“Mommy, can you type in ‘dinosaur games’ so that I can see what I can buy?”
“You’re not buying anything, but I’ll tell you how to spell ‘dinosaur’ so that you can look it up. D …”
“Where’s the ‘d,’ oh! There it is! What’s next?”
“I … .”
“I can’t find the I, what area is it in?”
“Remember, it looks like the number 1.”
“Oh … kay. Found it!”
“Yes, N. Like in your name.”
“What’s next? I pushed it.”
The spelling of dinosaur, ghost, Marvel Avengers, Iron Man, Cat Woman, Lego Builder Master, Batman, snake, werewolf, or simply Lego, has taken over my household lately. Tiny Tot browses the App Store, while asking to download or buy games. It doesn’t happen in the span of a week, two days, or even in the span of one day. It occurs in a fifteen minute time span. Asking to buy games, getting denied for price, gore, or what I consider a completely useless piece of programming drivel (I tell him it’s boring, that makes it sound better), or possibly downloading a game takes him minutes, if not less.
It’s getting to the point where I can’t drink a cup of coffee without him shoving an iPad under my nose at least ten times.
But, when I acquiesce, does that shiny, new game sparkle the way it should? Does my tiny human sit down and appreciate the game that Mommy allowed him to buy? Is he enthralled, willing to earn new levels of the game until he’s mastered it?
Not even close.
Within seconds Tiny Tot is back at the app store, asking, “Mommy? Can you search for a Spinosaurus game? Or a T Rex game? I want to feed a dinosaur, Mommy. Can you help me look for a game that I can buy?”
To which I respond, pushing that damn iPad away from my person, “You just got a new game. You haven’t even opened it to play it yet; play with that game before I get you a new one.”
But the answer is usually the same: it won’t load fast enough, it’s not fun, or he really really wants to feed the T Rex, or fight the bad guys, or build a castle out of Legos. Now, I assess every game he downloads (and 99.9% of them are free), and know from reviews, ratings, and snapshots of the game itself whether it will be worthy of play for my tiny little human. But his view of worthiness apparently differs greatly from mine.
I’m finding out that his fun doesn’t come in playing the game. It’s in browsing the App Store to see what he can “buy.” A point that has me stepping back as a mother, wondering where I have gone wrong. While I assess the situation–because I’m a thinker–I’m coming to realize that the problem occurs from appreciation. My child is not learning to appreciate what he gets in life.
Tiny Tot is acting spoiled.
Upon accepting the difficulty of the problem, frustration, anger, and parental guilt came to smack me in the face. I know my child isn’t spoiled, but he sure has started to act that way with my iPad. So, what am I doing in my parenting to make my child act spoiled? What am I not teaching him in terms of appreciation? Why did I not throw the damn iPad last year, when I threatened to so vehemently?
Last year, or two years ago, I found myself in this same situation. I received an iPad as a gift, and used it once or twice, but it was easier for me to do what I wanted on my computer, or my phone. I never quite acclimated to the iPad. And then my mom, or my sister, showed me how she used the iPad as a learning tool for my niece. To me, that sounded wonderful.
I downloaded a few letter tracing apps, and a train app that taught numbers, and Tiny got hooked. But then, because the apps were free, ads kept popping up in the middle of his play. Soon after, he found the App Store, and realized that this was the place where the fun and magic of games is found.
Which brought about something new: game demands. I thought it was cute at first, and then I started to get aggravated. After potty training and sleep training bribery went away, I began teaching him that presents were meant for special achievements, birthdays, or Christmas. Because, in my mind, toys aren’t an every day occurrence. They’re special, and need to be treated as such.
Tiny knows this … but the iPad changed things. He was getting virtual presents, and wanted more, and more, … and more.
So two years ago, I told him if he asked me again, and refused to play with his downloaded games, I was throwing away the iPad. What did he do?
He told his dad.
“Tiny Tot told me that if he asked you to get him a game, you were throwing away his iPad. That seems a little overreactive, don’t you think? Most of the games are free.”
“I’m sorry, are you living in this iPad, game demanding house with me? No. Don’t talk to me about discipline when I can’t talk to you about it.”
Yes, I did overreact, but it wasn’t in my approach with Tiny. In the end, I allowed the iPad to die, and only allowed it to charge to 30% when he did play with it, which was enough to play one game, or one Netflix show, twice a week. Then, we forgot about it.
He forgot about it. My sanity returned, and I was again a happy mother. I mean, I haven’t had to deal with an iPad situation in almost a year. My tiny human plays with his toys, he builds Legos, he watches Netflix, he plays outside, he does everything he did without the iPad around, when the iPad was around. But when he forgot about the iPad, it removed the most annoying object in my world.
However, Tiny Tot got sick this last week, and asked me to play a game on his long-forgotten iPad. There was only one problem: I had no clue where that iPad disappeared. So, I found my work iPad, and told him he could put one game on it to play while he was sick.
Unfortunately, it took no time at all for the demands to start back up again, and the App Store draw to take over. Which leaves me wondering what I am doing to not teach him how to appreciate what he has, even when I drill into his head that toys are only meant for special occasions.
Last night, I laid it all on the table, turning to him and saying, “Tiny, last week you were sick, so I let you play games on my work iPad. But all you have done is to demand that Mommy buy you a new game every five minutes. Then you refuse to play the game, or delete the game entirely. Each game you tell me you ‘have to have’ and ‘will play with,’ but you don’t. You aren’t thankful when I download these games, and you aren’t appreciating the fact that Mommy has downloaded this game for you.”
Sure, I spoke to my almost five year-old like he is a teenager, but it made an impact. He apologized, he thanked me for letting him play on my work iPad, and he said he wasn’t going to frequent the App Store as often. That remorseful apology lasted until his eyes popped open this morning.
As soon as he opened his pretty green eyes, Tiny Tot questioned, “Mommy? Can you type in ‘ghost’ on your work iPad? I want to see what ghost game I can buy.”
I may have sprouted horns, but I did not threaten to throw the iPad away. Instead, turning to him, I said, “Do you remember the conversation we had last night? I told you that you are not appreciating any of the games that I have gotten for you. Look, see right here? You’ve deleted that swimming alligator that you ‘had’ to have; you deleted that T Rex that knocks into trains. Both of those you ‘needed.’
You are deleting these games, and some of them cost me money. It’s not your money, it’s mine, and you’re throwing it away. You will play the games that I downloaded for you, you will like them, and you will not ask me to go into the App Store for the next two hours, or I will put you in time out and take away five of your favorite toys. Do you understand me?”
Somehow, some way, I am going to drill into my child that not only will he say please, thank you, yes ma’am, no sir, and ask permission to do certain things, but he will treat virtual technology the same way he treats his toys. My tiny human knows that when he walks into Target, he’s not walking out with a toy. He knows he can ask me to look at the toys, to decide what he wants to ask for when his birthday comes, or when Santa comes. But buying toys happens when he does something phenomenal, or for special occasions.
And, as I’m writing this, it sounds like I’m about to put a tiny human tush in time out, and claim big Iron Man, little Iron Man, Batman Lego, Metalbeard, and sharkie. Today should be interesting, but I’m hoping my child learns to appreciate what he has in life.
It’s a value I’ll drill into him, whether he likes it or not.