I see it more and more in the office. Little children with an iPad or an iPhone in their hands. Some are too young to speak in full sentences yet they can clearly communicate their desire to watch a movie or play a game. Mom and dad rapidly comply with their wishes as it accomplishes their primary objective, a quiet child. While I can understand the desire to be able to interact with another adult without being continually distracted by your child I fear that there are unintended consequences ahead for these parents and children.
My concerns are increased by how often I see this parenting behavior outside my office. It can be seen almost anywhere we see parents and their children. Children riding in the child seats in shopping carts, at tables in restaurants, in church pews and even at family gatherings can be seen sitting alone staring at a miniature video screen. The children appear to be happy, content and quiet, yet I wonder. When did quiet children become the ultimate parenting goal?
While the unending questions of a toddler can be wearisome, they are an essential part of intellectual and social development. Through them the child learns not only how to speak and communicate but also how the world works. These repetitive conversations help forge a relationship of trust and respect with parents. Parents learn the personality and interests of their children and strengthen the bond they share. Children learn from what goes on around them. They learn appropriate social interaction from watching adults interact. They also learn patience and self control. None of this happens when the child sits in a corner with an iPad.
While a child's quietness may make a parent's life easier for the moment, this is not a healthy goal. Good parenting has never been easy. I fear that the current generation of parents has either never learned or has already forgotten that we do not have children for ourselves. Children are not toys or playmates to be called upon when entertainment is desired. They are a gift from God, made in His image, given to parents to be loved, trained and served. Children need parents who will sacrifice for them, who will answer the repeated questions and play the silly games, who will love them, listen to them and give them attention.
There is no app for that.
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