I love it when someone articulates a message I share using a fraction of the words I tend to use – and it makes sense! Often it’s my husband who can say in ten words what I tend to say in a hundred, I thought maybe it was a male/female thing? But this happened for me recently when I was listening to Social Media expert/good guy Josh Ochs where he interviewed a licensed marriage and family therapist in the US named MaryEllen.
This Peaceful Digital Parenting tip is one of the most valuable things to remember if you have a child who is playing games or using apps online that you don’t know, and their online activity is resulting in behavioural issues. Read on for more.
Picture this common scenario: you tell your son it’s time to stop playing his game online and turn off the i-pad, and he isn’t very happy about that. He ignores you at first or just pretends he didn’t hear you – maybe he was so engrossed in his game that he really didn’t hear you. So you tell him again, this time a bit louder, to turn off his device. He tells you “I will in a minute”…but a minute of his time is very different to a minute of your time. Ultimately you raise your voice again in an attempt to MAKE him listen to you. Or maybe you just physically take the device off his hands. Either way you now have a very cranky child who doesn’t like you very much right now!
Of course you know he’ll get over it, and you know not to take it personally, but that doesn’t make it any more enjoyable in the meantime.
The problem with online games of course is that they’re never-ending. There’s always a battle to finish, another level to reach, more coins to collect, etc. No-one wants to stop playing a game they haven’t finished.
Social media feeds are no different. You can never read every post from everyone if you have a reasonably large “friends” base – or at least I don’t come close. So you can never really feel like you’ve “finished” what you need to do there. This often leads to undue stress and pressure for adults as well as children, even more so if like most people you use more than one social media platform. Feel free to disagree with me on this one if you’re able to keep up, I’d love to know how you do it in the comments below!
Where We Go Wrong
It’s one thing having a hard time disconnecting from technology ourselves. And it’s another when our children have trouble turning their devices off. It’s very frustrating for parents when their children just don’t know when to stop living life online and start living offline.
Interestingly, it’s also very frustrating for children when their parents behave in a similar manner.
One of the key things we can do to encourage our children to spend less time online, or better moderate their time online, is to lead by example. Expecting your children to do anything you’re not entirely willing to do is often a path to disappointment and failure.
But back to the purpose of this post, where we often go wrong as parents is that we correct before we connect. In other words, we start telling our children off in an attempt to get them to behave the way we want them to, i.e. “correct” their behaviour. And we wonder why it doesn’t work.
Connect Before You Correct
What we need to be doing as parents is connecting with our child first. We need to gain an understanding of how our child is feeling, what they’re doing and why they feel like they want to continue doing something that we don’t want them to do.
It’s natural to look at a situation from your own perspective, but it’s only once we can see it from our child’s perspective that we can meet them on their level and tear down any walls that have grown between us. We can then speak with them in their language and relate to them much better. This will make them far more likely to respond to us in a more positive way.
How It Works
In practical terms, this may mean knowing what game they’re playing, having seen them play it yourself. This is the best way to find out what the aim of the game is, how it can be addictive, and at what points in the game it’s easiest to stop. Given this information you can decide whether it’s most appropriate to tell your child to turn off once they’ve finished that level, saved their progress, lost a life or whatever else makes sense. You can also empathise with them when they get out or don’t get through to the next level.
If your child is chatting with a friend online and they don’t want to stop, let them know in positive terms when they can continue to chat. Again this is about considering the situation from your child’s perspective.
Sometimes using the word “yes” instead of “no” to say the same thing can work wonders. Look at the difference between:
“You can chat again for half an hour after dinner”, and
“No more chatting for now, it’s dinner time”.
Either way your child is not permitted to chat to their friend during dinner but may be allowed to do so afterwards – same rule. But the first option will generate a much more pleasant response than the second one.
Let Me Know How You Go
This peaceful digital parenting idea to connect before you correct may seem simple, yet it’s very powerful when put into action. It’s made a huge difference to the way I speak with my children and helped massively to manage their screen time effectively, without requiring the use of apps. There are no arguments when it’s time to turn off devices in our home, the process of switching from online to offline really is a peaceful one.
If you’re having difficulty managing screen time in your home you may find these tips useful. For help on any other aspect of Peaceful Digital Parenting feel free to join me on my next live webinar where there’s no holding back!