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My Biggest Parenting Failure

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Parenting would be so easy if there was just a universal manual for raising universal children. Right?! Right…  that is not happening…

So let’s all agree – no matter how old or young we all have our kids, we are mortals learning, with the best intentions (most of the time) 🙂 And it’s all trial and error from there!

So here you go. This is the story of my biggest parenting failure of the last 6.5 years, raising those 3 crazy kiddos!

Multicultural Family

The Set Up (not an excuse)

Shortly after Ava was born, we moved our brand new little family to Switzerland. Setting life up in a new country can take time and be stressful and with virtually no help around, we started entertaining our perfect little girl with the iPad. Ava was always on the move and by the time she was 7 months old and able to sit up on her own, we bought ourselves 30 minutes of quiet with videos of herself on the iPad. She loved them and started interacting with the machine, quickly moving into games, which I truly believed to be educational for babies her age (12-18 months).

My biggest parenting failure #parenting #ParentingTips #ParentingFail #MomFailure #RaisingKids

The alphabet and singing apps became short Mickey Mouse videos as she started navigating the iPad on her own and understanding where her favorite movies were stored.

She was only 16 months old when baby Mark was born. As Ava did, Mark spent most of his early months breastfeeding and I would give Ava access to the iPad and TV more often, trying to feed Mark without chasing an active toddler around the house. And yes, that did exactly what I needed, and for a total of a couple of hours each day, I could focus on just one child.

My biggest parenting failure #parenting #ParentingTips #ParentingFail #MomFailure #RaisingKids

By the time Ava was 2.5, she knew how to navigate iPads, iPhones, and the DVD player. We had moved a couple more times and now lived in Germany. We started realizing that Ava had slowly become an impersonation of Mickey Mouse. She has a natural talent for singing and acting. This could have been a positive thing at the time, but our innocent little girl had become Mickey Mouse… and I wish I was kidding but I became very concerned when it became nearly impossible to enjoy dinner as a family.

Ava was only speaking out as Mickey Mouse with several Goofy “ugh-ugh” mixed in there. Get the picture? We were not able to have a conversation with our child. We no longer had Ava with us. Her language skills also stalled. She was an amazing tri-lingual speaker when she turned 1 and we had not noticed much progress past since she was 18 months…

My biggest parenting failure #parenting #ParentingTips #ParentingFail #MomFailure #RaisingKids

Another worrying fact was her unbreakable attention while watching TV. No matter how close to her, nor how loud we’d address her, Ava would not hear us. Even worse, I could be next to her and softly touching her, and could not get her attention.

My biggest parenting failure #parenting #ParentingTips #ParentingFail #MomFailure #RaisingKids

While Mark was clearly very interested in TV as well, he was just over a year old and we did not notice as critical of an impact.

Troubleshooting

Six weeks before giving birth to their little sister, I was able to start maternity leave (thank you Germany!!). Ava was exactly 3 years old and this was my chance to do something. From one day to the other, I went cold turkey on all screens! The kids went from binge-watching Disney movies at home and in the car, and playing games to no screen time – whatsoever.

Remarkably, they adjusted extremely well. They’re children, they want to play and move. TV was one of the ways that they were entertained, and as long as they were offered alternatives, they didn’t seem to be missing their screens. Sadly, it took me nearly 2 years to learn that much, and I felt that I had one damaged child, but with work, I was hopeful that we could fix this.

My biggest parenting failure #parenting #ParentingTips #ParentingFail #MomFailure #RaisingKids

In all honesty, the biggest challenge was for me. Screens had been my “babysitter.” They afforded me some time to clean, order, prepare, work, and do all of the mommy things that would have taken me so much longer if I had to be holding a child. But my duty was to be a Mom! And the educational aspect of those toddler apps had lost their credibility.

With no more screens, the kids learned to be creative. They never had any interest in toys, but all my children ever needed were sticks, a couple of chairs and a bed sheet, dress-up costumes, balls, the great outdoors…

We were still having dinner with Mickey Mouse though…

After three weeks of the radical measure, I took Ava to a psychiatrist. I was suspecting an autism spectrum. When he saw her, talked to her, and ran a few tests… he took him no longer than 5 minutes to tell me that my 3-year old, who had lived in 3 countries, 5 homes, and attended 4 different schools, had only had one constant in her life.

The only thing that had never changed around her, were those Mickey Mouse shorts. They were her safety. She was identifying herself to them. And she was a perfectly normal child, with not an ounce of an issue.

He prescribed only one thing: no screen! And when we would decide to re-introduce TV, we should sit down and watch movies as a family and make sure to talk during the movie to explain the story to the kids. He mentioned that a toddler should never be watching TV alone.

Everything made so much sense. I beat myself up for not taking measures earlier. But my child was ok. Her and I were both learning!

Our New Life

My biggest parenting failure #parenting #ParentingTips #ParentingFail #MomFailure #RaisingKids

The next two years were spent with no screen at all. Their baby sister was born and breastfed for over a year, and the other two were around, and crazy, and loud, and that was just our life. About 2 weeks after going cold-turkey on them, no kid ever asked for screen time again. They were happy children and Mickey Mouse left our dinner table about 9 months after the intervention.

My biggest parenting failure #parenting #ParentingTips #ParentingFail #MomFailure #RaisingKids

I don’t believe in no-screen policies. In our case, we needed a strict intervention and this was the best I knew. I think that everything should be done in moderation, however. Around the ages of 5, 4, and 2, we re-introduced the TV with a simple rule – when 6PM rings, they can watch a movie or show until dinner time around 7PM. They have been getting about an hour of TV a day, on days that we are home and not busy with other things. It is our routine and it works very well. The children know the expectation and don’t question it. As long as we are consistent and clear, they are happy little campers.

Read about our screen policy while traveling here!

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Ava has turned out to be a perfectly normal 1st grader, with endless imagination. I do notice her natural tendency to “leave us” when the TV is on. That might always stick with her and I don’t know whether it is her nature or a long-term consequence to watching too much TV as a toddler. The psychiatrist at the time, had said that her reaction was also due to a natural tendency and that the same situation could have turned very differently for her younger brother. It is still nearly impossible to get her attention in front of the screen and I notice a tendency to impersonate characters as soon as she watches a movie one too many times. Just tonight, she brought her forehead to mine to apologize for misspelling a word…. If anyone has ever watched the Peter Rabbit movie, she had become a rabbit for a minute. That is my clue to make sure we switch to a new movie tomorrow 🙂 So we work with her and make sure to stop anything before it becomes a trend. But I have no long-term worry for her. She is perfectly normal and a great kid! The road to parenting is an amazing journey full of learnings, highs, and lows!

What has been your #1 parenting failure?


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My biggest parenting failure #parenting #ParentingTips #ParentingFail #MomFailure #RaisingKids #noscreenpolicy

My biggest parenting failure #parenting #ParentingTips #ParentingFail #MomFailure #RaisingKids #noscreenpolicy


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50 Comments

  1. Wow – I had no idea the impact early screen time could have on children. I think it’s important to set limits though and stick to them- with phones with us at all times, it’s way too easy to let those limits slide …

  2. Thank you for sharing your story, it’s definitely easy as a parent to let screens be the babysitter.

  3. It’s such an easy trap to fall into. You’re certainly not alone. We are all under so much stress these days it’s just easier to give them a screen. But once you get them back, the quality time is amazing.

    • That’s right! The quality of unplugged times is amazing! Our kids have loved getting into board games lately and we have so much fun playing together!

  4. Hi Laura! Love your name! Thanks for getting so vulnerable with your post. It was great to read about your screen sitting. Original and different. Though I don’t think it’s so bad. Lots can be learned from an iPad!

    • Hi Laura 😉 There are definitely some very high-quality apps for children on the iPad. In fact, I thought my oldest one to read with a great app and attribute her love for reading to the success she had on the iPad! As long as there are limits, screen time is definitely ok. It is all a matter of balance! 🙂

  5. This is so informative! I have been relaying on tv a little too much lately as I am getting closer to my second child being born and I haven’t had the energy to keep up with my crazy active 2 year old. I don’t think we are at a point where we need to go to no screens, but I am cutting back. It’s so important to allow them to be bored and creative instead of zoned out on a screen.

    • I LOVE that! Allowing kids to be bored! It is so incredibly important to their development! Good luck with baby #2 arriving. What an exciting time for you and your family!

  6. Thanks for sharing. Having teenagers now, I feel like it is almost impossible to limit screen time . They are glued to cell phones and chrome books from school.

    • Deanna… I am dreading those days! Mine are still easy to control and just starting elementary school. I can’t imagine trying to get a teenager removed from a screen in our digital age. That will be its own battle and I am not looking forward to it. I will need to start by un-glueing my own self!! To each parenting stage its difficulties!

  7. Thank you for your honesty! I know screens have been quite the pacifier in my kids lives! Hugs, Mama. So glad things are going well!

  8. Great article. My 8-year-old is really into video games. So i monitored and encouraged good foods. Then bought the ones he wants. It sounds like y’all travel well together also. I am sure that takes a lot of storage ;0 I try to encourage imaginative play and it works well. great job.

    • Thank you Amanda! Yes, we like to balance screen time and other activities, especially when we travel, where we really don’t let the kids have any screen at all. It is so important for us that they see the world and there are plenty of evenings at home for them to enjoy screens 🙂

  9. Great post! I bet we could all benefit from breaking cold turkey from screen time for a while. I know I could. You’ve planted the seed in my head!

    • I know, right?! It has become harder for me to break away from it since starting to blog… We love to completely disconnect when we travel though. Those are my favorite times!

  10. It is quite hard to raise the kids in this time when all the technologies and gadget are within reach, but it still be okay as long as we keep it balance with activities. I like how you consistent into the plan of no screen.

    • That is very true. It is all a balance and cutting it off completely always worried me a bit as I feel that could create a long-term dependency when the kids grow older and can decide for themselves!

  11. Thanks for sharing! I know my sister has the challenge of balancing screen time with her kids. I

    • It’s definitely a tough balance but so worth the effort in the long run! It is incredibly important for the kids and the relationship we develop with them as parents!

  12. I totally feel ya! I have been there and I have done the “intervention” too, multiple times! It’s nice to know that there are other moms out there dealing with this, also 🙂

  13. You are so right! It is important to balance screen time with other activities so they can develop their creativity and other life skills!

  14. I did the same thing. I’ve never had any help so I needed the screen to be a babysitter and then I realized I had caused an issue and had to work to undo it.

    • I hear you… there are days (every day) I really wish the grand parents were closer! But your kids are lucky to have you and mine have asked to make your Mermaid Slime!! 🙂 So we’ll be making that soon!

  15. This is a great post! I am always working with my granddaughter to ensure she is being read to, and having conversations. We do watch 1/2 hour of Backyardagins before bed during her visits, and sometimes watch a video of herself when she was a baby. But for the most part, time at Nana’s is screen free. It kind of drives my adult kids, and everyone else in the house crazy for the weekends that she is here, but I can see the difference it makes in her relationships, our relationships, and her ability to have amazing conversations.

    • I love this Jennifer! Time with the grand-parents is too previous to sit in front of the TV! We love watching family videos of when the kids were little. It’s the best and everyone loves it so much! Laughing guaranteed!

  16. Great post! We allow screen time *occasionally* because I’ve seen this behavior in my kids, too. I’m sharing this with all the parents of little ones that I know.

    • Aw, thank you Terri! You’re the best! And I am glad my kids are not the only ones turning into something else when the TV is on! I believe in a nice balance and the “occasional” screen time is perfect!!

  17. My son knew how to work an iPad or iPhone by the time he was two. It’s hard to keep gadgets away from them. However, we do mix the activities with painting, writing, outside activities, etc. He has such a vivid imagination. I’ve watched him entertain himself with and without the iPad.

  18. The struggle is real! I admittedly use screen time when I needed to get things done in the house. Now I have a rule that they only get an hour a day on the ipad.

    • That’s a great rule!!! I think I typically break away from that rule on days that I pack for a long trip… can’t handle all the little legs running around neatly folded piles of clothes 🙂 other than that, the one-hour-a-day rule has been terrific for us!

  19. Thank you for sharing such a real story. I am also guilty of using the television as a babysitter. I try to be mindful of how long it’s on, but some days are better than others. I love the one hour per day policy. That’s a great way to help everyone happy!

  20. I really like your plan of the 6pm bell for electronics when you are home. Fantastic limits!

    • Thank you Tracey! It has worked so well for us. And I love the days when 6pm comes and no one even thinks of asking for electronics! Those are our best days as a family!

  21. Having had my son before all this technology was here, I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to raise a child in this internet age. Good job, Mom!

    • Aw, thank you Tina! And I sometimes wonder how our parents did it with no electronics at all 🙂 We went on a long road trip this weekend and my husband noted at one point, that our 5-year old was just looking outside. And I told him, that’s what normal children do, and what you and I did when in a car, 30 years ago! No one even asked for electronics the whole weekend and that made me proud! Disconnected children, soaking in the adventures!

  22. Refreshing to see someone who had the courage to break the screen time routine. It is hard, kudos to you for doing it!

    • Thank you so much Tiffany! It takes effort and perseverance, but our new routine is so much more enriching that the old screen days we once had! It was worth every challenge along the way!

  23. I have always been upset by this and I want to commend you for bringing it up! It lets people know it can be corrected!

    • Thank you Tricia! Yes, it can definitely be corrected, and it’s more of a correction on the parents’ side since kids are still young and change habits very quickly. But with perseverance and consistency, kids can be un-hooked to their screens! Thankfully!

  24. I like this. Children spend way too much time with screens these days, and I admire you for pulling the plug on that — no pun intended.

  25. I am so happy that you shared your story for other parents. I am a child development professional (former pediatric speech language pathologist and current educational assistant and mom) and am always warning parents of the dangers of screen time. Especially in a child’s early years.

    There are now many studies showing that a child’s language development can be delayed as a result of screen time. But this also goes for electronic toys as well (you know the annoying ones that light up and talk).

    I’ve written an article about limiting all electronic toys for toddlers (with links to some studies) if you are interested in taking a look https://seemeandliz.com/6-reasons-to-consider-limiting-electronic-toys-for-toddlers/

    I am also not a “no screen” parent, but I do set strict limitations for my children who are 9 and 11 (neither have their own devices and we don’t have any tablets in the house). But as they get older it is getting more difficult, especially now that they are often hanging out at friends houses (whose parents often don’t have any set rules around screen time).

    I also make sure to take the time to explain to my kids why I limit there screen time. I hope that this will help them make responsible choices around screens as they get older and more independent with their free time.

    • Thank you Tanya for leaving such a valuable note. I do agree with you that the effects of screens are much worse than we all think and setting strict limitations is the best way to go. I love that you explain to your children why you set limits, especially as they are older and able to understand your reasoning.
      Your 6 reasons to limit screen time are wonderful and the top 3 are the ones that always resonated with me the most. When screens do “the job” for us, we no longer interact and speak with our children. Giving them less interaction with our language. And the over-stimulation was always a big problem for my daughter. She would come out overly stimulated and needed a channel to let it all out, which came out in the worst possible way and she was no longer herself.
      I am glad that we caught this early enough to avoid larger damage and hope many more parents are able to take measures today to help their children with limiting screen time!

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