How does being Type A get in the way of parenting

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ou want to be done already and move on to the next thing, and next, and yet another. It takes SO long to wait for people. Why aren’t everyone moving at the same pace? At your pace? Well, because they aren’t you.  

And when you are dealing with children, they are in NO rush to move on to the next thing. They would rather scribble than write, make sound than music, form puddle than brush, wash toys than shower. 
What does a Type A personality, over achieving, checking off tasks parent do? They help. They assist. And they do. Before you are aware of it, you are doing it for them. It is easier to walk yourself than watch someone crawl. 
Then we run into the danger of habit forming – the child is no longer able to do it independently. It’s usually a little more complex than that too. When someone realizes that he/she doesn’t have to put in the full effort and the task is still completed, they won’t try hard enough. Even as adults, if someone runs half the distance on the treadmill for us, would we still sweat as hard to complete the full course? Most likely not. 
As hard as it is to watch a train wreck about to happen, it is beneficial for the child in the long run if we let the movie play out. With a schedule as packed as most working parents that can be extremely challenging. Perhaps leaving more leeway is one way or starting the preparation ahead of time can be helpful. The ultimate reward is, the little clumsy, fumbling, dragging, distracted child one day will form his/her personality and get through the tasks with miraculous expertise. 

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The Truce

couldn’t wait to get back to the negotiation table, with him – my 10 year old, 7 days after the gadget detox began, but that’s not what I led him to believe. From his point of view, I couldn’t care less about giving his “stuff” back to him. It wasn’t even a negotiation table from my point of view – it was a set of guidelines that I’d prefer him to follow. But having freedom, or the perception of it, is the most valuable thing known to human. He needed to feel that he was in charge.

So he was itching for it – to have the taste of freedom again. Every time he did something right, which were many, he’d like to know when he’d get his iPod back that he got as birthday gift less than two weeks ago. I was not, from the look of it, in a rush.

Whenever we talked casually about what he thought was the ideal amount of screen-time, on a weeknight for example, he would have a number higher than where I would like it to be. If I said the minimum was an hour, his response would be two. He’d also test the water by saying, “but you said 3 hours the day before yesterday.” His primary goal, what I realized, was to exceed the limit, not the absolute amount of time he received. Extending the boundary was, in and of itself, part of the goal here.

When finally we sat down to talk formally, my take was simple – I want him to be in charge of himself. He does what he is supposed to do – manage him schedule, his activities and school work and then he does what he enjoys, with screen time limited to an hour a night. Then he gets back iPod AND PS4!

We shall see how long this sticks. For now, there’s truce. The most enjoyable time during this process was the incessant conversations we had, whether the intention was to oil me up or to share with me what he really wanted to be for the fifth time. Selfishly, it just took a drastic measure to get that time from him. 

Negotiation 101

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ay 4 (of detox from gadgets): Reality is way too real. He wakes up early to ask me if we can make a deal. With both of our personalities, me wanting him to agree to 10 things and him wanting to do none, deal quickly falls apart. 

I have been through this path before, many times. I keep my end of the bargain then I’m left high and dry. Well not anymore – I’d like my payments in advance – thank you. 

When I got home that night I found the to-do list on his dry-erase board completely erased. My insecurities kick in – what do I do if he says the next day that he doesn’t care about gadgets anymore, became vegan, and started meditation? What will I have left to get him to negotiate? I secretly hope for another chance to get back to the negotiation table.

And it happens – Minecraft cravings could be unforgiving, as it turns out. 

He asks if he can play with my phone for a little and bam! Without further a due – I whip out my usual asks in my handy baritone voice – “please change into pajamas and brush your teeth.” I try to push it a little further just like I have been pushed all these years by these little humans “but it’s also past your bed time – if you change and brush earlier tomorrow, you can use the phone.” But this part doesn’t land well so I let him play for 7 minutes. Seven minutes in 24 hours compared to a good 4 hours the week before – little extreme but not bad!

What I inevitably do maintain is our friendship. I’m doing my usual tucking into bed, back and head scratching duties to try to shift the blame to our common enemy – the glaring screens and addicting TV shows. I need to be there for him in his toughest times – which is NOW – the Screen-free days. Many times I am tempted to let him play to minimize his apparent pain but then I stop myself. Habits need to be broken and rebuilt, relationships need to be reassessed, the hand that we are dealt needs to be re-negotiated – one at a time.

The Game of Thrones (Knight vs. Prince)

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ay 2 (of detox from gadgets): Reality hasn’t set in yet. It still seems like fun and games – the maddened, over worked dad, trying meagerly to express discomfort on how he is trampled over by Generation Z, which can be overturned anytime with finesse, charm or nagging. There is a lot of mood swings after I get home from work – the pendulum between the hope of getting the iPod touch and TV back and seeing no light at the end of the tunnel. What I decide to do is not acknowledge that things are out of the ordinary – no conversation whatsoever about the elephant in the room. 

Instead, I strike up a conversation with his older sister, 13, on how things are in general – who by the way, is not grounded this time around since she is a semi-pro on multitasking – being omnipresent on social media and reality simultaneously, for the good or bad. Some may bring up the fairness in this dealing between siblings as a concern and how outrageous this treatment is towards our prince, who won’t take a shower for five days because he didn’t feel like it. I’d remind them again “what goes around comes around.”

To gain social acceptance and out of sheer boredom, he transforms into chatty catty and talks nonstop with his sister, some of which in monologue form, as she was doing her homework. 

As a response to my non-acknowledgment he tries to turn the table around – by getting overtly affectionate with Ma and by not acknowledging my presence! 

Oh, I’m on to you, buddy. 

Day 3:  As I declared via FaceBook: 

“Displayed creativity in trying to find the hiding spot – ransacked my chest drawer and found a laptop to watch videos by Stampy on Minecraft. Denial is real – when I said he wasn’t supposed to use laptops he said, “this is NOT how ‘grounding’ works!” I repositioned myself calmly, “I don’t need to learn how anything works.” His next move was again excessive display of affection towards Maa to the point where Maa became his advocate!! For example, he came up with a game where Maa can make him do things with kisses. He is trying to dethrone me – effectively.”

He is trying to modify the playing field – anything to make this more favorable to him. He has tried to instill doubt in my head about the process, tried to nonchalantly go by his business without talking about the earlier meltdown that caused him to franctically look for a gadget, he has even hired lawyer to represent himself (aka Ma), by inventing new games on affection to empower the other side of the spectrum who is potentially more powerful than Dad, this Knight who is taking up a new role of being the King – how ridiculous. 

What he fails to see obviously is that this is what the powerless Knight desired all along – human interactions, social games of politics, playing hero vs. villain amoungst siblings, turning a tree branch into Liono’s Sword of Honor, from the Thunder Cats – after all, isn’t that what the Generation X relied on as entertainment with very limited amount of TV shows available? Taking a road trip was exciting enough with no concept of being bored. Watching trees whiz past the window seemed infinitely exciting. 

The prince will eventually win but to see how masterfully he does it, is the key. This is my version of reality TV – take that Gen Z.

A Screenfree World

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etoxing the kids from gadgets? 

Yeah OK.

It’s almost like thinking of one of your most outrageous dreams and saying it out loud. You’d look around to see if anyone heard you. 

Until you are pushed over the edge and decide to go for it.

I posted this status that night on my Facebook page, “With cable box, PS4, iPods/pads unplugged and thrown out, the kids are actually having a conversation.”

Since that post, I have gotten many follow up questions from other parents and even singles as to what triggered it, how I did it, what it entailed, if this can be applied on their significant others etc. Well.. that’s a whole another can of worms I guess. 

Here’s a brief description of what went down and some disclaimers,as parenting could easily be one of the most sensitive topics these days. 

It was my 10 yr old son’s birthday weekend. Birthdays are usually big in our family – meaning, one cake – for the night of, second party – at his school (snacks/drinks are packed and sent), third party – at a local bouncy house with friends, and a fourth -with grandparents, and uncles, aunts. Clearly, a privileged child. After everything died down the following day, there’s a new situation – soccer time conflicts with math tutoring. I call it a situation because seemingly harmless conflicts have aggravated really quickly in the past as “compromises” aren’t his strongest feat. Proposed solution – we attend soccer and catch up on next session of tutoring. Simple. 

Except, not really. He wants to go to soccer, and doesn’t want to go to tutoring. Why? Because that’s what a lot of kids do well  –  extend their boundaries ever so slightly on every occasion so that one day they can roam free with no education and only PlayStations with shoot-em-up games. I said, “No.. there’s a conflict, I’m respecting that you want to attend your game, go play your game, once you are done, take a shower, and we’ll go for tutoring.” We left it at that.

Of course, once he was done with his game (3-0 win!), he gets into the car and declares that he never agreed to go to tutoring because he doesn’t like it and if I wanted I could ground him. Somehow, that last bit, seemed a little over the edge and almost felt like a challenge to me. So I went all or  nothing. I said that I will break his PS4 into pieces (I got this idea from a video he once showed me on YouTube where the frustrated father mowed down all of his 20 something year old son’s video games.) Of course, I don’t do that and he probably knew I wouldn’t. 

I gave both of us some time to cool off and asked if he was ready to take a shower. Unfortunately, he held his stance on not cooperating. 

So I unplugged every single piece of gadget including cable boxes, put them in a suitcase and threw them in the storage. 

There were  resistance, tears, rage, and sheer disbelief. 

This was officially Day 1 of the Screen-free World.