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The Mad Scientist Approach to Making Screen Rules Stick

“The key is to teach them how to be safe with technology because ultimately, we want our children to be in charge of technology, rather than feeling technology is in charge of them.”

– Elaine Halligan, The Parent Practice 

When it comes to a screen time routine, there are no hard and fast rules.

Sure, there are guidelines and good practices, but what works for one family doesn’t necessarily guarantee success for another.

So give yourself the freedom to experiment – and learn – as you build kids’ screen time rules and routine together as a family.

And as with any great experiment, there will be obstacles to overcome.

But we’ve got your back with our break-out posts on Preparing your Kids for Screen Time Success:

But there is a fifth – and frequently overlooked – step to this process.  Namely, preparing to accept temporary setbacks and celebrate shared wins together.

Positively managing screen time doesn’t just happen overnight. There are emotions and behaviours to address alongside the screen time routine.

And that’s the subject of today’s post.

Don’t take it Personally

Because kids LOVE to test their parents.

And this is especially true when setting boundaries around screen time.

Chances are they’ve grown up with screen time and see it as their right.

So naturally, they’ll go on the defensive at the thought of losing something they cherish.

But positioned right, they’re not really losing anything.

In fact, they’re set to gain a great deal.

Parents know their kids will benefit from limiting their screen time.

But kids just aren’t mature enough to be guided by adult motivations and perspectives.

They just don’t see it our way.

So how you respond can make all the difference.

Learn to manage your emotions and don’t take it personally.

For better or worse, they will follow your lead.

But we must avoid the emotional response at all costs – even when we are about to lose it.

“Stop, Drop (whatever your agenda is at that moment) and Breathe…You can still set limits with your child. Once you calm down, you’ll be able to connect before you correct, so you can calm the storm instead of making things worse. (No, you don’t look weak. You look like someone who can manage her anger. You’re the role model, remember?)”

– Laura Markham

RELATED: Like what you're reading? Get your FREE Guide: How to Prepare Your Kids for a Screen Routine...that Works for YOUR Family!

Click here for your FREE Guide

Reviewing Progress

In many cases, progress will be clear for all to see.

Over the next few weeks, your child will become less dependent on their daily screen time fix…

…and more interested in doing other non-screen activities.

Remember that one goal you identified early on?

That goal is your yardstick to measure progress.

Perhaps you wanted your kids to come off devices without nagging. How are they doing now?

Or maybe you wanted them to do more off-screen activities. Are they?

Review progress against your  goal on a weekly basis for the first few weeks, and monthly thereafter.

Celebrate Wins
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Notice the effort your child is making and celebrate the smallest wins!

The celebration – and recognition – doesn’t have to be anything grand.

Whether it’s an approving word, a snack & chat, choosing where to sit in the car, or enjoying an extended curfew, just be sure to celebrate the wins!

And remember to use descriptive praise to help strengthen your relationship with your child and help them develop better screen habits.

Don’t take progress for granted.  For example, when they come off their devices when screen time is up – without arguing – recognise this achievement.

Say something like: “I see you’ve come to the end of your screen time. You’ve put down your device without arguing. That’s very responsible of you”.

For more on descriptive praise, download our free guide:

TAMING THE GAMING (without blaming or shaming)

Embrace Setbacks

Sure, there will be stumbling blocks along the way (we certainly had our fair share) – but that’s OK.

It’s all part of the experiment ethos (and natural learning process).

Over time – as kids and screen time limits become routine – resistance and tantrums will lessen.

After each win, you and your child will be able to take on the next specific goal with greater confidence and mutual trust.

And once tempers have cooled, these refinements are the perfect opportunity to sit down with your kids to discuss improvements and adjustments.

Just be sure to agree them together BEFORE putting them into practice.

Failing Foward

“Scientific discovery is based on the principle of learning from failures, identifying what doesn’t work — without judgment — so that we can decipher what does work.”

– Elaine Taylor-Klaus, Impact ADHD

It took your kids time to learn to walk. Ride a bike. Read a book.

You watched them fall, falter and fail. Then simply helped them back on their feet.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

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Take the same approach with screen time…just fail forward.

You have a fantastic opportunity to learn with your kids and teach them to focus on progress, not perfection.

So maybe 20 minutes of screen time in the morning before school didn’t work.

Maybe 10 minutes is better or maybe no screen time in the morning makes sense instead?

Or maybe 20 minutes of screen time to wind down before homework didn’t cut it.

Maybe 20 minutes kicking a ball outside or playing cards makes more sense for you both to wind down?

Failing forward is part of the learning journey (see why Leon Scott Baxter is proud of his daughter’s failures).

So fail forward by using these mistakes as stepping stones to build good habits.

That’s the last break-out post on “Preparing your kids for Screen Time Success”.

Now that you know how to prepare you kids, go forth and EXPERIMENT!

Remember, there really are no right and wrongs.

Continual step-by-step progress towards achieving your screen time goals as a family is key.

In other words…

“MOTIVATION is what gets you started. HABIT is what keeps you going.”

– Jim Ryun

Did you make changes to your screen time routine on the journey? How long did it take your kids to adjust? We’d love to hear more in the comments below.

RELATED: Like what you're reading? Get your FREE Guide: How to Prepare Your Kids for a Screen Routine...that Works for YOUR Family!

Click here for your FREE Guide
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