Well, excuse the expression. There is a great deal of debate about whether it is harmful for children to spend such a long time in front of the screen as many indeed do. Some parents are concerned that their offspring seem addicted to the things, and refuse to, say, go outside in the fresh air for a walk. While some parents do resort to banning the offending items on certain days or at certain times, I can't help but wonder why on earth they allow the situation to get so bad in the first place. Have they forgotten that they are the parents and their children are, erm, the child? Why do some parents seem to let their children dictate to them?
Children need parents to act like parents by setting boundaries and telling them whenever they are behaving badly. While you may mistakenly think that your child will become your friend and thank you in years to come for your weak boundaries and disclipline, they will not. Neither will their friends. If they have any. If you do not teach your child how to behave like a decent human being, by telling them whenever they are being rude and inconsiderate, how do you think they will learn? Perhaps you plan to teach them later on, after years of allowing them to do things whenever it suits them.
No, if you let your child rule the house, you are teaching them that their needs are far more important than those of other people. Furthermore, you are making them feel unsafe, because a child needs you to show them what is, and what is not, acceptable behaviour. Often, a child will try to test your boundaries and rules. If they meet only weak and inconsistent resistance, they will keep pushing, in the subconscious hope that their parent will show them the way, by telling them to stop doing whatever it is.
Parents also need to impose a stronger discipline because children are just that - children. Consequently, they are obviously not as capable of making decisions about their future as the parent (hopefully) is. Thus the parent can decide that the child should not be spending 3 hours a day playing a computer game because they will ultimately be happier if they spend more time playing something more interactive with their friends, which allows their imagination to develop. Equally, you can decide to teach the child how to eat healthily by making sure you offer them foods you are happy for them to eat. In everyday life, many children refuse to wear certain items, even things that keep them warm. If the parent refuses to let the child leave the house, the child will soon learn to dress properly. These are decisions that need to be taken by the parent, not the child. Do not let your child tell you what to do. Giving in will obviously avoid a conflict that day, but merely by postponing it and teaching your child to dominate you. You are not equals, and you will not become equals by giving in.
For those parents worried about their children's huge amount of screen time, whether it be TV, computers or game playing, I would simply advise them to act like a parent, rather than a simpering friend, and just tell the children how long they are or are not allowed to spend doing it. If they do not adhere to this, I would confiscate the damn things for a week. At least.
Honestly, why do we think that giving in to our children, against our better judgment, is a good idea? You are teaching your child that if they keep whining, they will get their own way, and that other people's needs are always far less important than their own. Charming. What kind of future are you making for them? Would you want to work with, live with or love an adult like that? Do you think others will want to?
This post first appeared on 28th January 2015 in How come...?