In the modern world, you can’t escape the grips of technology, it’s invaded our lives and isn’t leaving, barring the occurrence of a Mad Max style apocalyptic event. Basically, every child already has access to a phone or a tablet at the age of 2. When my girl was little, I showed her cartoons on my phone, and it was okay, but as she grew older (she’s 11 now), she and the phone became inseparable.
At first I didn’t think anything of it, I figured she could use some learning apps for school, and she also loves taking pictures so much. However, as time flew by, I noticed how hard it was to catch her attention. It became her favorite toy. Still, I couldn’t just take it back – it’s a useful tool for learning and communication. I decided that I had to become more interesting and more fun than the phone.
One thing that every book on parenting repeats is that parents have to express their love through effective and nurturing communication. This way children become happier and more well-adjusted. Such as: I want my daughter to be happy, I want more live communication with her, I want us to have fun together.
So I started my little research on getting kids to ditch their phones and getting them to listen to their parents without a confrontation. Here’s what I got, and bit by bit I’m having some progress:
Set understandable and meaningful rules about screen use. Let your children know that it’s okay to use their phones or tablets for learning for a certain amount of time. Guide their online experience. Playing with the phone shouldn’t replace communication. By limiting the time your child spends with his or her gadget, you win more time for some old-fashioned personal communication.
2. Set the right example
Set the right example for your children. As parents, use your gadgets the same way you want your children to use them. Show them that communication within a family is more important than their phones, and that you are always present for them to talk to. Listen to what they have to say without staring at the phone yourself.
3. Take an interest
When your kids show you what they did – be it a picture they drew or a dance they learned. Children what us to care about the things they feel excited about. Even if it’s not a big deal for you, it is a big deal to them. Share this excitement with your children, and the next time they do or learn something exciting, they will come to you first, instead of grabbing their phones and posting about it on social media.
4. Be a good teacher
We already discussed benefits of storytelling for parents. A parent is the most important teacher a child will ever have. While trying our best to prepare our kids for the real world, we have to remember that they still will make mistakes, and we have to learn to accept the imperfections. What does this have to do with the topic, you ask? I’ve come to realize that often times children would rather play with phones than with their parents, if they are too afraid to be criticized by their parents. So let’s just be patient, make our children feel safe and comfortable when talking to us, as we have to maintain healthy parent-child bonds.
5. Be flexible and show more love.
One major misconception is that we should parent the way our parents did. But the world has changed so much since we were kids, so this strategy will never work. In order to keep up with the changing world, with its new rules, technology, etc., we as parents have to be flexible. But above all, this is the love we give to our kids. Showing love is easy – though kind words, hugs, asking about the children’s interests, non-judgement, communication, expressed kindness to your spouse. A child that feels loved and understood by its parents won’t choose a phone over its loving and understanding parents.
6. Change methods of communication
Always say what you want your child to do, and not what you don’t. Communication is always better with as little negative talk as possible. Phrases like ‘Don’t leave your room in a mess’ or ‘Did you have to leave your toys lying around?’ will only cause your child to shut down. ‘Let’s leave the kitchen nice and tidy’ will work a lot better, and you will have even more time to talk while you clean up together.
7. Create the illusion of choice
Instead of telling the child to eat those much hated veggies, ask ‘Do you want tomatoes or cucumbers?’, which will presuppose that the child has already agreed to eat it and overcomes the impasse.
8. Add a ‘Thank you’
If you can’t get your kids to leave their phones and listen to you, try adding a ‘Thank you’ to your request, recommends Alicia Eaton, hypnotherapist and neuro-linguistic programming expert, “Once they’ve been thanked, they feel obligated to perform the task”.
9. Provide reasoning
One other piece of advice she gives: always provide your reasoning. Remember, ‘Because I said so’ is not a reason, and may lead to more confrontation.
10. Attract attention
Make sure your kids really hear you. Also, realize that they may not be ignoring you on purpose – kids under age of 14 are easily distracted. Distracted by a game, they lack what is called ‘peripheral awareness’.
We have to communicate with our children, no matter what. There may be distractions on their way, even on our ways as parents. In the end, we’re nothing without our families, and I want my daughter to understand this sooner rather than later.