“It takes 21 days to break a [bad] habit.” – Psycho-Cybernetics
If you’re trying to get your kids into a good screen time routine and feel like you’re hitting your head against a brick wall, don’t worry!
Here is your 21-day guide filled with motivation & advice (from a parent who’s been there) on how to go about breaking a bad screen time habit and replacing it with a good one!
Please note: There are other studies that indicate habit breaking may be longer or shorter than 21 days (there is a myriad of factors to consider). But for the purpose of this blog — and your sanity — we’re sticking with 21.
Your first 7 days
Day 1: “Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.” — Franz Kafka
Introducing a screen time routine is going to be hard. But if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it properly the first time. If you try to introduce screen time a second time, after a first failed attempt, it’s going to be even harder to make it stick.
Day 2: “Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first.” — Matthew L Jacobson
Just because your kids probably don’t want screen time rules doesn’t mean it has to be a negative experience. Show your kids the positive aspects screen time will bring to their lives.
Day 3: “You just can’t beat the person that never gives up.” — Babe Ruth
How many times has your child worn you down? Simply outlasted you with an indescribable amount of energy? If you want to win the screen time battle, homework huffs and chore wars, you have to be the one who doesn’t give up.
Day 4: “Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin Roosevelt
Get creative! Limit screen time and you’ll get a lot of “I’m bored!” Make it a competition to see how many times you can combat that saying with a fun family activity in the next 21 days.
RELATED: Need help getting your screen time rules to stick?
Day 5: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill
Your kid might be sick of screen time and you might be sick of them, but don’t lose hope now! Start introducing rewards when your child actively finds something to do other than getting back on their screen.
Day 6: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” — Mohammed Ali
Descriptive praise goes a long way in acknowledging a child’s behaviour, particularly when it comes to their screen time. Positive words create positive thoughts and actions…what could you praise your child about today?
Day 7: “Repetition is a form of change.” — Peter Schmidt
Don’t forget your goal. You are trying to break a habit here, it’s going to take a while. Make a chart and track your progress (a bit like the Seinfeld Strategy). I bet you’ll be surprised how far you’ve come already. (I was!)
Week 2: When the going gets tough…
Day 8: “I never look back darling. It distracts me from the now.” — Edna Mode, The Incredibles
You’ve come this far, don’t let the kids slip back into old routines because it’s easier. People crack after a week and revert back to old ways, but not you darling! You are FABULOUS.
Day 9: “Children learn more from what you are than what you teach.” — W.E.B DuBois
It’s time to look at your own screen habits. Are you on your phone while the kids are playing outside? Maybe you need your own screen time schedule? Don’t miss out on quality family time.
Day 10: “The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination.” – Tommy Lasorda
Getting the kids to stick to a screen time routine might feel impossible…but so did giving birth. Nothing is impossible. You’ve got this. It’s your house, your kids, your rules.
Day 11: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
Isn’t this why you started your journey? To break bad habits and create good ones? Keep it up. Make sure the kids stick to your screen time rules. Habits are forming, even if you can’t see them yet!
Day 12: “Mistakes are proof that you are trying” — Anonymous
So, maybe you slipped up this week. Let the kids watch TV a bit longer than they were supposed to. It’s ok. It’s all about how you bounce back tomorrow. Maybe cut down tomorrow’s screen time given today’s slip. The kids will learn delayed gratification…eventually.
RELATED: Let us help you prep your home for screen time success!
Day 13: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Victor Frankl
How you react says a lot to your kids. Instead of nagging them to get off their screens, think. How can you show them that there is life beyond their screens?
Day 14: “It will turn out all right in the end. You’ll see.” — Mrs Potts, Beauty & The Beast
There have been tantrums and slip ups. Screen time management might not feel like the easy alternative at all. It’s not the easy alternative, it’s the right choice for your family. That’s why you decided to do it — don’t lose faith now.
The final stretch
Day 15: “Good habits, once established, are just as hard to break as bad habits.” — Robert Puller
It will be worth it, Mum. Go and pour yourself a glass of wine or get the chocolate out. You made it through the worst of the two weeks. It gets easier from here on out.
Day 16: “The secret to permanently breaking any bad habit is to love something greater than the habit.” — Bryant McGill
Your kids are resilient little humans, who might drive you mad half the time, but they need your help to not develop a technology addiction that could hinder their growth. Remember — good screen time habits are essential to their behavioural development.
Day 17: “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world!” – Joel Barker
You had a vision of a screen-free family (ok, maybe just a dinner time without phones). You got the screen time rules in place. YAY! Now keep it up! You’re changing your families lives, even if you can’t see results yet. (They’re coming, I promise you.)
Day 18: “The most certain way to succeed is just to try one more time.” — Thomas Edison
Really, really, REALLY want to give up? Just try and get through today with the screen time rules in place. Tomorrow is a new day and a fresh start. You just have to make sure you stick to the rules until bedtime. Face tomorrow, tomorrow.
Day 19: “When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.” – Chinese proverb
Times change and technology advances. Your key strength here is adapting as your kids do. Find a way to make any sudden changes fit the screen time rules you’ve worked so hard to put in place.
RELATED: Want to make screen time rules stick? Download our guide!
Day 20: “Repetition is the mother of skill.” – Tony Robbins
It’s not dull, it’s not tedious (ok it is), but repetition can help you teach your children key skills. Managing screen time effectively is a skill, even if they can’t get an apprenticeship in it.
Day 21: “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” ― Jim Ryun
You did it! You successfully implemented screen time rules in your home. Ok, so there were a few wobbles here and there. But here you are! The hard work is done.
You’ve started to create a habit that can last a lifetime, with immeasurable benefits to both your kids and your family as a whole. Here’s how another family tackled their screen time bad habits in 30 days if you need some more inspiration.
But in the meantime, keep up the good work!
Ask us in the comments below what we would recommend when it comes to looking for a screen time solution.