Cooperation Is More Important Than Obedience In The Parent-Child Relationship

For the majority of Christian families there is a real emphasis on making children obey their parents. Everything seems to center on obedience. When children don’t obey, parents feel they must punish the children through spanking/hitting or other types of harsh punishment. These well-meaning Christian parents believe that if they don’t teach their children to obey authority, then they won’t obey God.

Yes, the Bible tells children to obey their parent in Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20. However, this is directed at children, not parents.  Parents seem to ignore Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21, which states, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” “Fathers” can also be translated into “Parents.”

Nowhere in the family living instruction Scriptures in Ephesians or Colossians does it tell parents to force their children to “obey them.”  In fact, the Greek word used for “obey” in both of these Scriptures is “hupotasso,” which means to voluntarily submit or listen under.

And if you read the whole passage in Ephesians, it emphasizes more mutual submission within the family where everyone has a role to play instead of a hierarchy where certain members are dominant over each other.  Sadly, many Christian families are trapped in hierarchy where the focus is on control.

This is not what God had in mind.  Yes, the husband is the head of the household, and yet the husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church.  Meaning to sacrifice for her which makes her want to submit to him by listening to him and giving him respectful consideration.

This is cooperation and teamwork!

The same applies to children.  When parents give children respectful care and consideration, children are more likely to cooperate with their parents.  They learn to trust their parents.  They also learn that they are an important part of a team.

Teamwork and cooperation are key in the world!  Everywhere, when people work together, things actually get done.

I’ll be honest.  I have a real distaste for the word, “obey,” within the parent-child relationship as I saw first hand how it destroys connection instead of fostering it as cooperation does.

For example, the parent tells the child to get ready to go.  The child is trying to finish something and dawdles and/or complains.  The parent, if they don’t do first-time obedience, (which is even worse) tells the child again to get ready to leave.  If the child continues to dawdle and/or complain, the parent will say, “Obey me or I will have to spank you!”

The parent focused on cooperation will give the child multiple heads-ups that it will be time to go soon. If needed, they will validate the child’s not wanting to go and will later ask the child how to better help him/her get ready to go if the child had a hard time making the transition.

No, cooperation does NOT mean parents let children rule the roost.  Cooperation simply connects the parent and child, thus, allowing the parent to work *with* the child!  True discipleship happens in families that focus on cooperation rather than obedience.

Cooperation also removes the need for punishment.  Obedience tends to foster an attitude of “Obey me or else.”  On the other hand, cooperation allows natural consequences to happen.  It teaches. It disciples.  It even allows respectful back talk.

True obedience to God comes out of cooperation!  Real obedience cannot be taught as it is a heart issue.  I obey God because I love and trust Him.  Forced obedience to parents is fear based, and therefore, fake.  Yes, fake!  Obeying only out of fear in order to avoid being punished isn’t true obedience.

It’s very sad that some parents don’t care why their children obey as long as they obey.

Another reason why I really dislike using obedience within the parent-child relationship is we’re not God and are mere sinners. Only God is worth obeying.  He will never lead us down the wrong paths.  Humans will.

Finally, I can hear pro-spankers asking, “What about the police?  The police won’t negotiate with us.”  Yes, sometimes immediate cooperation with authority figures is a must.  Children raised with respect usually have no problem respecting other authority figures.  And we should teach children that police are there to help us, so we must always cooperate with them.  In fact, research shows that people that grew up in homes with harsh corporal punishment are at a higher risk of being criminals.

Cooperation should be our aim within the parent-child relationship.  May we foster true obedience to God by making cooperation our aim within the family.

 

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Guest Post: To The Mom Needing To Hear This Right Now By Christina Driggers

There is a mom today reading this and needing to know: You don’t have to hit your child to make them obey and listen to you. In your heart you *****know***** it’s not right…your instinct is telling you it’s not right, but the teachings your church or your family or whomever is pushing you to act on tells you to cause your child pain so that they will know that God loves them or so that through hitting your child, your child will obey you and God. I could go on and on all the reasons because in my past, I was that mom.

I was that mom who began as an attachment parent (though in the mid 90’s I had no clue that’s what it was called).  I just knew I didn’t want to spank my kids like I was spanked and hurt. I didn’t want that for them. However, I had no clue what to do otherwise and there was no internet, there was no support. Spanking in the south is the thing to do. You are a bad parent in the south if you don’t spank. So, I succumbed to hitting my child and calling it “discipline.”  But it did not work.

My child still had unwanted behavior. The book, To Train Up A Child, was suggested to me and I tried the things in there…breaking the will. All I remember about the day I tried to do that was:

1) I didn’t want to spank my child so much and so hard that it would hurt him and leave bruises.

2) How can parents actually spank their child so hard and so long that causes their will to break?

3) My child was still looking at me with confusion and hurt on his face. And this momma could not take it any longer.

I could not do what ‪the book, To Train Up A Child, told me to do. I could not hurt my child like that. My heart was telling me it was wrong. I had all the ‪doorpost charts and books…but it was the same thing. None of it worked.

I would have been spanking my kids 20 times a day according to their advice. Their teachings, and many like them that are touted as “Biblical and Christian,” and they required escalation of hitting and punishment.

I have found a better, loving, gentle, respectful, and truly Biblical way. My 4-year-old is not spanked and we have not spanked. Sure he’s a normal 4-year-old with lack of impulse control and all that, but overall, I have none of the behaviors with him that I had with my oldest.

When I began to view his unwanted behavior as a need not being met, and it was up to me to meet the need, it changed my view of him completely.

I am so thankful for all this awesome information and so grateful for how it has changed me and the tone in the home. It’s funny because I used to be that mom who mocked peaceful parenting and touted all the arguments that pro-spanking parents use. I quoted all those Bible verses in support of spanking kids. There is not one single Bible verse or one single argument a punitive Christian parent can tell me that I have not believed and used in the past.

And I’m going to tell you this: You have been lied to. We have been lied to. We have been misled. It’s wrong. Those beliefs are wrong and I’m putting my foot down and calling them out because I have seen too much damage in families by these so called Christian teachings.

Beating your child and leaving bruises and welts is NOT God’s love. Hitting your child and calling it discipline is NOT God’s love. Demanding instant obedience from your child is NOT God’s love. Demanding that your child speak only when spoken to is NOT God’s love. Telling your child they have an attitude when they are trying to be heard is NOT God’s love. Controlling your child is NOT God’s love.

What is God’s love? It’s supposed to be I Corinthians 13, but I see so few Christian parents actually practicing it towards their child. We all have choice. I’ve been on both sides and for real…Peaceful parenting wins hands down!!!!!!!!!!!!! It produces the Fruit of the Spirit without hitting, without anger, without frustration!

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Making Thanksgiving Enjoyable For Children Too

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us be mindful to make sure the Holiday is enjoyable for our children as well.

Young children cannot sit quietly for long periods, so let them play before they eat as well as after they finish eating.  Bringing crayons and coloring books can help keep them occupied.

Encourage them to try new foods, but don’t force them to eat stuff they truly don’t like.  Try to have one thing that they like at the meal.

Model good manners to your children.  If they are old enough (3 years and up), have fun practicing good manners before Thanksgiving.  Just don’t expect perfection from young children as they are still learning and developing fine motor skills.

Let them participate in ways they can enjoy. Allow them to engage in conversations.  Ask them what they are grateful for, and talk about being grateful all year.

For young children, being in a new place and/or having a lot of people around may overwhelm them.  Be prepared to help your child take a break from all the activity.  Explain to guests that they need to respect your children’s personal space if your children aren’t comfortable hugging and kissing.  Suggest something less invasive that your children may be more comfortable with such as giving high fives.

Do your best to stick as closely to your children’s routines as possible.  Help prepare your children for changes by telling them what to expect beforehand.  When new transitions come up on Thanksgiving, be prepared to help your children get through them if they tend to struggle with transitions.

Finally, plan family activities that everyone can enjoy to encourage bonding with relatives that the children may not often see.

A few simple steps and some planning ahead can help make Thanksgiving enjoyable for all!

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Psalm 118:1, NASB).

“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4, KJV).

*A special note: Some of us will be grieving on Thanksgiving and throughout the Holiday season as we’ve lost loved ones.  Please acknowledge, validate, and express that grief.  There is joy amidst the sorrow.  Take the time to feel the pain if needed and remember loved ones.

May everyone have a blessed Thanksgiving!!!

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Can Our Children Come With Confidence?

Hebrews 4:14-16, NASB:
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

I love this passage!  God wants us to come to Him with confidence.  That means no matter what we’ve done or how we are feeling, we can approach God in humbleness and reverence knowing He will always accept, love, and forgive us. He also sympathizes with whatever we are going through.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him” (1 John 3:1, NASB).

Can you say the same about your children?  Do your children have enough confidence in you to come to you for anything and everything?  What about you?  Are you totally confident in going to God for anything and everything?

Sadly, the answer to these questions for many is “no.”  Our world tends to use threats and fear to control children. Infants are left to cry-it-out instead of being sensitively responded to when they cry. Children are spanked/hit and otherwise punished instead of being guided through problems. Churches teach that God is mean and angry instead of loving and merciful.

Treating children harshly makes them lose confidence in us and, ultimately, God.  How can anyone approach someone in total confidence if they might hurt or reject us?  I know I can’t.

I know a great deal of people who are so used to being rejected, hurt, and treated harshly/abusively that they struggle to trust God. They’ve been spanked/hit in His name and fear that He will hurt them whenever they mess up. Some Christians find the thought of someday seeing Jesus face to face and His unconditional love for them more terrifying than the thought of going to Hell due to how they were treated as children. That is beyond sad!

We need to do our best to be Christlike with our children. That means responding to our babies’ cries every time they need us. It also means being willing to help children when they openly tell us they’ve made a mistake. This does not mean being permissive as many may think.  This means stepping up and saying, “Thank you for telling me. What can you do to make this right?  How can I help you?”

Connection, as L. R. Knost says, is key to guiding children of every age through problems. Connection leads to trust.  And trust leads to confidence in us, and ultimately, God.  God wants our total trust and confidence in Him.

Also, let’s not forget the second part of the introductory Scripture. God sympathizes with us!  Jesus was 100% human and 100% God.  He suffered from humanness. He was thoroughly tempted by satan and did not sin. And yet, when we sin, He doesn’t sit up there and wag His finger at us and say, “You disobeyed me so I must spank you.”  No, instead He gets on our level and says, “You messed up. I forgive you. How can I help you make this right?”  Yes, we suffer the natural consequences of our actions, but God will help us through it. He gives us mercy, grace, love, and forgiveness.

If you read this post, you know my husband and I are grieving the loss of his mom. Again, I’m so grateful God can sympathize with our pain. I’m so grateful God doesn’t punish us when we mess up usually because we are hurting inside and that hurt can come out as us lashing out.

God wants us to come to Him with total confidence. And since we are responsible for leading our children to Him, we need to do our best to help them be able to come to us with total confidence. If they can’t, they’ll find someone else to place their confidence in and that person may not have their best interests at heart.

So, can your children come with confidence?

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God Cares About Our Hearts, NOT Our Appearances!

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Whether it’s a child’s behavior, an elderly person, or a person with a disability, too often we judge by appearances. We see an upset child and assume that it’s his/her “sinful nature” appearing. We see someone with a severe disability and assume they are mentally disabled and/or are afraid to interact with them as a “normal” person.  We see an elderly person and dismiss their wisdom and competence.

But God looks at hearts.

God sees that the child is simply having a hard time. He sees that the person with the severe disability is trying to serve Him in any capacity he/she can. He sees the elderly struggling to impart wisdom and love before their lives end.

Jesus tells us not to judge because when we judge others, we are usually totally wrong. God wants us to “love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

So, the next time we see a child having a hard time or a person with a disability or someone totally different from us, instead of judging or being afraid, let’s LOVE them as Jesus LOVES everyone.

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Training Children To Love Jesus?

I was surprised to discover that some Christians believe that they can “train” their children to love Jesus. Frankly, I find this a bit disturbing because how can one “train” children?  They’re not animals. And when Christians say train, it usually means a great deal of corporal punishment is being used as in the Michael Pearl style.

I don’t want to get to involved in what the Hebrew meaning of “train” is for this post as I believe the Christians claiming that they must “train” their children are using “train” wrongly anyway.

Can you truly train anyone, let alone children, to love?  Does God train us to love Him?

According to the Bible, we are not trained by God to love Him.

“We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19, KJV).

And how did He show us love?

”But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NASB).

No, God never “trains” us to love Him because that would pretty much be forcing us to love Him. God prefers true love that can only come from deep within our hearts because we have seen and felt God’s love for us. He is gentle and patient while He waits for us to accept His great love for us and reciprocate it back to Him!

Another thing, young children have a special knowledge of Who God is. They already love Him.

“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants'” (Matthew 11:25, NASB).

“From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease” (Psalm 8:2, NASB).

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We just need to cultivate that knowledge and love for Him through reading His Word to them, including them in prayer and worship without forcing it on them, and, most importantly, showing them God’s amazing love by modeling it to them through treating them and others with compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

We don’t need to worry about “training” our children to love Jesus nor fighting for their souls. Rather, we need to worry about accurately portraying God’s loving character to them so that true love for God and others will last a lifetime!

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Victory Is Through Jesus, NOT Through Law And Punishment!

“But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

If sin is the law, then our “law” for children is sin; demands thrust upon them they cannot possibly meet due to their current understanding and level of development.

To further clarify, expecting toddlers to stay away from breakables and punishing toddlers when they don’t “obey” us is thrusting the “law” on them, thus, making them deal with sin before they can even understand what sin truly is, and adding feelings of anger, hurt, and confusion to them by punishing them is sin.

Putting the breakables away takes the “law” away, therefore, removing the power of sin. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

Also, expecting first time obedience of children is thrusting the “law” on them as God does not even expect first time obedience of us!  First time obedience is neither biblical nor developmentally appropriate. The young brain takes longer to process stimuli. Young children just process everything much, much differently than we do. It takes a lot of brain damage from physical punishment to finally get children to obey immediately. Not good. They are in constant fight or flight mode when people use physical punishment to get first time obedience. Fear and pain hinder brain development and learning.

God created children to be who they are. He created our brains. So, no children should never be expected to obey immediately all the time. Now, if there is an emergency or a good reason for immediate cooperation (I really dislike using obedience within the parent-child relationship because we’re not God and are mere sinners. Cooperation should be our aim within the parent-child relationship.), then we need to tell the child why and be prepared to help the child cooperate.

Let’s do our best not to thrust sin onto our children before they are truly capable of resisting it. Let us get the Word of God into their hearts instead! After all, it’s Jesus who gives all of us victory over our sin, not punishment.

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Helping Toddlers Deal With Big Feelings

Toddlerhood is full of intense emotions and transitions over which they have no control. They are discovering their independence, while, at the same time, still requiring much dependence on their parents. Striking a balance between dependence and independence can be difficult for them. Plus, they still lack the vocabulary to tell us how they feel or what they want. On top of all of this, as they can finally walk, climb, and run in order to explore their world more fully, there are limits added that weren’t there before, and sometimes they may not always get what they want.

Yes, toddlerhood is not an easy time for toddlers or for their parents. Developmentally, they cannot control their impulses. They test everything out of curiosity, not maliciousness.

It is up to us to guide them through this tough stage of development. When toddlers get upset, it is important to figure out why and validate their feelings. Usually a full-blown meltdown can be avoided if we are aware of the toddler’s needs and intervene with offers to help them. If they know we hear them and will validate them, they are less likely to completely meltdown. It is also important to tell toddlers what is expected of them. For example, if we are going to the grocery store, we need to tell our toddler what we will and will not be buying at the store. This will help them not be so disappointed when we remind them that candy wasn’t on the list when we are at the store. A well-fed, well-rested, and well-loved toddler is less likely to have a meltdown.

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Providing children with appropriate ways of getting out their anger and aggression like punching as pillow, doing an angry dance, kicking a ball outside can be another way in which we can help prevent full blown meltdowns. Calm me jars also help. Fill a plastic bottle with water. Then pour glitter in. Duct tape the cap on and give it to the child when he/she is upset. He/She can manhandle it. As he/she calms down, he/she can watch the glitter settle. We can then talk to him/her about his/her feelings. It’s always better and more Biblical to help children work through their negative feelings rather than punish the child.

But despite everything that we may do in order to prevent toddlers from having meltdowns, there are always going to be times in which a limit has been set or a “no” has been given to something the toddler really wants and the toddler is going to get very upset and have a meltdown. As upsetting and tiring it is for us, this is a normal stage of child development for young children and is just as upsetting and tiring for them.

As Christians, it is also helpful for us to remember that the child is not being sinful. He/She is trying to communicate with us using their very primitive communication skills.

When meltdowns happen, it is important for us to remain as calm as possible. A toddler in a meltdown cannot control themselves as their brains are in overload. Scolding and punishing them will not help. They need us to gently but firmly help them get through the meltdown. Having them in a safe place where they can’t hurt themselves, others, or property is important. Quietly saying, “You’re showing me your big feelings. You’re so angry. I am here.” is helpful. But, try not to say too much as it could agitate them even more. Some children may find gentle restraining helpful while others just need room to work through the meltdown.

At the end of a meltdown, it is okay to talk to the child about more appropriate ways of dealing with their anger. If they made a mess during the meltdown, have them help you clean it up. This should not be a punishment. Make it fun. Also, right after the meltdown, pray with your toddler to help him or her feel God’s peace within him or her. I also recommend singing a favorite Christian song after the meltdown. Children must learn that God loves them no matter what, and we do too!

Helping children co-regulate their feelings by validating them and providing for their needs allows for children to become emotionally healthy and able to cope with the disappointments of life appropriately. After all, this is what God does with us. He validates our feelings and our hearts.

For example, in Matthew 9:2, Jesus first tells the paralytic to “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”

You see, being disabled in New Testament times was quite a hardship emotionally as well as physically because the people treated people with disabilities as beggars. They were outcasts. Some even believed that they were disabled due to sin, which John 9 shows isn’t the case. Jesus is more concerned with our hearts than our physical beings.

Gentle but firm discipline allows children to identify and deal with negative feelings. They learn to express them appropriately. By positively helping children work through their feelings, they learn we will always listen and help them. This will lead them to come to us, and, ultimately, to God when they are in need.

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Yet Another Reason NOT To Fear God Nor Teach Children To Fear

Romans 8:14-17
For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

According to this Scripture, we are no longer to be afraid, especially of God. As I explained in this post, we can’t truly love, trust, or respect someone of which we are afraid.

If we have accepted Christ’s amazing gift of grace and forgiveness, then we are His children as this verse says. We should no longer be slaves to fear. Sadly, though, many of us are still slaves to fear due to how we were raised as well as had church doctrine.

Fear is not a good thing. When a child’s brain is wired with fear from harsh/abusive parenting, he/she will likely suffer with anxiety for the rest of his/her life. This is not good and can make the person feel like a failure because no matter how hard he/she tries, he/she can’t always overcome the intense, overwhelming fear and anxiety.

Yet, according to this Scripture, God loves us so much that He wants us to call Him, “Abba! Father!” which means Daddy.

It’s not easy to call Him or our earthly fathers “Daddy” in a totally trusting manner when we’re scared of Him or them. We may do it to please our earthly fathers, but it’s not out of complete trust.

Children need to be taught that they’re completely safe with us and their Heavenly Daddy. They should know without a shadow of a doubt that neither their earthly parents or their Heavenly Daddy will never intentionally hurt them.

Please use trust, connection, and love to parent.

And we, adults, should get used to calling God, “Daddy!”

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What Is REALLY Wrong With Today’s Youth?

Believe it or not, every generation complains about “today’s youth” being “out of control.”  But, what drives me nuts about this is that many people claim that the reason children are “out of control” is due to a lack of spanking/hitting children.

The reality is that between 70-90% of parents still admit to spanking/hitting their children. Obviously, corporal punishment isn’t helping at all. And since there are a huge array of harmful effects of corporal punishment, it will never help children to be more respectful.

I believe that in addition to children being treated harshly there is another huge reason why today’s society and youth seem so disconnected. Technology!

Yes, I said it, technology is one of the reasons why our society is so disconnected.  The very thing that is supposed to keep us more connected is actually tearing apart human interaction.  Go to any public place and observe the people.  I can guarantee that the majority of the people are looking down at a screen instead of interacting with each other.  Couples at a restruarant text or update their Facebook statuses instead of talking to each other.

What is even sadder is that I recently heard on the radio that children are getting hurt more often at playgrounds because their parents are too busy staring at their phones to even hear their children calling for help.

Here is an interesting study from an Exchange Everyday email:

“‘A new Chinese ad campaign illustrates the way smartphones can affect family life and relationship,’ reports The Huffington Post “Titled Phone Wall,” the campaign by Ogilvy & Mather China is a literal representation of the barriers to human relationships that screen addiction creates.’

Juggi Ramakrishnan, Executive Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather Shanghai, told The Huffington Post, ‘We want people to see [these ads] and rethink their relationships with others and their phone in a different light. This is a definite pressure point that Chinese society is facing on its path of rapid development.’

‘This pervasiveness has the potential to be especially detrimental to families with kids,’ says Ramakrishnan. ‘There is an alarming trend of parents ignoring their children of all ages, paying more attention to their phones and tablets than their immediate surroundings. Consequently, children may feel they aren’t getting the attention they need…. Addiction to mobile devices can put a strain on romantic relationships as well, as partners may become less responsive to each other’s feelings and have fewer meaningful interactions.'”

This addiction to technology starts way too young in this society.  There are now bouncy seats for infants that hold iPads for the infant.  I’m sorry but as an early childhood professional, this really disturbs me.  Infants and young children need lots of human interaction as well as using real toys such as balls, blocks, plastic dishes, dolls, trucks, cars, musical toys, push toys.  Manipulating concrete items and having real experiences are absolutely crucial to healthy development.  By giving an infant an iPad, the infant is going to be more interested in the iPad as a whole because their brains don’t truly understand what’s actually happening on the screen.  Too much screen time can actually hinder development.  A toddler should be able to do a range of fine motor activities, not just swipe on an iPad or phone!

Also, infants absorb and are affected by everything in their environments. It’s much better for a baby’s brain development to have music playing in the background rather than a TV.  Another thing is that we are almost constantly exposed to violence thanks to the media. This is desensitizing us to violence and so many other disturbing things.  Besides sex, violence is a common theme in our movies, television shows, music, and videogames. Plus, the news is constantly reporting acts of violence. We are so much more aware of violence whereas prior to when media was so prevalent people were not as exposed to or aware of the violence that was occurring and they could shelter themselves and their children from it because there was no television or Internet.

Children didn’t watch cartoons or play videogames filled with violent images like they do today. Because so many parents have to work full-time in order to survive today, children are being left alone with all this access to violent media with little guidance from busy, stressed out parents. Research shows that all of this exposure to violence is desensitizing children and adults to violence. Greven (1992), page 129, states:

“Research has demonstrated that television must be considered one of the major socializers of children’s aggressive behavior. Two major behavioral effects of heavy viewing of televised violence are: (1) an increase in children’s level of aggression; and (2) an increase in children’s passive acceptance of the use of aggression by others. Both aggression and apathy thus are intensified by an immersion in television violence although the roots of both undoubtedly are to be found in the life histories of punishment and abuse of those who view such violence with either indifference or enthusiasm.”

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All this being said, I do understand that there is a time and a place for technology. If a parent or relative is far away, using Skype or FaceTime to help them see the child is perfectly fine. And once children become preschoolers, it’s ok to slowly introduce them to technology.

It’s just important to naturally limit technology by having plenty of other activities for children to do. This way, too, by not putting much focus on technology, we can avoid power struggles when it’s time for them to put it away.  Always allow children to finish the game they’re playing or show/movie they’re watching before having them move on. I love this article by Janet Lansbury regarding introducing and limiting technology with toddlers.  We need to be present while our children are using technology to protect them from all the evil things and people lurking on the Internet.

And, of course, technology is a must for children with special needs/disabilities. With my severe cerebral palsy, technology allows me to write and communicate with others whereas I otherwise would be unable to do so.  Amateur radio is another great use of technology. It allows people to talk to each other over the airways.

In sum, technology definitely has valid uses. However, we need to stop allowing it to consume our lives.  We need to be totally present with our children and intentionally interact with them throughout the day. Children should not have to compete with technology for our attention. Technology cannot substitute actual parenting. Nor is it fair to only interact with our children to spank/hit or otherwise punish them.

Do you want children to be kind, empathetic, and not self-entitled?  Put down your phones, tablets, laptops, and other consumer electronics and model how to interact with people. Talk with your children. Let them see you actually watching them play.  Stop spanking/hitting them and discipline (teach and guide) them.  If you are a Christian, make Jesus the focus of your home rather than technology.

Reference:

Greven, P. (1992). Spare the Child. New York, NY: Vintage Books.

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