddle all our worlds without losing sight of the most important one: our kids.
Image: Blog Pic via Shutterstock
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read
Monday, June 25th, 2012
“Hello. My name is Jill and I am a Blackberry addict.”
Actually, I don’t think I’m as bad as some (we love to justify our bad behavior, don’t we?), but I did decide last week to unplug for a bit. I wrote about my plan (Is My Tech Addiction Making Me a Bad Mom?) and today is the follow-up.
In putting the brakes on my computer and blackberry, here’s what didn’t happen:
- The world didn’t fall apart.
- I didn’t lose out on any jobs.
- I didn’t lose any friends.
- I didn’t miss any important calls.
- I didn’t miss any deadlines.
- I didn’t have crazy mood swings (because I wasn’t checking email and text constantly).
Here’s what did happen:
- I felt focused and present with my babies.
- I felt focused and present with my husband.
- I felt focused and present with my writing.
- I felt focused and present with my life.
- In short: I felt happier. Because I was.
I can see how the addiction creeps up though. I found that after the first couple days of being really disciplined, I’d start to regress. I’d go into the mindset of: “I’ll just check my phone really quick. Just this one time.” It is such a habit I had to be incredibly self-aware and disciplined. I knew that if I just “started to check a few times here and there,” I would be back into full-blown crazy. It’s like a recovering alcoholic just having a “few sips.” It doesn’t work.
After my post I got some great comments from all of you. And not one of you disagreed with how plugged in we are. Universally, everyone had the same take: ie: Guilty of “checking in” with the phone and “checking out” with the kids. One mom said she almost missed her toddler’s first steps. Another says she is thinking of having a “phone basket” by the front door. It’s a place to put their phones when she and her husband come home from work.
My friend Teresa (who got me on this kick) told me to take this a step further. She brought up some excellent points. Not only are we getting scattered and blue checking our phones, but are we also:
1. Modeling behavior for kids who will think interacting involves constant detaching. Are these the kids who will sit at the table with an iPad all the time? Is that okay? In moderation, probably. All the time? No way. (Read fellow blogger Heather Morgan Shott’s recent blog about Smartphones becoming the new pacifier.)
2. Sending a message to our kids that other things are more important.
Granted, sometimes other things are more important, but maybe we shouldn’t constantly be at the beck and call of the world.
Unless you live in a cave, you all know what I’m getting at. And it’s not pretty. Agreed?
I’m continuing on my journey of unplugging in chunks and then doing a total blackout at night (not with the bottle. Then I’ll need another 12-step program!). Every afternoon I put my phone away starting at 3:30 pm. When Fia is asleep and Emmett is resting, I do one check around 7:30 or 8 for a maximum of ten minutes. Then that’s it until 9 a.m. the next day.
I won’t check my phone right before going to bed either. It can quickly get my mind racing. Not exactly conducive to falling asleep. These issues have been thoroughly documented. There’s even a book out now: Sleeping With Your Smart Phone. It’s all about how to break the 24/7 habit. An article in Time Magazine calls us a nation of “addicts” when it comes to our phones. It’s gross, isn’t it?
Did any of you come to different conclusions? Are you continuing on the path to unplug? Maybe we should start a movement called, “Unplugged: The Path to Present.” Thoughts?
Blackberry Picture via Shutterstock.
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addiction, alcoholic, alcoholism, blackberry, computer, email, focused, ipad, iphone, milestone monday, oversharent, oversharenting, phone, present, sleep, technology, text, The Path To Present, unplug, unplugged | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Must Read