While waiting at the post office the other morning, I observed an interesting scene. I was the only person in line since it was early. A young mother soon stood behind me with her 5 year old in tow. I smiled at them, and she mentioned they had just come from the playground. He was sitting quite calmly on the floor nearby waiting for her. The next thing I knew, she had handed him an iPad, and he was engrossed in it.
This is the kind of scene that has many teachers wondering about our children’s ability to wait, to handle delayed gratification, to entertain themselves in some way when they do not have an adult’s attention. Years ago, when my own children were young, I handed them Game Boys when riding to the shore. It seemed that 2 hours was a long time to expect them to amuse themselves. But 2 minutes?? Did that little boy really “need’ some electronic device to be happy for a 2 minute wait?
Many cars now have video screens in them for children to immediately view movies as soon as they are seated. It saddens me to think that even the short drive home from school is yet another opportunity to be entertained rather than engaging in conversation with a real Mom or Dad. In the ’90s we had “Turn Off the TV Week.” Maybe we should try “Turn Off All Screens Week” just to recognize how these gadgets are changing childhood.
At school, your child has to practice waiting throughout the day. This does not mean sitting for an unreasonable time. Children wait for snack, a material that is being used, a space in the library, a turn on the monkey bars, etc. It is OK for a 3 year old to have these opportunities. I encourage families give their child a chance to start developing these critical self-regulation skills rather than resorting to distraction through electronics. It will absolutely serve them well in school and maybe even benefit family life too.