It is not often that I watch something on TV and feel so incensed that I need to write but today it happened. I was watching Piers and Susanna debate the Kirstie Allsopp saga. In case you have been under a rock the news is that Kirstie revealed she had smashed her children’s iPads after they had broken her rule about screen time – something that is infuriating parents up and down the country. We all know what it is like, trying to talk to your kids or have some ‘family time’ but they are glued to screens. You see it everywhere – go to your hairdressers and you don’t have to look far to find a stressed mummy trying to get their hair cut with a crying 2 year old on their lap seemingly quickly placated with a game on a phone – a distraction technique which is useful but is there a damaging trend appearing? Kirstie has deleted her twitter due to the amount of abuse she has been getting – is this truly about parenting? The trolls were out, the nation is divided!
Now before you all raise your pitchforks I need to justify my stance on this (or do I?). Having grown up without a mobile – I think I got my first one when I was 27, I am horrified about the amount of time people are spending on them. Even I am guilty as I try to manage my work and keep my FB, twitter, Insta updated. Add in the emails, snapchats and what’s app – I am very conscious that digital detox is essential for my own sanity. Have we become a society dominated by hand-held devices, where conversation is long gone? Is this about parenting or more about how these hand held wizards have taken over our lives? (Look at the number of restaurants banning mobiles as every diner becomes a wannabee blogger and get that Insta perfect pic?).
Back to the lovely Kirstie, a true British gem. Successful working mother who when we see on our screens brings a certain feeling of comfort. We all love Kirstie, surely she can do no wrong? Well it seems to some of the UK public that she has committed the most heinous of crimes – she has actually asked her children NOT to do something and despite several warnings they have continued to ignore her. Maybe the actual breaking of the devices was a little too far but maybe not! We all know how frustrating parenting can be at times, it’s not all skipping around holding hands. We are no longer allowed to give a tap on the hand or bottom when our little ones are being naughty – god forbid! We have to use the debating skills of NATO to explain how some behaviour is acceptable and some not. Did she go too far? Not in my mind. As a parent we need to show our children guidelines – structure – rules. Without these how can we really call ourselves true parents. Everyone needs discipline in their lives and to learn this at an early age is surely not a bad thing – providing it is healthy and not destructive.
Watching a ‘parenting expert’ on tv makes me cringe, literally! How does one become a ‘parenting expert’? Does this come with experience and can you do a course in it? What gives one person the right to have an opinion over another or in this case, an opinion over how they parent?! I raised my children with no book to guide me (they were a load of tosh too – all woohoo and waffle), I made my own rules and am pretty proud to say I have 2 fab adults under my wing. They had rules, if they broke them there were consequences. They are polite, balanced, considerate and pretty normal – so my parenting skills can’t be all bad – I wonder if this makes me a ‘parenting expert’? When my friends were having issues with their teenagers they would be sent to me for a few weeks -bizarrely for me they were angels – it was simply -read the house rules and abide by them. Good behaviour gets just rewards.
Not sure if this is just my rantings, I messaged another member of the Foxy team this morning (our lovely Vulp Fiction) to ask if she could write something on the subject. I did not tell her my stance so the following is 100% another mother voicing an opinion. By the way this will be far more eloquent than my rantings……..
Sledgehammer. Nut. Good old Kirstie Allsopp grabbing the idiom and attempting to wrestle some parenting life lesson from it. In case you are not up to speed, Kirstie Allsopp, who loves to fly business class while her children slum it in economy, has revealed that when her sons, aged 10 and 12, played games on their iPads outside of her dictated window, she smashed their devices against a table leg, breaking them (the iPads, not the children’s spirits) to make a point.
She told Jeremy Vine: “I smashed my kids’ iPads, not in a violent way. I actually banged them on the table leg… we had made all sorts of rules and all sorts of times when we said you can’t play them and all those rules got broken and in the end I said: ‘Right that is it, I have to physically [break them].'”
Now, I have a 10 year-old and a 12 year-old, too. They love their devices, they love playing games, chatting to their friends, &c and we have rules about use too. Our router is programmed to turn off the wifi to the children’s devices at a specific time and all devices have to be left downstairs at a set ‘electronic curfew’. Sometimes they forget, sometimes I forget, sometimes they try to get round the rules. Children test boundaries – the very nature of growing up demands that they do and as parents, one of our greatest tests is how we deal with that. And I don’t think that smashing an expensive piece of kit is a proportionate response to Allsopp minor playing Fortnite when he should have been brushing his teeth, or whatever.
I know parents lose it sometimes, but feeling ragey and actual smashing things in fury are two different things. Is that the lesson she wants her children to learn? That if you are upset that your rules haven’t been followed, that if a small person has forgotten what you said because his Minecraft ice palace is so engaging, he’s lost in that world for a while, then it’s OK to lash out? To respond physically and frighteningly? And then to posture about it, to revel in your hardline parenting and your children’s unhappiness. Well, it’s not.
Here’s an idea, Kirstie, lock the iPads in a drawer. Confiscate them for a set period. Use one of the myriad free apps that let you control access and set timers – actually parent by anticipating the pitfalls and avoiding them, rather than hoping your children will be automatons that use their inbuilt timers to obey without question. Children bend and break rules, it’s a given, but they will be the law makers – and breakers – of the next generation, so as parents, we need to given them the tools to deal with conflict without smashing stuff up with table legs.
Two members of Foxy, two different opinions. United in that we need to control the amount of time spent on these devices but the way in which Kirstie dealt with it is debatable – hence why the topic is hotter than a freshly baked potato.