I have to be honest about something. Something I knew deep down but did not want to admit. It was easier for me at the time to ignore it. Ignoring it meant I didn’t have to wake the beast. I could stay in a waking sleep. Having the occasional deep pull from inside that as a parent, “I can do better.” I should be acknowledging what I know instead of turning a blind eye. It is now affecting the relationships in the family.
I had been patting my back for being the parent that did not cave to pressure. The pressure of having to have the latest phone and every gadget on the market. If they broke their phone screen, it stayed broken. They would have to wait for a birthday or Christmas to appear for anything new. And they appreciate what they have.
When one of my teens require discipline, I use a discipline that works well. I remove their electronic gadgets. Both of my teens have an android phone and a tablet. They have no T.v or games consoles in their room. The only games console in the house is a Wii, and the only T.V. is Netflix. They can’t access Netflix when I am working on my computer. So they have nothing fancy or excessive.
As a parent, I like to think I have a great relationship with my teenagers. There are guidelines and boundaries they have to follow, but I am not as strict as I used to be. A few weeks ago, I did have to discipline one of my teens. I removed the phone and the tablet. I removed the social media from the gadgets and locked them away.
The only thing allowed in the bedroom was an old radio. A radio where you have to get up and turn the dials to find a radio station. Sliders adjust the volume, with crackling sounds from the separate speakers, as they decide which speaker is going to work today.
After the removal of the phone and tablet, I am aware I am now the most hated person in the family. To the teenager, I am the worst person they know. My parenting style is to teach. Even though I am doing what I am, to teach my teenagers, it still feels pretty crappy.
Why do I feel so bad?
I am not the one who messed up. And here we go, I start to question my parenting skills. After seeking advice from my Mother, I stick to my discipline decision. If my mum agrees with me, that’s the only re-enforcement needed.
We have all read the reports about gadgets damaging our youngsters. How we are the zombie era. The effect of smartphones on mental and physical health. I know I’ve read the reports and I proudly say “It’s not like that in my house.”
My teenagers don’t sulk or give me attitude. Yes, I get sighs and harumphing when I direct them towards washing the dishes. They think I don’t know that they stay up past their bedtime. Of course, I know. My own secret rule is, as long as they get up in the morning with no moods, it is all good. All in all the relationships are good in my family.
Now, here’s the real truth.
I had been lying to myself. We all are. How do I know this?
I had the evidence right in front of me daily for the past two weeks. I had the privilege of watching every day the changes in my teenager. The more changes happening in front of my eyes, the more I knew how bad the phone addiction had become. My child had changed so much in one week, that I decided not to give the phone or tablet back.
What was so different, that I was willing to accept the backlash from my teenager when I decided not to return the phone? The teenager had become happy. Laughing and smiling while interacting with the family. Looking us in the eye during conversations. Becoming more affectionate. Asking for movie nights and wanting to sit close to me, while stroking earlobes. Joining in games and being playful.
We went through the “I’m bored.” stage. All suggestions were met with “That’s boring.” As I saw the family relationships starting to blossom, no way was I giving the gadgets back. And then it hit me. It was bittersweet as I realised “Damn, I’ve missed you, child.” By removing the items that had stolen my child, I found the person that had become hidden.
That teenager was such a bright light that had dimmed. Now the light was shining brighter and brighter every day.
Who was to blame for the missing teen?
I had myself to blame for my child getting lost. I am guilty of watching them as they stared at a screen while walking from one room to another. Teasing them to get their attention, never worked as they had me zoned out. Sometimes, I did hope they’d walk into the wall, just to see a reaction. Obviously, I did not want them to injure themselves. Well, that’s what I convinced myself. Unless you are ‘Ksi’ or ‘Brad does banter’, then you were not worthy of their time. I allowed it.
My teenager had gone from a bad posture of ignorance, who wanted nothing to do with the family. And turned into a smiling conversationalist who giggled a lot. A lot of the time, I am not sure what was being discussed. But I was so grateful that the zombie teen had been replaced by an individual.
The memories are coming back now of what I had missed so much. All the personality traits are still there. The warm-hearted, cheerful, humorous child.
As a parent, I am aware I will have to have compromises that are reasonable. Especially to continue building healthy family relationships with teenagers. I don’t have long enjoying these teenagers, as they will leave the nest one day soon. When that happens, it will be quiet and empty without them. I do not desire to have that experience now.
Would you hand back the gadget, if you experienced changes like this?