Technology Can't Fix Your Parenting Problems

I have to tell you, I'm excited about how technology is changing my life. Cars that can detect when someone's in my blind spot, better voice dictation for typing, video chat sessions with my newborn niece that are crystal clear even though we live on the other side of the country, my new noise-cancelling headphones, appointment reminders that sync from my email to my calendar - it's amazing and I'm loving it!

What I don't love is when products are created to give a quick fix to a parenting issue.

Tech + babies & toddlers makes me very skeptical

Want to know how much milk your baby drank in a nursing session? There's a gadget that claims it can do just that. Attach a sensor to your baby's earlobe, and the suck and swallow is recorded in an app.

Can't remember when your baby's diaper was last changed so you'll know when to change it again? You can plug that info into a device that will tell you by the second.   

Need to get your child to brush his teeth? A toothbrush can sing to him, beep, and sync to an iPad to put a star on a rewards chart. 

Disturbed by your toddler waking you up before you're ready to open your weary eyes and face the day? You can install an "ok to wake" clock that trains your toddler not to come wake you up by showing a red light until your pre-set wake time. 

Truth: parenting is super hard!

Babies always seem to poop when you've just gotten everyone out the door. Breastfeeding is awkward and anxiety-ridden for many new moms in the first few months. Most children dislike the feeling of a toothbrush on their teeth. And toddlers battle bedtime and sometimes wake up at the crack of dawn.

Exhausted parents who find that there's an app for that are often swayed by the slick video advertisements of well-rested, happy parents and compliant children all due to some kind of tech-intervention. 

So do they work?

Since children are very receptive to external stimuli, they very well may. And somewhere out there there is a parent and child who would benefit from a product with capabilities like these. My gut instinct says that it would be a rare need.

More truth: If a tech gadget seems to promise compliance from your child, it's probably too good to be true. Because we're raising humans, not robots. And we're the parents. It's _our_ job to set the limits and gently guide our children toward adulthood. If they wake us up too early in the morning, we need to ask ourselves why.

So let's take that last gadget - the “OK to wake clock”.

And let's break down the real problem. 

Here are just a few reasons why children might wake up early in the morning: 

  • Their bodies woke up ready to play!

  • They had a bad dream. :(

  • It's daylight's savings time.

  • They napped too much the day before.

  • They got to bed too late.

  • They are having a developmental growth spurt.

  • They woke up and it was dark...and lonely...and they wanted you.

  • They woke up and it was sunny...and eerily quiet...and they wanted you.

And here are some possible non quick-fix solutions for you: 

  • Help children become more aware of their circadian rhythm by allowing them to sleep and wake with the sun.

  • Trust that they will, in their own time, adjust to a more realistic rhythm that also works in sync with your needs.

  • Talk to them about your expectations before you get them to bed. And when they wake you up too early, be compassionate. Remember - you're the adult.

  • Install darkened curtains or light proof blinds so that the room is darker earlier and stays dark later.

  • Bedtime routines. I'll say it again. Bedtime routines.

  • Make their room accessible for independent wake and sleep as much as possible. Toys that they can play with in a safe environment without you just for a bit while you rouse yourself.

  • Learn how to appreciate the sunrise. This was my solution with my second born, and guess wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I saw so many beautiful pink skies!

  • Go to bed earlier so you're not as cranky when you're awoken earlier.

  • Let your child crawl in bed with you. (Here's another solution that worked brilliantly for me!)

  • Be patient and kind - both to yourself and to your child. These days won't last forever - I promise!

With every gadget that promises a parenting quick fix, we need to ask ourselves: Is this an aid to the emotional needs of the child?

Does it foster independence?

Is it necessary?

Is it the best solution?

Or is it something that gets in the way of my child's natural development or my ability to do my parenting job? 

If the answers to those questions gives you pause - just be patient a little longer and try a few human strategies first.

They've worked for us for thousands of years.

What's another generation got to lose in trying?

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