Monday, April 28, 2014

Limit Screen Time

For more on screen time and how to find a balance that works for your family, check out the new ebook, “Help! My Child is Addicted to Screens (Yikes! So Am I.)” by Jane Nelsen and Kelly Bartlett.

Children are now faced with increasingly more options for screened entertainment, leaving families disconnected and disengaged. Learn Positive Discipline tools that will help you and your children connect more with each other and find a balance in your family's media use.
There was once a segment on Oprah in which families where challenged to give up electronics for a week, including TV. It was interesting to watch how difficult it was for parents, as well as their children, to give up all of their screens. One scene was particularly difficult to watch. A five-year-old boy could hardly stand it to give up playing video games. His temper tantrums were quite dramatic. His mother shared that she was embarrassed when she realized he had been playing video games for five hours a day. The good news was that after the whole family went through “media withdrawal,” they discovered how to replace screen time with family activities that increased their family closeness and enjoyment. Take a look at this video from the Today Show about one family who gave up all screens for six months.

Would it surprise you to know that 2-5-year-olds watch more than 32 hours of TV a week? (Nielsen) Children ages 8-18 spend more than 53 hours a week online and almost 8 hours of media use each day. (Keiser Family Foundation) In today’s digital world, families are exposed to more screen time than ever before. Smartphones, tablets, YouTube and the ever-popular game, Minecraft are just a few of the many sources of electronic connection that vie for time and attention from both parents and children.

But what does this mean? Is it good? After all, aren’t children who grow up using electronic media learning skills that will keep them connected and current in in a technologically driven world? Or is too much technology a bad thing? Does it prevent kids from learning important interpersonal skills like live conversations and social graces?

There is research that demonstrates how the brain develops differently with excessive screen time, so it is true that screen time does affect a child’s development. But my guess is that you don’t need research to know that your children are on their screens too much each day; you know this from your own wisdom and intuition. Maybe you’re not sure what to do about it, or you’ve avoided doing something about it because…
  1. You don’t like to admit that it is nice to have your children so easily entertained so you can have some time to yourself.
  2. It involves such a power struggle to get the kids to disconnect from their devices. It is easier to just let it go.
  3. You don’t realize that screen time is addictive.
  4. You justify it with the benefits technology brings: “Look at all the skills my child is learning.”
The key lies in finding a balance. Yes, kids are keeping up with technology and learning new skills that will help them if their lives. And yes, too much media use does prevent them from becoming proficient in person-to-person communication skills. What you can do to help your kids find that balance of screen time with “real life” is to work together to set limits around daily media use…including your own.

Try these Positive Discipline tools to help manage your family’s screen time so it doesn’t manage you:
  1. Have a family meeting. Get the whole family involved in a plan for reducing screen time. Part of the solutions should include things to do in place of screen time. It is more difficult to give something up when you don’t have plans for what else to do.
  2. Create a “parking lot” for electronics—have a basket or charging station in a central location in the house at which family members “park” their electronics during certain times of day.
  3. Establish new routines. Start with one time of day to be screen free (such as dinner) and periodically add on other times of day.
  4. Stay close with your child with special time. Children will listen to your limits about screen time when they feel understood and that you “get” them. Spend regular one-on-one time together to keep your relationship strong.
  5. Hold limits with kindness and firmness. Changing a screen time habit is hard; be ready for disappointment, anger, and sad feelings. Hold your limits by empathizing with a child’s feelings and sticking with the limit you’ve set.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Agreements - A Positive Discipline Tool Card

Why don’t children keep their agreements? Could it be that sometimes parents say, “This is what we are going to do? Do you agree?” When the question is asked in an authoritarian manner that doesn’t leave room for argument, children often shrug in agreement, which really means, “Sure, I’ll agree to get you off my back, but I don’t really agree.”


Children will usually keep their agreements when they have been respectfully involved in creating the agreements, which requires several steps. The reason for the word “usually” will be discussed later.

1. Sit down together during a calm time (not at the time of conflict) and have a respectful discussion about the issue that requires an agreement. It is important to wait until everyone has calmed down before a rational discussion can be achieved.

2. During the discussion time, be sure that everyone has an opportunity to share his or her thoughts and feelings about the issue. Interruptions are not allowed when someone is sharing. Some families use a three minute sand flow timer. The person who is sharing can have the whole three minutes, or can stop before his or her time is up by saying so. The person or people listening are not allowed to defend, explain, or give their opinion until it is their turn.

3. Brainstorming comes only after everyone has had a chance to share. Make brainstorming fun where any suggestion is written down—no matter how wild or crazy. Do not give opinions about brainstorm ideas. This is not the time for discussion. Just get lots of ideas written down on paper. It is a good idea to focus on solutions.

4. During agreement time, it is okay to discuss the pros and cons of each brainstormed idea. You might start by asking:
  • Is there anything that should be eliminated because it is not practical? (Perhaps you can’t afford it, or you don’t have other resources available to accomplish the idea.)
  • Is there anything that should be eliminated because it is disrespectful to anyone involved?
  • Is there anything that should be eliminated because it wouldn’t really solve the problem?

5. Hopefully there will be some suggestions left. Choose one that everyone can agree to.

6. If appropriate, choose an exact time for completion of the agreement. For example, if your daughter agreed to mow the lawn, negotiate for a time that works for both of you.

7. When an agreement isn’t kept, respectfully ask, “What was our agreement?” Read on to discover why this may be necessary.

The reason children “usually” keep their agreements when they have been respectfully involved. Children are children. Even when they really do intend to keep their agreements, they don’t have the same priorities as adults. They may intend to mow the lawn, but since it is not high on their priority list, it may be “forgotten.” How often do you get to the items you should do, but that are not high on your list of priorities? Since having the lawn mowed is high on your priority list, and since you have respectfully involved your child in creating an agreement, which included a specific deadline; it is okay to respectfully ask your child, “What was our agreement?”

If these steps don’t promote successful agreement, start again from the top. During step two you may discover the reasons—and you will be giving everyone an opportunity to keep learning from mistakes.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Follow Through With Children

Julie complained that her four-year-old son, Chad, is very responsive and cooperative with his father about going to bed, but when she puts him to bed and tries to leave, Chad yells for her to come back and wants her to lay down with him. Every time she tries to leave, he cries for her to come back. Julie feels exhausted and resentful that she can’t have the evening to herself or enjoy time with her husband. She wonders why she can't get the same cooperation from Chad as Dad does.

Why is it that children behave one way with one parent and differently with another? Because, parents behave differently and children quickly learn what “works” with one parent and not the other.  They learn which parent they can manipulate and which one they can’t. So, what is the difference between what these parents do when they both want to use Positive Discipline? (Children who “cooperate” out of fear of punishment are not being cooperative, they are being compliant.)

Follow Through

Parents sometimes believe that giving children what they want and not burdening them with rules will show them that they are loved. We want to stress that permissiveness is not the way to help children develop initiative—or any other valuable social or life skill. If you say it, mean it, and if you mean it, follow through.

Children know when you mean what you say and when you don’t. It is really that simple.  Say it; mean it; and follow-through.

Parents who say what they mean and mean what they say do not have to use a lot of words. In fact, the fewer words used, the better. When you use a lot of words you are lecturing and children tune out lectures.

One reason you may use a lot of words is that you are trying to convince yourself, as well as your child, that what you want is okay. If what you are asking is reasonable, have confidence in your request.

Some parents lack confidence because they feel guilty. They are afraid their poor little darling will suffer trauma for the rest of his life if his every desire is not met. Children will suffer much more throughout their lives if they develop the belief that love means others should take care of them and give them whatever they want. They will suffer when they don’t learn they can survive disappointments in life—and discover how capable they are in the process.

Christine shares what happened when she learned to mean what she said and to follow-through.

“Not too long ago, my daughter knew she could get away with very little with her father. She went to bed for him like a Saint. When it came to me, she knew she could push me to the ends of the earth, and get whatever she wanted, even if the whole experience was negative. We spent hours, at night with her making requests such as, rub my back, put cream on my leg, fix my blankets—all just part of a power trip she was taking me on. I felt guilty and so I continued the long and drawn-out bed times that left me exhausted and unable to finish my nightly duties.

Since reading the Positive Discipline books, I learned that much of her self-worth comes from doing things for herself, and feeling accomplished.  That opened my eyes. I cut out all the special services knowing she can do things herself, and it was my job to encourage her to do so.

We follow the same bedtime routine every night. I read her a book and then I remind her that she is a big girl and she can put herself to sleep. If she gets out of the bed, without saying a word, I walk her back to her bed. If it happens more than once, I remind her that I will no longer put her blankets back on nor will I refill her water. She knows I mean what I say. After two nights of doing this, bedtime has changed all the way around. I am so thankful for what I learned in Positive Discipline. What was once a dreaded time, is now a nice, quiet time to wind down from the day.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Problem Solving

We can use daily challenges as opportunities to practice problem solving WITH our children. Children are great problem solvers when we give them the opportunity to brainstorm and come up with solutions. What a great life skill—to teach kids to focus on solutions when there is a problem.

One summer we went backpacking with several friends. Our ten-year-old son, Mark, was a very good sport and carried his pack the long six miles into the canyon. When we were getting ready for the long, steep trek back out, Mark complained about how uncomfortable his pack was. His dad jokingly remarked, "You can take it. You’re the son of a Marine." Mark was in too much pain to think this was very funny, but he started the climb anyway. He hadn’t gone very far ahead of us when we heard his pack come crashing down the hill toward us. I thought he had fallen and asked, with concern, what had happened.

Mark angrily cried, "Nothing! It hurts!" He continued climbing without his pack.

Everyone else observed this with interest. One adult offered to carry the pack for him. I was feeling very embarrassed—and had the additional social pressure of having written a book on Positive Discipline!

I quickly overcame my ego and remembered that the most important thing was to solve the problem in a way that would help Mark feel encouraged and responsible. I first asked the rest of the party to please hike on ahead so that we could handle the problem in private.

I said to Mark, "I’ll bet you feel really angry that we wouldn’t pay serious attention when you tried to tell us your pack hurt before we even started."

Mark said, "Yeah, and I’m not carrying it."

I told him I didn’t blame him and would feel exactly the same way under the circumstances.
His dad said he was sorry and asked for another chance to solve the problem.
Mark visibly dropped his anger. He was now ready to cooperate. He and his dad figured out a way to stuff his coat over the sore part to cushion the pack. Mark carried the pack the rest of the way with very few, minor complaints.