Holiday Gifts Raising Havoc?

Are the gifts your kids received for the holidays creating havoc in your home?

Are you at a loss as to how to handle this sticky situation?

Let’s say your child received a new PS-3 or Xbox from well-intended but misguided grandparents. Your child is spending way too much time on it. It’s time for a sit-down to repair damaged family relationships and restore harmony in the home.

Here’s what to say:
“I’m the parent and it’s my job to make sure your growing up time is balanced with fun, family, and contributions to our lives. I need to check on the balance now and then. When I checked today, I saw that you’re spending a lot of time on the PS-3, and less time with us. I also notice that your mood is lower and you’re more cranky when you play the games. So we need to make an adjustment. I want to hear your ideas for how to resolve this issue.”

Allow time for the child to think. He or she may become defensive, saying, “It’s my game and I can play it whenever I want to! Grandma gave it to me!” or “I’m not cranky! You’re the one who gets cranky when I play!”

Don’t defend your point here. Just stay with the agenda, which is to resolve the problem. Say, “I’m not interested in arguing about this. But I am interested in hearing your ideas for resolving it. Do you want to offer some right now, or do you need some time to think about it? Take your time. It’s important and I want you to have a chance to think. Maybe you could come up with a few options that we could discuss next time we talk about this.”

When you call the next thinking session, ask your child what he or she decided. Consider the options carefully, not hurrying, asking clarifying questions. If you can live with one of the ideas, say so and consider the issue resolved. If you need to negotiate, say, “I like number 3 because it’s well-thought-out. What would you say to including it with some of my ideas?” Offer your thoughts and decide together on a solution.

This type of collaboration is vital for making decisions that stick. It includes the child in the decision, avoiding the authoritarian “my way or the highway” approach. It models the type of collaboration you expect from your child. You are always teaching with your behavior, don’t forget.

If your child can’t come up with a solution, keep at it anyway. Offer three or four of your own ideas and ask him to rank order them. This keeps choice in the forefront, still including the child in the solution. Again, offer him time to think. The more you do this, the better the decisions will be.

Once a decision is made, post it prominently in the home where the child gets a frequent review. State it positively like this:

The Becker Family has decided together that 1 hour per week is the perfect amount of time for video games. I pledge to help our family stay strong by honoring the 1-hour limit.

Decide together what will happen if the limit is not being honored. You may evoke the parental right to turn the machine off, which is appropriate. Just be sure this is decided in advance, so there are no surprises. If you encounter resistance, don’t argue. Just do as you all decided, turn off the machine, and engage the child in something else. Your actions will speak loudly, and you won’t have to get engaged in a power struggle.

Peace to your homes in 2013! If you need help with this or any other parenting issue, call us at 651-453-0123 or write for an appointment.

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