Tuesday, May 26, 2015

New Research: Parents Feel Guilty About Using Phones at PlayGrounds - But Should We?

When my Mom was a kid, her Mom dropped her off for the entire weekend at the farm where they kept their horses.  She was only ten years old.  A few interesting facts about this:
1.  The farm was thirty minutes from home
2.  There was no phone at the farm in case of emergencies
3.  There was no adult supervision whatsoever
4.  At least ten other girls were also dropped off for the weekend, so it was basically like a big, dangerous slumber party.

Times have changed, and Moms would get arrested for this nowadays, but something powerful came out of those weekends at the farm...no one knows how to problem-solve like my Mom does.  We call her "The Random Innovator".  She is a perfect example of the fact that when we give kids time to explore and learn through play, they become amazing problem-solvers.  In fact lately, there has been lots of buzz including a recent NY Times article about how kids learn much more through playing than they do through rigorous academics.  

Now, fast-forward to our society, where parents are trapped in a prison of their own guilt.  A new study from The University of Washington found that the majority of parents feel they shouldn't even look at their phones while their kids are playing at the park.  According to the survey, 44% of parents say they know they shouldn't use their phones, but they can't help themselves and then they feel guilty about it later.  Another 28% say they know they shouldn't use their phones and they follow through and keep their phones away.  The article implies that these are the "good parents", since they managed to have their eyes locked on their children at all times.  But has anyone stopped to wonder what are we teaching kids when we feel we must watch them at all times?  We are teaching them that they are the center of the universe and no one else matters.  We are teaching them it's not okay for Moms and Dads to have lives outside their children.  We are teaching them that we don't trust them to play safely without our supervision.  
Of course it's great that we don't leave our children alone at random farms anymore and it's admirable to try not to be glued to your phone when you're supposed to be spending quality time with your kids, but have we gone too far?   The study also reports that many of the parents who used their phones at the park were using it to email photos to Grandma.  And yet they felt guilty about it.  Why is that such a crime?

I say maybe we find a happy medium.  Let's just calmly explain that we are taking a minute to use our phone to email photos to Grandma.  The kids will understand.  Let's not rush over and get our hands ready to catch them when they start climbing the monkey bars.  Let's show them we trust them to learn things by themselves.  Let's take time to read books we like and not feel guilty about it.  Who knows, maybe they will find a way to amuse themselves.  Let's feel free to pay bills for thirty minutes and face the fact that we can't spend every second of every day making Pinterest-worthy crafts with the kids.    

Instead of feeling guilty, let's just smile lovingly when they tell us to watch them for the twentieth time doing the Monkey Bars.  Then we can go back to reading our book at the park so that our kids can also learn to become "Random Innovators" without us hovering over them every second of every day.

Please also check out my book! It is a wonderful resource for Moms, and was co-written with both a teacher and a Mom perspective. Here is a few review that you can find on Amazon:

"This book seriously saved my sanity. I've read a bunch of parenting books but this is literally the only one that actually gave me real and specific advice and ideas for things to do with my daughter. I'm a stay-at-home mom to a 2-year old and I was at my wits end trying to come up with ideas of fun, easy, creative things to do with her that will keep her busy and occupied and help her learn. I wasn't very good at following through on ideas that I heard about from friends or read in other books or online because they seemed too complicated (aka: messy!) but this book broke it down and made it so simple. I highly recommend it!"

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