We Already Decided This …

Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed. Copyright © 2014

As the parent of school age kids, you sometimes find yourself ready to pull your hair out as you hear, “Can I play my video game?” for the 1,000th time. Here are five quick steps to getting the pleading to stop.  Pronto.

1. Call a family meeting and say, “We need to decide together how we’re going to handle screen time in our family. (“In our family” is the magic phrase.)

2. Go around the room and get each person’s input on how much screen time everyone should have.  This will vary by age in most families, with 0-1 hour on weeknights, and up to 2 hours on weekends as a good starting point for young kids.

3. Actively listen to each person’s ideas.  Repeat them and write them down, showing respect and consideration.

4. If the parents and kids are way off, keep collaborating until you come to a decision that everyone can live with.  This takes time, but the solutions will stick when you spend the extra time, and you won’t have to revisit this issue.  It may even require ending the meeting, taking some thinking time, and coming back the next day.  Invest in this, as the modeling you’re doing is invaluable.

5. Decide on your screen limits, and document them.  Post them in the kitchen.  And if some pleading starts, end the discussion with, “We already decided this. What would you like to talk about now?” You can let the kids decide, “Would you like to turn it off now, or would you like me to turn it off?” Stand there until it’s off.

Here’s how one family worked it out, and what they saw when they did:

Dad: We talked last time about computer time, and we did what you said.  The rule is that there’s none during the school week, unless it’s homework-related and I’m with my son.  Occasionally does math online.  He still asks every day.  The answer is “We decided this.”  He lets go. We also have no TV before bed.  I notice a huge difference.  Everyone is sleeping well.  Weekends are more relaxed; we might watch a show or movie at night.  Getting control and setting the expectation has been good. 

On the bus, it’s the culture of the kids to be on screen/ iPads.  They play the whole time.  Our son sees it, and still always asks to play.  We’re worried that the peer pressure will just increase over time.

The specialty in the Nevin family is that we don’t do what everybody else does.  The parents gave other examples of how this played out in their childhood.  Mom vacationed close to home, and has such fond memories of it.  She says, “I couldn’t care less if we went to Disney World.  Many kids are going, but I don’t feel the need, as we can give our kids so much more in other ways.  We are going for the richness of being together with friends and family instead of forced fun of Disney World, which is so commercialized.  Most important, the kids think it’s fun to be with our whole family.”

So in our family, we limit screen time so we don’t miss the richness of being together, with each other, the kids on the bus, or nature.  And we don’t miss the richness of being able to do nothing, a skill kids need, and are not getting these days.  As a parent coach, I support you in setting these limits with love.  Your children will truly benefit.

If you would like support on setting screen time limits, or any limits at all, visit www.parentingmojo.com/parent-coaching for more information.  Or just call 888-OUR-HAPKIDS888-OUR-HAPKIDS to set up an appointment!


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