Mindful Parenting Communication: 6 Tips for Setting Screen Time Boundaries
Giving kids too much screen time is easy to do, but not good for kids. Kids need limits on their screen time to protect much needed and ever-decreasing time for imaginative free play—the kind that leads to creativity, social skills, greater self-control, greater emotional regulation and more.
We can set up our environment to help limit screen time by making bedrooms screen-free and limiting our own screen time. Make sure you promote screen time alternatives like outside time in your home.
Most parents agree on the benefits of limiting screen time. It's how to get kids off screens that's hard. In this post, I’ll share six Mindful Parenting communication tips to help parents set those limits with less fuss.
#1 Avoid threats
“If you don’t… I will…” It's sooo easy to use tablet time as a threat, but it backfires in the long run. Threats put you in an oppositional position to your child. They make your child resistant to your message. The more you use threats, the more your child resists and resents you. Using power like this makes you lose your influence with your child.
#2 Avoid judgment
“You look like a zombie…” Your child will naturally will resist and resent judgments on them. We're labeling them, putting them in a box, and judgments (like my zombie example) can actually be mean name-calling. Is that what we want to model for our kids? Judgments don't help your kids stop, they just make them feel bad.
#3 Notice without judgment
“You agreed to turn off the ipad at bedtime.” You and your child have agreed on screentime rules. The gentlest way to remind your child of their agreement is to notice without judgment. They're most-likely swept up in what they're doing/watching. Give them a chance to stop on their own.
#4 Set limits & invite connection
“I’m going to turn it off, and I’d like to talk about what we can do next time.” You have rules for screen time and you should hold those limits, but you don't have to do it with harshness, yelling, or mean words. We all make mistakes and your child will certainly break the screen time rules sometimes, that doesn't mean they are "bad." Instead invite them to talk about it.
#5 Express yourself honestly
Acknowledge your child’s feelings. “I don’t like repeating myself. This is frustrating for both of us.” When are working on reducing screen time and you set a limit, your child will naturally feel frustrated. That's okay. Acknowledge those feelings—it helps your child feel seen and heard, and can lower the emotional temperature in the room.
#6 Empathy & inviting cooperation in problem solving
“I know that shows are important to you. Maybe together we can find another way for me to remind you.” How can you both get your needs and your child's needs met? Maybe you make a screentime chart together, a screen time schedule, or have an app for limiting screen time. Screen time can be intricately involved in social issues for kids, so listen to your child's needs when you problem solve together.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a digital age. Let's work with our kids to create children's lifestyles that have a balance of good screentime and everything life offers beyond it.
Do you want to go deeper? I've written a whole book about changing your own autopilot reactions and creating a relationship with your child based on love and mutual respect. It's called, "Raising Good Humans," an international best-seller, and you can find it here.