Parenting Skills Required to Challenge an Overuse of Electronics
Some parents avoid setting limits or guidelines for electronics use because they know that their rules won’t be received well. Tension and conflict will invariably follow.
Why is this the case? Children of all ages get emotionally attached to electronics. The more attached they are, the harder it is to peel them off of their tendencies, even if their patterns are destructive.
Often the parent/child relationship lacks the structures and skills to manage such a challenge. Before you can take on the huge task of limiting electronics in your child’s life, you’ll want to have systems in place. Even then the process will likely be difficult, but certain skills and practices will certainly help.
Two Dangerous Parenting Approaches
Keep in mind that parents who don’t have good patterns established in the interactions with their children often resort to one of two pitfalls, and sometimes both. Either they just let things go and allow their children to become more entrenched in their electronics use in order to avoid conflict, or they use anger and harshness to bring about change.
You can find a lot of ideas for limiting electronics for children on the internet, but rarely will you discover the relational tools needed to make those things work.
As you make changes in the use of electronics for your child you’ll also want to focus into the way you and your child relate together. Furthermore, if you curtail electronics while you work on relationship at the same time you can take advantage of the child’s desire for electronics use to prompt them to make positive relational changes as well.
Facing the Challenge
Here are some ideas of how you can reign in electronics at the same time you improve your parenting and increase your child’s life skills.
#1: Prepare Your Thinking
Sometimes parents let their own issues get in the way of their parenting. So, now’s a good time to do a self-check and make sure you’re addressing struggles in your own heart.
For example, if you’re taking your child’s emotional drama personally, then you have a problem. Of course, it’s hard to not take things personally when your child is attacking you with accusations, a guilt trip, or manipulations of various kinds.
Remember, however, in those moments your child is acting out of his or her own self-interest. The attacks are a reflection on their own issues. Getting sucked into the drama won’t do you any good. If your child knows how to push your buttons it might be time to rearrange them or deal with them so they aren’t as sensitive. The reality is that your child has a problem and you want to keep the problem the child’s problem.
Another common issue is the claim from kids that “everyone’s doing it” or “you’re the strictest parent in the neighborhood, the town, the state, or the whole world depending on the child’s intensity. This can increase feelings of inadequacy in parenting. We already know that parenting is hard without someone telling us we’re not keeping up with the Jones’.
One of the signs of your own personal strength is the ability to have convictions and hold them in the midst of opposition. Parenting is often about choosing to do what’s right instead of what’s easiest. The fact is that many parents are allowing their children to have excessive use of electronics. Those children will suffer. That shouldn’t convince you to compromise your values.
Sometimes parents believe that a primary goal in parenting is to make children happy. When parents believe that happiness is the goal, then problems are bound to surface. The primary role of parents is to help children become responsible, mature, disciples of Christ. That requires self-sacrifice, service, and the ability to choose the best, not just the things that makes one feel good.
Kids might try to pass their boredom on to you as if it’s your responsibility to entertain them or provide them with alternatives if they can’t have electronics. Don’t take the bait. You might provide a few categories of things to think about when you’re bored as alternatives to electronics, but it’s best to transfer the responsibility of managing boredom to children.
Other personal issues will raise their heads during parenting. Fear of conflict, bad experiences in your past, wanting your children to like you, and the list goes on and on. Use those experiences to allow God to bring about changes in your own heart. The family is a place of sanctification for parents, not only for kids.
#2: Focus on the Child’s Character
Your child needs to develop successful life patterns. These life skills will provide balance in all areas and the work you do in the arena of electronics can go a long way in training your child for the future.
Young people have the important task of working on three very significant life skills, especially when they experience conflict or differences with others. You can use electronics or the limitations on them to encourage progress in these three areas.
• Gracious Speech – the ability to talk nicely and maturely even if you don’t get what you want or things aren’t going the way you had hoped or expected.
• Creative Problem Solving – looking for solutions that move outside of one’s normal train of thought. These include solutions for responsibility, boredom, and entertainment as well as managing electronics appropriately.
• Control of Emotions – being able to reign in emotions so that they don’t create destructive drama. Just because you are unhappy doesn’t give you the right to hurt others.
#3: Teach Children to Live within Limits
One of the secrets to success in life is contentment. Those who can’t be grateful for what they have but instead want to exceed the boundaries or go outside the limits, find themselves in serious trouble. Learning to accept no as an answer is very important for children and young people. Handling disappointment is a skill. But, in the end, it’s this skill that helps a person stay on a diet, avoid credit card debt, and manage or avoid substances. This is big!
Training children to deal with electronics, respond to your leadership, and govern their lives appropriately is not just for now. It’s one of those arenas where parents can do training that will impact this child for the future.
#4: Choose your Relational Approach Strategically
How you relate to your child is important. When tension happens in your home, your relational skills are put to the test. In fact, God can use your children to bring about sanctification in your own life. Here are a few suggestions:
• Be firm without being harsh. Firmness builds character. Harshness damages relationship. Firmness is all about setting limits and sticking to them. Harshness is about adding emotional intensity to show you mean business. Look for ways to demonstrate firmness without harshness and you will go a long way toward setting limits without undue conflict.
• Be prepared to handle conflict by refusing to interact with an angry child, but willing to listen and discuss when emotions settle down. Timing is everything in parenting. Be sensitive to the emotional climate and time your discussions carefully.
• Know when things are getting out of hand and refuse to be part of the escalation. Time is an important discipline strategy and it allows people to settle down. Don’t be afraid to take a break from the discussion and then come back to it later.
• Use affirmation and encouragement to mold what children believe about themselves and life. When you compliment a child for handling disappointment well, you are forming important beliefs about the child’s identity. When you praise a child for creativity outside electronics, you are helping the child gain greater confidence.
Electronics are with us all and they aren’t going away. We need to know how to manage them well. Almost all children lack the character to manage electronics well for themselves. Your work in this area will be challenging but it contributes to your child’s well-being both now and for the long-term.
This post is the third in a series on Electronics Addiction. Click here to read Part 1