Helping Your Kids “Wait Well” for Greater Access to Technology — Part 1 of 2
“Mom and Dad, you are so wise. Thank you for making me continue to wait for a smartphone even though every kid at my middle school already has one. You truly want what’s best for me, and I honor you.”
Does this sound like something your kid would ever say?
Of course it doesn’t, but as parents, we still write this kind of script in our head. In reality, it might go down like this:
“You are ruining my life! Whhhhhyyyyyy can’t I have a smartphone like all my friends??”
Let’s be realistic.
Helping our kids wait well for greater access to technology like smartphones, video games, and social media, in particular, is not going to be a bed of roses. We have to trash unrealistic expectations and stop writing scripts in our heads that our kids will never be able to live up to.
Waiting well doesn’t mean our kids never disagree with our position. It doesn’t mean your home will be completely free from meltdowns, conflict, or irritation when the subject comes up. It probably will involve tears, possibly some sweat, and plenty of listening.
And listening. And listening.
What should “waiting well” look like?
It kinda depends on what your kid’s temperament is like.
- For those of us raising strong-willed leaders (I see that hand), “waiting well” might be your kid simply learning when the righttime is to have family discussions and inquiries about technology (instead of constant pestering and complaining). That kid learning to shelve his strong emotions until an appointed time when everyone can come to the discussion without anger, ready to listen…that’s still a win.
- For kids who struggle with social anxiety, waiting well might be growing in the ability to initiate play with friends who are otherwise sucked up on their phones. (“Hey, wanna play basketball instead?”) For kids who prefer electronics to books, waiting well might be setting a goal for reading 10 real books over the summer.
Since every kid is different, we need to watch ourselves to make sure we’re not unfairly comparing their reactions and level of contentment to one another. Some kids are just naturally more patient and content with the rules of their home. Does that mean we don’t require our impatient kid to grow? Absolutely not. But it also means that we have to be patient with their growth.
My youngest is on the cusp of being 13. One of our convictions as parents was to not let him play video games rated T for Teen until he hit that mark. Was it hard to be the only kid in 7th grade who didn’t play Fortnite? Undoubtedly. But he is a very content kid and rarely if ever, pushed back on that rule. If my oldest firecracker-kid had been in that position, the situation would have looked much more explosive.
But no matter where your kid is in their capacity to fall in-line with your desire to delay a smartphone or multi-player gaming, there are things we can do as parents that will help our kids grow in their ability to wait well.
Sarah Siegand is a mom of two boys living in Nashville, TN. In 2015, she and her husband Jesse launched a grass-roots campaign in their community called Parents Who Fight. They hold workshops at schools, churches, and community groups to help parents learn how they can better protect kids online. She’s also a big fan of low-fi living.