We all know we should be limiting the use of screen time for our children, but how can we make this happen without a battle?
Remember that connection and respect are the best places to start with children. Firstly, involve the entire family in a conversation about how much screen time is acceptable in your home. But be prepared – children are tough negotiators!
Taking a powerful and authoritative stance is unlikely to lead to compliance. In fact, it’s more likely to make your child feel powerless, and although that might work in the short term, it quickly leads to disconnection. In addition, whilst it may seem that you’ve won the war, it’s likely that your child will seek revenge later…remember, revenge is a dish best served cold!
You need to make your child feel empowered and heard. Here’s how:
Schedule family meetings These are a great parenting tool, I promote. Make sure everyone is included and facilitate a friendly, open conversation. These meetings work best with children aged 4 and over. Set up a weekly meeting at a time that you’re all happy with. You can extend the idea by having a post box style tin. Throughout the week, family members can post things they wish to discuss. Initially younger children might have a tendency to add a few extra toilet inspired ’funny’ notes – go with it!
At the meetings, everyone starts by taking turns to give compliments or positive feedback. Don’t be tempted to chair the meeting – that’s the children’s role! Introduce a wooden spoon. Only the person with the wooden spoon gets to talk. Talk to your children with the same respect, volume and politeness you would to a friend or partner.
Having regular family meetings is a fantastic opportunity for your children to learn great communication and problem-solving skills. It also teaches them mutual respect, which is hugely powerful within a family unit and will stand them in good stead in later life.
* Top tip! Keep family meetings fun; the idea is for kids to look forward to them, not to see them as covert lectures.
Tips for success
- Agree on a day, a week, or a month when there is a technology ban for the whole family and see what you can learn from the experience.
- Understand your child’s desire and try not to overreact. Any activity can become addictive. Know the difference between an interest and an addiction.
- Set the right example! Do as I say, not as I do won’t cut it I’m afraid. It can’t be one rule for you and another for them.
- Be reasonable and allow for some flexibility. There will always be times when you need to make exceptions, for example at the end of the school disco when everyone’s texting to discuss arrangements.
Remember, you are a unit, all in this together. The less time you spend on your electronic devices, the more time you’ll have to connect as a family, and the less time you will want to spend staring at your screen! It won’t be plain sailing, but with mutual respect and boundaries, it can be achieved.