Firstly, I would like to state that I am not anti-iPad. Far from it. I love it. I think it is one of the most wondrous devices ever conceived. The kids have learned so much from it and they have a lot of fun in the process, too! Best of all, it shuts them up (doing something educational – no less!) when I need peace and quiet and it keeps them busy when I need a moment of uninterrupted time. What more could you ask for?
Well, that’s really where the problem starts…
If you want to keep the kids quiet, just shove a screen in front of them. That’s becoming the most common “go-to” option that parents are choosing because it’s easy. I’ll be the first to admit that I do it – maybe even a little too frequently. Why? Because I’m always the one with the crazy kids in the supermarket, looking frazzled because I’m multi-tasking between searching for my grocery items on the shelf with one eye while keeping the other eye on the kids in case they pull down the entire display of oranges or whatever else that has tickled their fancy. G2 just has to pick the orange from the base of the pyramid! Worst of all is that he thinks it’s funny to watch his mother make a song and dance about it.
To be fair to G1, he’s actually pretty well behaved – when he’s on his own (I must add that qualifier). It’s G2 that is the crazy one. But somehow, when it is the two of them combined, all hope for normality is blown to smithereens. You would think that the calmer, better behaved older boy would exert some of his positive influence on his younger brother, but no, he has to regress to his younger brother’s level of lunacy making it exponentially more maddening for me.
But I digress… Back to the iPad problem. It wasn’t until I had to ban the kids from using the iPad because of misbehaviour that it occurred to me what the REAL problem was…
Without the iPad, they were fighting. All. The. Time.
David Frost was right…
It was insane because I would been called to adjudicate every squabble. Nothing could be done that wasn’t interrupted every 5 minutes. I confess that my resolve to keep the iPad away from them was wavering. There were times when I was tempted to just throw the iPad at them and walk away. But don’t worry! I didn’t! I only said I was tempted to.
I started to worry that there was a problem with my kids. Why were they fighting so often? Then I remembered the chapter in Nurture Shock about sibling relationships…
Although siblings fight a lot, they can still have strong relationships. It is the net-positive result between the fights and the good times shared that determine the strength of the relationship. Siblings who ignored each other and had less fighting tended to stay cold and distant in the long term.
To foster stronger relations between siblings it is important to help them learn to play together. Shared fantasy play is another factor that helps foster stronger relationships because it requires emotional commitment and awareness of what the other child is doing.
Keeping them “isolated” from one another in their own activities actually does them a disservice. It is more important to help them learn to play together, and one great way encourage them to play is to use fantasy play (which we know is also good for helping children to develop self-control).
Fighting per se is not all doom and gloom. If you look at them as opportunities for your children to learn how to get along, they can provide beneficial lessons on life skills. It is also important to remember that as they grow older, you are not required to step in to stop every fight. Keep an ear open to see how they are “resolving the problem” and only step in when it is clear that the fighting is getting out of control. Sometimes, I find that just showing my presence without saying anything, is enough to motivate them to seek a mutually agreeable solution.
It is important to remember – no matter what age you are – that fights between two individuals are not necessarily a bad thing as long as you can figure out a positive solution to move forward with from the fight. In that respect, fights can be a good thing because they help you learn more about your friends, your spouse, your partner, etc.
The real problem with technology
Unless you’re playing a game together on the Wii, or some such equivalent, the use of technology is actually a very isolating activity. Without adequate interaction time (and this goes even if they are kept too busy with other isolating activities), children don’t get a chance to learn how to get along with other people. These are life skills that require time and real life experiences to learn.