Tuesday, April 26, 2011

'Slide to unlock' Parenting

“Now is a fast paced digital era.” Got it!
“Everything must be fast or else.” Check!
“Speed, speed, speed!” Agreed!

Inevitably, we are also becoming the generation of smart gadgets. Long gone is the generation of mobile phones, desktop computers or laptops that require a certain amount of time to reboot, to start up and to shut down. With the Apple products streaming down into the market, we are so spoiled by the speed (and the simplicity) of that "slide to unlock" button. It takes us only zero point zero zero second for the gadget to start up and completely running, assuming your service provider has done their job.

Speed. Simplicity. Comfort.
That's me and my partner gadgets. I demand nothing less than speed, simplicity and comfort. In my relationship with other human being, I stay close to the quality that my gadgets have provided me. That includes the way I run my work life, my social life, and yes, my family life.

In parenting, I'd love to manage my kids through speed, simplicity, and comfort (to me). In reality, children are not always up to speed, they are not always simple to handle, and they are not always stay in our comfort zone. I know that children require more effort and time to be understood and to be nurtured. I read dozens of books and articles about parenting. I consider myself the modern type of parent. You know, the one who is cool, well informed and democratic.

But, knowing -or assuming that I know- and doing, are so different. Just like white is different from black. I subconsciously treat everything with one slide to unlock approach. My kid must understand the concept of a math word problem after two explanations from me. When my kid turns 4, she will have to eat by herself without help. By the time he is 8, my son must fluently and flawlessly manage his own school stuff by himself. My kids must obey the rule of no TV during weekdays as soon as I finished writing it in a piece of paper. See, one slide to unlock, and everything runs voila!

It's impossible to achieve no TV during weekdays instantly, let alone smoothly. In my case, it takes months for my kids to get the concept. And it involves gallons of tears, battles of screams, and lots of hateful words to get it done. It also means applying consistency for the whole family members. It means no TV for us too during the weekdays. We need to set an example, right?

It takes years for my 8 year old son to read at least one book (not comic) before bed. And it's still not running wonderfully now, despite numerous efforts, bribes, and threats to make him do it automatically. The kid will not immediately stop being a slob just because he reaches 10yr old this morning. The kid will not immediately become a math wizard after learning one subject in a month. They are not gadgets that will immediately improve themselves after an OS upgrade. Everything takes time, effort and trial and error. What was I thinking when I expect them to be ‘slided to unlock’?

So, I need to fine tune my "slide to unlock" mindset as an approcah in dealing with all my children's situation with "it will take 5 minutes for the computer to reboot" mindset.
Funny thing is, as much as we know what I just wrote is true, how often do we quickly give up on our children when they seem to take (a longer) process to get where we expect them to be ? How often do we raise our voices when the children seem to forget what we just told them to do? How often do we generalize them into one mass product, like our gadgets, and start comparing them against one another? How often do we punish them when they made innocent mistakes? Or when they just behave like normal children and not like our gadgets?

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