Thursday, November 17, 2011

Of the things with an 'i'

Its been a struggle raising this 6 year old boy I have for a son. So this time its the fascination with all things 'i', yup the iPhone, iMac, iPod and the iPad. He has been requesting us, begging, pleading, arguing and trying every possible trick in the book to let him have one if not all of those. The more I resist, the more he insists. Their school has iMac's in the Media Center which they go to almost every week, occasionally they get iPads to play some Math games on which is how they rule over his heart and mind on a regular basis.

A couple of weekends back, he asked me what he could do to collect $100 to be able to buy an iPhone at Target, which he had scanned the Sunday paper for fliers to every store to see the cheapest rate for an iPhone. It was my mistake, I realized later, to even let him have the hope that it was even theoretically possible. He earns stickers and ultimately quarters for every desirable behavior and he uses the money he collects to buy little toys he likes. Somehow he concentrated on just the 'reading books' in his rewards chart and we calculated that he needed to read ten thousand books to be able to collect the money. And he believed that he could do it in one day. And boy he read and read and read. He read for close to 3 hours which is a long long time for him and when he saw it getting dark outside, he just panicked and started howling and crying, begging us to let him have it on completing 100 books. Anyways it took a long time and a lot of effort to pacify him.

However some things he said while asking for the phone were eye openers for me. He said that he wanted his things so that he could control when he wanted to use them. He said that often when he wants to call his friend/s home and I call their moms to ask them if they can and then they don't come for some time and then Niño asks me to call them again and I tell him that its rude to call them again and again. If he has his own phone, he would be able to call his friends at his will. He kept on insisting that he would not play games on his gadgets for long at all because he knows they are not good but he likes to see directions to places or the weather and we don't allow him always to do that. Which is when I realized that he felt so strongly about something which I had painted in my eyes as almost black and was thus not allowing him to use it even though he wanted to use it in a good way. Well he asked for A's Samsung Galaxy phone sometimes (once in 2-3 days) and we let him have it for about 5 minutes - he and Chica usually played silly games like the Talking Tom or watched one Tom and Jerry video on youtube. And then when he gave it back to him and suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to check the weather, I was not allowing him to have it back. Which I realized was backfiring now. One incident I mentioned and another one last weekend - we were out with an old friend of A's at a restaurant having lunch and he started urging A to have his phone. Kids are smart and they realize when they can put us in a spot by what kind of behavior making it hard for us to say no. He played for a bit and gave it back and then started asking again because he had forgotten something. It got difficult in that situation to ignore or reason with a whiny 6 year old. He was not completely to blame because the restaurant didn't have any crayons or activity booklets for kids which otherwise both my kids get interested and busy in and there were no other kids to play around it but even then it was a lesson on what to talk to him about when we are going to be in similar situations. And an even bigger lesson to cut him some slack. To remember that each child is different and whether I like it or not, mine is fascinated just with things I wish he wasn't fascinated with and I can't just go on with my everyday life assuming there's no problem to be addressed.

So now A downloaded apps on his phone for Niño on world geography (which he is very interested in) and he himself straightaway goes to that app almost everytime he asks for the phone. I made a journal on the computer for him to work on, write or draw or color in paintbrush about the experiments or projects we do and he feels happy to be working on that medium which is very powerful for him. Often times he goes to the Apple website to admire the several beautiful products and keeps asking us as to when he can have them. I am still not sure what to answer. A has told him that we'll buy a Mac book when he turns 12 and is doing well at school. Till then, we introduce him to interesting features of our good old Dell laptop and he is convinced for now that that too is capable of doing quite a bit :) We entered in a 'Going Green' contest in our local library and he is absolutely sure we will win the prize which is an iPad. Phone, we have told him we'll have a chat about it when he turns 15. Edited to add after noon's comment: These are basically just numbers to distract him. As A says, it can never be a number game with kids. There will come a point where we'll no longer be able to postpone it. And the reason I postpone right now is because one I think what will this 6 year child have to look forward to if he gets his own computer at 6 and two because kids fiddling around with whatever gadgets they have and not even bothering as to what's going around them freaks me out completely. But then I think, may be if he has one, he won't be so obsessed and would talk about things other than those. I don't know, its a tough call, as parenting mostly is!


noon said...

You have a uber smart child - that is your problem! :) Is money the reason (meaning why waste money when he has your computer he can use as well for what ever amount of time he is allowed to) you don't want to get him a imac or ipad? Wasn't clear to me why you did not want to get him an ipad. Difft people have difft reasons. KB has no interest in it so far - at least not enough to ask me for one - his school has five yr old computers that they use once a week. KG is the one who goes to the computer (they have their own Dell desktop - but KB never uses it). I don't want to buy an ipad because I don't want one more thing distracting them and it is so easy to take it every where also. And one more thing to worry about when I go out - to keep it safe etc. TV is the big distraction for KB now and even that is a pain. But if I were in your shoes, I think I would get him an imac sooner than 12 ! :) Don't kill me! He wants to use it for good things looks like. May be I am not wise enough! :)

Neera said...

Hey noonoo ..thank u so much for your pov. Well I apologize for a hastily written and esp an abruptly ended post. One I was running out of time and two even if I had the time, the number and the length of conversations that go on about the topic at our home can never fit in a post.Well reasons about not buying him one are as u say a major distraction and the money too. This lunch with a friend incident I mentioned, what troubled me was that he was so engrossed in first the game he was playing and then asking for the phone again and again that he was not even speaking to A's friend. I know rules have to be set and kids have to be prepped in advance abt what they are expected to do in difft situations and we learnt a lesson because it was the first time such thing happened but kids who keep fiddling with whatever gadgets they have and not even making an effort to see whats going on ard them freaks me out.
12 and 15 are just numbers we say to distract him currently though like A says it can never be a number game with kids. There will come a point where we will just not be able to postpone it any longer. Probably it even has to do with my upbringing where my parents made me work hard (within my capabilities) for anything (fancy toys, etc) I wished to have, I feel what reasonable goal can I set for a 6 yo for a thing as big as this, big in the sense what will he have to look forward to if he gets his own computer at 6. I don't know, its very hard, because then I also think probably he won't be so obsessed if I do let him have one of these things. God, its so tough to take a call on whts the best thing to do!

noon said...

I kind of think of how Gates's parents and the school PTA bought computers for their school when it was absolutely uncommon. Sometimes when they have an interest in learning something I feel you should capitalize that moment and nurture it. Of course I am not saying I don't go through the same issues...I too would have felt the same in your situation. I agreed to buying the kids a new dell for 500 odd bucks because our old comp they were using was so slow...but I did not want an ipad for the same money because I felt they did not need one now. I just didn't want to deal with the bargaining and fighting with them/each other about how long to use, who will use it etc. But I have mu doubts because I feel they do learn a lot from it. I am not too anti technology - I control screen time to some extent - but think ipad may not be a bad thing. It is so easy to use for them and they can sit in a couch and use it. Neither B nor I own an iphone or ipad. So it makes it easier for them not ask for it for themselves.
We should talk more often - we will both make the effort OK! We have similar age kids - boy/girl - and similar issues at times. Will be helpful to talk. My worry with KB is that he is not showing any interest in sitting at the computer, no interest in playing DS or video games - I feel like - why is he so difft from his peers - kind of worries me. Either way it is a worry! :)

Neera said...

Honestly, thanks again for your take on the topic. I'll rethink my stand on it for sure! I agree on the talking more often bit helps me a lot to discuss things like these with friends I have so much respect for :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there..I enjoy reading your blog. your kids seem so well mannered. My 2 cents ..go ahead and buy him a ipad..its wonderful or an ipod touch ,if money is the issue.too much want of something is not good and destroys ones focus and even turns one into a dreamer. personal opinion ..anyways somethings and wants cannot be obtained in life but the ones which can be easily, should can then restrict the use (like you have for tv time,computer or playtime).My kids have been using iphone,ipod and ipad for a time now and believe me its just a regular thing later on in life like a fridge or anything else. The obsession will go away..just the use..

Neera said...

Thank you anon for your perspective. At times I used to think the same - may be it'll do him more good than bad because he wants to use it for good things and because he is so keen to have one. Your viewpoint's and noon's earlier has kind of reinforced this thought over the other one I had of him being too young and it being a distraction - the ones I have mentioned in the post. I think now the task remains to prepare ourselves of buying an expensive thing which we hadn't intended to buy so soon :)