Q. I see more and more children with electronic devices everywhere - They use them to be entertained at restaurants, they use them in vehicles. When is it too much? Should we as parents do a better job at having our children behave without some form of electronic entertainment?
A. Your point is well-received. I once witnessed a mom and her child eating lunch together at a sit-down restaurant in Walt Disney World. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that not one word was exchanged between them throughout the course of the meal because the child was preoccupied with an iPad. I couldn’t help but feel so sad for them that even in the Happiest Place on Earth they couldn’t engage in conversation. I do believe that we as parents could do a better job at limiting screen time and encouraging face time (and not the iPhone variety). To that end, I believe we need to take Michael Jackson’s advice and start with the man (or woman) in the mirror. When our kids see us so consumed with our phones and various devices, they take cues from us. I know I’m guilty of burying my face in my phone when I should be actively engaged with the people in my presence. When my kids were little, I used to set a microwave timer for fifteen minutes at random intervals throughout the day and set that time aside strictly for playing with them. Whether it was Barbie dolls or Matchbox cars, that time was theirs and theirs alone; the phone went unanswered and laundry was put off. Now that they’re older, I think I need to revisit that same concept, only this time designate it at as screen-free time and spend it simply by being engaged. The new year seems like the perfect time to jump back in to that effort!
Q. We have a neighborhood child that invites himself over to our house every day when I pick my kids up from the bus stop. This child isn’t particularly well-behaved and I would rather limit the time he spends with my kids, but I feel badly always saying no. Should I give in and allow him to come for playtime?
I’ve been there many a time myself so I know just how sticky a situation that can be. Here’s the thing though: you should not be made to feel guilty when someone else is in the wrong. In this case, it’s a child who is acting rudely by inviting himself to your home. More than likely, his behavior is the result of never having been taught proper manners. In that situation, I think you are being completely reasonable by correcting him. You could say something like, “My kids have a lot of fun playing with you, Johnnie, but it’s not polite to invite yourself to our house. You should wait to be invited. Maybe you can come over one afternoon next week and play LEGOS with Adam. I’ll talk to your mom about it.” In doing so, you are gently directing the neighbor boy to respect not only your parameters but appropriate social behaviors as well. I think it’s a win-win response.
Q. My daughter’s best friend has invited my daughter on a weekend trip to Disneyland to celebrate the best friend’s birthday. Her mother offered to cover the cost of the trip for my daughter completely but I feel awkward accepting and allowing my daughter to go. What do you think is the appropriate response?
A. Is sending me in her place an option? Just kidding. My general stance on accepting gifts (even the most generous ones) is to do so graciously. I believe that when someone gives a gift or extends a generous offer, he or she is doing so with the best of intentions. In light of that, I think you are well within reason by accepting the offer gratefully. If it were me, I would allow my daughter to go and I’d send her along with some spending money. As a follow-up, I’d be sure to have my daughter write a genuine thank you letter to the best friend’s parents once they returned from the trip.