Ike the Mastermind
Of Eyeballs and Autocorrect

Your Questions, Answered, Using an Unnecessary Number of Words

I noticed a couple topic requests for Further Yakking About from the comments on the last post, and as I am in a procrastinating mood and have nothing better to yak about, let's do it:

1) The time-limit parental control thingie.

Our kids used to solely play with our old, discarded iPhones. Plus an iPad that was technically still mine and I don't remember giving up custody but eventually it was chock full of nothing but kids' games and was always sort of sticky. 

I was never really happy with the parental control options in iOS. App purchases and downloads required a password, but I wanted to be able to set time limits, block certain websites, and just sort of generally know what they're up to without having to literally sit there staring over their shoulders. (And thus, having to listen to the Angry Birds theme song over and over and over and over...) 

There are two choices with options like that: Amazon Fire Kids Edition with the Amazon FreeTime subscription service, or a tablet with full Windows 10 installed and Family Safety enabled. At the time, we didn't have an xBox or anything, and Noah was DESPERATE to play "real" Minecraft vs. the iOS Pocket Edition. So we opted for three relatively cheap HP Stream tablets with Windows 10. (Plus a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse for Minecraft.)

I'm super happy with Family Safety and it does everything we wanted, and unlike Amazon FreeTime, it's included for free with Windows. They get one hour of time and then need our password to add more, and we can restrict app and website by age ratings and get a full activity report so we know EVERYTHING they are playing and visiting. Plus having a full operating system and the keyboards makes them really useful for homework and school projects. 

I am NOT, however, happy with the specific hardware we went with. They're only a year old and giving us a ton of problems with freezing/glitching, memory storage and holding a battery charge. Some of that is our fault, as we should've sprung for more expensive cases to protect them from drops and general carelessness. They just aren't very sturdy tablets in general, though. I think our days with them are numbered.

Since we have the xBox now for Minecraft, we might go for the Amazon Fires (which have a two-year warranty) next time. Or stick with Windows but just spring for better hardware/cases. I don't see us buying them their own iPad Minis or anything Apple -- too damn expensive and they've yet to really prove good stewardship with devices in general. Every screen in the house is cracked and has taken too many near-fatal falls out of backpacks and off high surfaces. 

Anyway, if anybody has thoughts on the Fire and FreeTime service vs. Windows 10 vs. Something I Haven't Even Thought Of Yet, fire away.

2) How did I not notice my headphones were in Ike's bed for over a month don't I change his sheets or do all my children sleep in their own filth my God.


I do change my children's sheets -- I have it set as a reminder on my phone's Tasks app for every two weeks. Which is how often I used to have a cleaning service come in our townhouse, and oh how I miss those days, but I decided after we moved to tackle housecleaning myself for as long as possible. And you know what? Despite this house feeling like it's a bajillion more square feet, I am doing mostly okay. I set specific chores and rooms for specific days of the week so it's broken down into small, workable chunks I can tackle after finishing up my work obligations. 

THAT SAID. Do I actually do a full sheet swap on all three beds (including the bunk bed gaaaahhhhh)? Not really. I change the pillowcases without fail, and then do a general...um...visual and smell check on everything else. If nothing got spilled or peed on or stained or littered with contraband Oreo crumbs (SO SNEAKY!!!), I admit I sometimes give the rest a pass until next time. 

Real life, bitches. It's kinda gross and lazy sometimes. Who cares. 

So no, I don't believe the headphones were in Ike's bed the whole time, as I would have found them earlier. I think he was keeping them under the bed most of the time, lost them in his sheets one night and didn't think to mute the games he was playing...or didn't think his brothers would be so quick to rat him out. 

Either way, they're mine again, which is good because Serial was a two-parter this week.

3) What consequences did we enforce post-screen bust? 

Well, first and foremost, loss of his daily screen time (which includes xBox and TV) for four days. Four years old = four day max on grounding, much like timeouts are one minute for each year of age. Anything longer and a toddler/preschooler very quickly loses their grasp on the cause and effect behind the punishment, and it just becomes this endless, arbitrary thing. 

On each of those four days, we also talked about what he did and why it was wrong. No, playing with screens isn't WRONG, what was wrong was 1) Sneaking the screens (or anything!) in and out of Mom and Dad's room, 2) Playing with them without asking, and when he was supposed to be sleeping. There was obviously a LOT more going on, but I'm keeping it simple for now.

The concepts of lying and deception are both REALLY squishy at this age and hard for kids to fully get -- as long as they aren't getting caught or in trouble, isn't everything okay? And even if I'm caught, if I keep saying that I didn't do it, I won't get in trouble, so isn't everything okay? 

He is very sorry and has apologized. He will be able to play with his screen today after school and will join his brothers for Friday movie night tonight. He also admitted that he's just not hungry at dinner time (unless it's "pizza or burgers because my body is always hungry for pizza or burgers"). So I think I'm going to take another crack at moving his afternoon snack earlier instead of waiting until his brothers get home.

I maintain this somewhat obvious fix is harder than it sounds -- the post-school snack all together is seriously important to Ike, and it's been their ritual for as long as he can remember. (Our old district had the boys coming home a full hour earlier, though, so it was never a problem.) And while I'd love to try making that snack be a mini-meal for Ike with protein and balance and shit, if his brothers are eating granola bars and Goldfish, ehhhhh we're just going to shift the dinner time protests and tantrums to snack time.

And since his brothers are eating dinner like world-class champs of reformed picky eaters, I don't really want to change their snack up. They hoover up their snack, head off to homework/chores (once again leaving Ike on his own again, after he's been waiting for them for HOURS), and if dinner isn't ready by 6/6:30 you would think I am literally trying to starve them both to death. 

Anyway. Boring. This is all so boring! The good news is, look at this!


Turns out, Ike will nap (or at least lie down for a significant chunk of quiet time) if I'm there. Like, either next to him in my bed typing on my lapdesk, or at my proper desk while he's in the guest bed. I'm not sure why I never thought to try this before -- something something wanting some damn peace and quiet while I work maybe -- but it's working. I'm still surprised he even needs a nap at 4 and a half, but he's been dozing/resting for about an hour and a half almost every day this week, so obviously he does.

And okay, fine, he's actually sleeping on top of me in that photo (hi Amy's boob) and I am most definitely not getting any work or housecleaning done. But some quality snuggles with my sneaky, scary smart baby?

Eh, all that other crap can wait. This is more important.




I really appreciated your last post (and this one!). My almost 4 year old daughter has been making some dubious life choices lately (taking candy on the sly, lying about it, taking little toys from daycare, lying about it, etc.). She had similar consequences to Ike's, and seems to maybe/sort of/I hope gotten the point that these were not good decisions. I have still been having some ridiculous freak outs about it though. So I needed to hear someone else was going through something similar, and that these types of behaviors are pretty normal for this age.


Ike is your Louise Belcher! Must be a youngest of three kids thing! :)


I have a girl that's 4 1/2 and we are also entering this strange land of deception and boundary pushing.

The scariest was at my parents house when she was supposed to be upstairs sleeping - but was actually running all around the second floor. The door to the attic was unlocked so she opened it. Though she claims she didn't go in, there's no telling the truth with her sometimes.


Mine used to ask, "can I lie down with my head on your tummy" but then he'd just use my whole body as his full length mattress. And like you, I really didn't mind at all.


My body is always hungry for pizza & burgers too! 😆 My 5 year old still needs a nap most days but he'll only sleep if I'm in the bed with him. And while it's a huge time suck, I usually fall asleep too & wake up feeling much better. You're never too old for a nap!


It's tough to be the baby brother. Thanks for sharing all of this- I know you're very thoughtful about your parenting and discipline choices so I appreciate the window into that thought process.


I remember a long-running and increasingly convoluted scheme I ran as a child about being afraid of the dark that I used in order to secure myself a light source for post-bedtime reading. These are problem-solving skills that will come in handy in the future :)

On a completely unrelated topic, I am curious about carseats. (I will have to switch my one-year-old from the infant carseat to the convertible shortly, so it's on my mind). I remember you commenting at one point about a premature attempt to switch Noah to a booster, but that was years ago. Can you give me a snapshot of where you are now? Is Noah still booster-bound? Is Ike in a booster, or still a carseat? What has the general progression been?

(You may remunerate me for my idea generation by answering my questions :)


So smart & practical! I love it. Naps are a blessing and a curse and I agree with Jodi. Naps are good for you too!

The discipline thing is tough at that age, I think you are working through it successfully though.

For screen protection- are you using that Gorilla glass protection thingy? It is likely worth the investment on new equipment, it's a bit of a pisser to put on, but it reduces the incidental breakage factor.


My kids got Amazon fires for Christmas. The two year warranty is amazing - we've returned the preschooler's tablet twice already. Once was a faulty product and once was him. I think he dropped a mop on it. Both times, we got a replacement within two days of calling. The calling is kind of a PITA - a lot of waiting on hold and explaining the problem to 2-3 people, but in the end, poof, free replacement in two days.

The parental controls are downright TERRIBLE. For example, our Kindergartener will turn on videos in the morning, get hyper-focused, and not be able to get her ready for school. We would be fine with her playing a game, since mostly she plays Neko Atsume. There's no way to do that. We can block all "entertainment content" until "educational goals" are met, but the educational goals basically comes down to a set amount of reading time, and for my daughter in particular, having her tablet read a book to her is pretty much the same as watching a video. Hello hyper-focus! Why are you wearing my daughter's pajamas? And the specific game we're ok with? Doesn't have any educational components at all, so it would get blocked too. We can set hours on the tablet so it won't turn on in the morning, but that doesn't solve our issue either. We've basically had to resort to actually peering over her shoulder every five minutes and taking the tablet away three times a week.

About the internet: they have no access under the kids' profiles. I actually like that - my son has a tendency to buy more content on my phone without understanding what he's doing. But it could make it difficult if your kids are truly using the internet for homework, etc. We've never tried youtube. My kids are mostly content to choose between Creative Galaxy, Tumbleleaf, and Blues Clues re-runs.

If I had to re-purchase, I'd buy them again, but not install the Freetime software. And when our Freetime subscription lapses, we won't be buying it again.

Oh, and if you do go to buy them, poke the button that says "this is a gift" when you stick them in your cart. Otherwise, they are permanently linked to the account you used to purchase. I thought it wouldn't matter, since I am listed on my husband's prime account, and can use it myself. BUT mine isn't the Prime membership account holder, so the kids can't 'borrow' books from the Prime Library. We have to actually buy the books, and that detracts from the whole "millions of books to read for free!" thing that was advertised.

Still would buy them again. That two year warantee was worth it.


My toddler is already very sneaky. I fear for the future!

Have you considered a nabi tablet? It has parental controls, but you can unlock it into a real tablet if you want. And it's supposed to be kid proof. Honestly if we took the protectors off of ours it'd probably be in mint condition. We did add a screen protector to the thing it comes with though.


I just told this story to my coworkers who both rolllllled with laughter. I think this story needs to be animated for the world to enjoy at large.


It's like you live at my house. I wondered if you had looked into Circle at all? It seems like a great device. I think they need to have you review it before I buy it, ha.


We got our 7yo a Kindle Fire at Christmas. I didn't want to pay for FreeTime but did set up a "kid" profile for her, as well as a "parent" profile for me. I guess it works. She can't download/buy a single thing on her profile. It does mean that if she wants a new game/app, I have to log out of hers, login to mine, purchase it, then Share it to her profile, then log her back in again. Lots of steps, but very secure. She hasn't yet asked for an Internet browser app so I haven't had to worry about browsing too much. She does have YouTube... I'm unsure that was a good idea. As for time, I just limit it myself with a trusty iPhone clock. Eager to read more comments.


We've had a Circle since Christmas and it's pretty awesome. Every device connected to our network is listed, I have the kid things in a separate category with more time limits and censors, AND if they're not getting the message I just pause the Internet, on single devices or all at once. Power!


OurPact is an iOS app that lets you control a child's device from your iphone - you can set access hours, time limits, and then turn it off immediately if you need/want to!

Jacquie | @After_Words

I got my kids (8 and 10) Amazon Fires for Christmas--the sale was too good to pass up. We don't use Free Time, but I'm mostly happy with the parental controls--I like that I can set them so the kids can't use them AT ALL after 8 pm. I don't love that there seem to be a lot of glitches and errors switching from my profile--to set the rules--and there's. And I don't love that child profiles can't access Amazon radio or Audible audiobooks and that they can only stream, not download, videos. But they're just so much cheaper than Apple products that those complaints seem relatively minor.


Janell - thanks for that info about Circle!!!


Oh, thanks for reminding me about Serial!


Chiming in for the first time to say my oldest girls both needed naps well into 5. On the days they didn't sleep we didn't sweat it, but I'd guess they napped about 60% of the time.


My son is almost four and he still needs naps, unlike his older sister when she was that age. We can skip a day, but more than that and we really pay for it. I've always laid down with him for naps (because I don't sleep well, and it's the only way to make it thru the day), but lately he has been throwing the biggest tantrums about it. So, I started telling him we would just rest!a bit on the couch and he doesn't have to sleep. Most days he's out in a couple of minutes.


We have Fires for my 7 and 4 year olds (that their younger sisters occasionally use too). I have one of the nicer Kindle Fires and we tried FreeTime on it a year or so ago with a free trial and didn't really like it. So what we did with the boys' was just to set all the parental controls to the max. They don't know the login code to open them, so the only way they can play is if my husband and I ok it and open the screen for them. They can't purchase anything without knowing my password, I didn't put any of my Prime account info on it so they can't buy anything that way, we typically keep the wifi turned off so they can't get online unless we are there with them, etc. etc. As far as time limits, we just use our Echo to set a timer when they start playing. When the timer goes off, the Fires get turned off. (Unless I don't care how long they play, in which case we don't set a timer). They only have games I have allowed (can't download new ones without my password), I didn't put Netlix on their tablets, and generally they have worked really really well for us. We also have an ancient iPad that the kids have completely ignored since they got their Fires. We didn't actually buy the kids versions (I bought the 6 pack of them as Christmas gifts, which made them $40 each, then bought them each a $20 kids case) so they don't have the 2 year protection plan, but with the cases they have been totally fine. Four kids play with them in regular rotation and neither one has so much as a scratch. And if they do break, I can buy a new one for $50 and already have a case for it, so honestly I wouldn't even recommend buying the kids version, esp if your kids are used to being careful with a tablet or iPhone.


Okay, since you are taking questions...please add this to Q&A: do Ezra or Ike ever wonder about Noah's SPD/ADD (sorry if the diagnosis codes are wrong). I've read your column since Noah was a baby, but I can't remember if you've ever talked about the brothers dealing??? The reason I wonder is, I'm totally new to the spectrum-like issues that are popping up in our family. I'm wondering if my 5 year old notices that her brother sometimes freaks out (but obv, am not ready to discuss with my 5 year old yet...). I scrolled through archives (hi!) but didn't find anything. Thoughts? :)


I'll second Ourpact for iOS. And I believe they are coming out with an android version, if it isn't already out. I LOVE being able to shut their iPads down from my phone when they are brushing or doing what they are supposed to be doing. The time limit option is great during the week when they can have timed access.

Oh I am completely with you on the sheet changing. Bunks beds suck, and my third sons bed is against the wall in a tiny room. They get their sheets changed just like yours do, visible stains or funkiness otherwise let it ride. They're boys, for cripes sake. They are generally smelly and sticky anyways.


I love the Freetime controls on my kids kindles. But I don't pay for it. You can pay for a subscription to Freetime Unlimited to get additional content but the Freetime app with the parental controls is 100% free. We bought regular Kindle Fires before then kids version came out, so maybe it's different on the kids version, but just wanted to make sure it was known that parental controls are free. The only downside is that if you actually want to buy your kids in app content there is no way to do it on a kids profile.


We have Freetime. Happy with it. I'm too lazy to download all the cool games, apps, and books that they have access to and browse through. Also, did not buy the 2 year warranty you mentioned, but one froze up and went on an Amazon customer service chat room and they sent a new onein two days.


I don't know much about the freetime vs windows but I can tell you the Fire tablets are very hard to break. We have an older one (bought refurbished 2 years ago) in a hardish case I bought for $15 and a one year old one in the case that comes with the kids version and they're still in perfect shape. My kids are generally pretty good about taking care of them but they're definitely not perfect. I've seen them dropped on the stairs multiple times (my 4 year old trips over her own feet a lot) and I've even knocked them off the counter a time or two with no damage.


I used kindle free time and my son got in trouble, so I set parental controls so he could only read. Somehow he smartly created a new free time account, and was able to play anything he wanted. So, not fail proof for sneaky super smart kids


Lots of good info here... And glad to hear you're taking requests! I'd like to ask for more info about Ellyn Satter. I love her books and really do feel that they've helped me tremendously but my almost three year old remains the fussiest eater. I guess I just keep going, with meals that have a few options for him and us, and over the years it will work out, right? I'm so glad you used this and are still happy with it. I kind of cringe when I think of my five month old turning into a plain pasta and cheese quesadilla connoisseur like my toddler.


Just wait until you have a teenager and all of the homework is online (reading assignments and math books are all online, written assignments must be typed up and drop-boxed online - it is literally all online). Teenager sits at the computer and decides to watch just ONE YouTube video first, and a few hours later no homework is done but teenager has five new subscriptions on YouTube. Teenager has been in enough STEM classes to hack around any native parental controls we set up - not so much from the curriculum, but from the other STEM kids trading hacking secrets. I feel like the FBI trying to monitor this kid's work and I think we have Net Nanny in our future for the first time, in high school! Even punishing the hacking is tough - you can't take away the screens (all homework is on the computer, remember?).


I am a parent of one kid that napped all the way up to kindergarten (needed it totally) and I panicked about the loss of that nap. She still sometimes naps on the weekend (today actually, Friday was too much)

Other kid quit naps at 18 months old. Everyone is nicer when they get enough sleep :)


We've had Circle for about three weeks and it's awesome (proven by the fact that our kids hate it). Our kids are 7 and 11, and I can see this growing with them as they get older. Also, I understand Circle will soon add a component so that we can control what they do on the phones they'll one day have. So far we find it super easy to control from our phones, took about 20 minutes to get it all set up. Also, I did at one point have a question which I sent to Circle via email and also posted on their FB page, and I had an answer within 30 minutes.

Amy Renee

We got my 8 year old son a the cheapest Kindle (not kids version) this year and so far I am not really a fan. First, he looooooves to create things in Google Docs and is even teaching himself to use Google Sheets - but there are no native Google apps that can be used in kid mode except by side loading them and jumping through a billion hoops taht basically just opens a bunch of backdors I'm sure he'll figure out soon. If you are already used to the Google/Android environment, the Kindle version is super frustrating. The only plus to the Kindle tablet is that it's super sturdy.

We had a Nabi 2 for him before this, and I liked it's setup for locking down much better than Amazon Free time - but he cracked the screen within 6 months, and other friends have had nothing but trouble with broken chargers, etc. I dont understand why so many devices thing big rubber bumpers are the way to make things "kid proof" - because that doesn't actually protect the glass the way a fold back cover does.

My 4.5 year old still has naptime at daycare every day, and although he can technically skip it on weekends, he's much more pleasant with a nap. However, he fights tooth and nail if we say "naptime", so we used to say " quiet time in your room" and now we say "book time" where I read him 1-2 books and then leave him in his bed to read more. He usually falls asleep during book time, but not always - and even if he doesn't, that means I get some peace and quiet.


We got our daughter a Samsung Galaxy tab with kids mode. It's perfect for us. We can load any Android store app and the time limit is super easy, you just award time. Our library even has books and games you can borrow on the tablet. Netflix, Minecraft, PBS games all play really well. We initially just used it for white noise and Netflix, but it has grown with her for the past 2 years.

Lauren B

So, your last post got me thinking about when I last changed my kiddo's sheets. Might have been before Christmas?? Anyway, I decided to change them last night before bed. Wouldn't you know the kid flips a shit. "The green sheets are my fa (sob) vor (sob) ite!!!!!!!!!" (He's almost three). Continued to refuse to go to bed without the green sheets (which admittedly, did have a little bit of funk about them) for oh, 30 minutes. Told me I could wash them in the sink and dry them with a paper towel if they were dirty so he could have them back on his bed. Finally got him to bed, letting him pick which new sheets he wanted (monkeys). Fine, sleeps alright. First thing this morning, inquires about the wash status of the green sheets. This kid! Thanks for the sheets reminder, I think?


My older daughter took naps until the end of Kindergarten when she was 6, and at 8 1/2 she still sleeps a solid 11 hours every night. Some kids just need more sleep. :) I'm glad you found a solution. Maybe you could add a little to his snack instead of having it be something different?
Thank you for your honesty in how you parent.

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