So, you have developed a plan to manage media and avoid the pitfalls (and gain help the kids you care for gain the benefits!) BUT, the kids are NOT cooperating! They cry, beg, and bother you until finally, maybe sometimes, you just give in (just for a bit to get through a tough time...). What can you do to reduce and maybe even eliminate this problem? Join me as I apply six positive discipline strategies to this common scenario!
Learn how to manage media instead of letting the media manage the children you care about. In a world of technology, it is easy to give in when the kids ask to play on our phones, tablets or any other media tool. But, media exposure can have a negative impact. See this article to be "In the know".
It is critical to know how to set children up for success with these tools, match media exposure to align with what YOU want to teach, and stick your ground when children fight for continued exposure (addiction levels are high in children AND adults). These 6 tips for managing media will help you tackle media-driven misbehavior:
Redirect & distract - You can redirect a child to something else that they find interesting or are excited about! However, the problem is that media really stimulates kids so it gets the brain focused in and it's hard for them to want to put it down. The key is to find something else and make it more exciting and interesting so they will want to put the media down. Something I finally figured out by my second child, was to put some of their toys away in bins and put them away in the closet. So, when you are having that struggle, where you just need the kids to play for a bit while you get stuff done, you can pull out the bin and they will be focused in on playing (a child's work) because they haven't seen those toys in a while! It is like a gift-giving holiday has arrived every time a new bin comes out!!
Remove the item or the child - It is simple enough to remove the media from the situation. Try to not have it in places you gather and especially not in the child's bedroom. (Those with a tv in their room - higher obesity, less reading skills, weaker school performance... Um.... NO thank you!)
Provide a countdown - Use a "positive count down" in a fun way. For example, if you are at the park say to the child okay we have three more times to go down the side - okay three more times, yay, now two more, ONE MORE! Alright, let's get going! You can use this with media! Four more minutes.... two more... one more! Show is DOOOONE! ... All with a light sounding voice. It is not big mean adult controlling... just a timer or clock making us turn it off. Do not use this as a fear tactic. Many people will use this as a punitive "Get over here in three, two, one." and have a consequence. This can increase power struggles and actually make it take longer, as the child battles for independence. You do not have to punish to be an authority!
Say "no" and stick to it - If you give in when your child throws a fit, they will learn that if they continue to whine and act out they eventually will get what they want. It is best to not give in (and less work in the end). Talk them through the difficulty. Label their disappointment with empathy. Understand that they are upset because it is difficult to stop using it, as it can be for adults. But calmly stick your ground until the child gives up. Not child fights forever. The broken record technique can work wonders. No. Sorry no. This is a no that will not change. Final no. No. Nah. Nope. Eventually, they will stop. What's more, self-regulation skills will grow as they learn to handle disappointment.
Teach them why - Kids are always great at asking why and that is great! They are trying to learn and understand the world around them. It is important for them to know why there are rules on media and why you do what you do. "When you watch a lot of media, you get cranky, do not do so many other fun things that use your brain, miss out on fun books, etc..." Kids older than three can start to understand the reasons and know, you are not just a "meany"... you love them and are being the best caregiver you can be.
Model it - As you look at your phone, tablet, or other media, children watch you and want to copy you - just like they do with other things. Part of this is what researchers refer to as mirror neurons. You can literally build and reinforce brain pathways by your actions! (otherwise known as monkey see, monkey do)! This Choose at least 1-2 times a day, such as at snack time and dinner time, to let go of all media, tuck away your phone, and connect with interesting conversation and books. This will help them understand that media is okay in moderation and not during certain times. When we set limits for ourselves, children internalize the message.
These few tips will help you regulate your kids' media, help them learn to self-regulate and take the stress of screen time away. It is important to have time away from screens and there is no better time to start practicing it than the present.
Excellent Resources to read and share with others who care for the child:
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