Last week we looked at the different apps and traps that we need to be aware of whilst our children are foraging on-line.
This week I’m going to share ideas on how to manage the boundaries without conflict and also, how we can build trust with our children. The essential ingredient for them to allow us into their world.
If you can read the previous blog, or listen to last week’s podcast, you’ll probably find it very helpful and certainly informative and it will be easier to follow this one having heard the first.
But either way…welcome!
THE HARD PART
We talked about creating a contract last week. But a contract is two-sided. One of the most effective ways of making an impression on our children is by modelling.
They are far more influenced what we do than what we say!
There have been some interesting articles in the papers lately about how children feel powerless in home situations when their parents are using their phones.
“Dad doesn’t listen to me when he’s on his phone.”
“Sometimes I talk to Mummy and she doesn’t answer…”
“It makes me feel like they don’t care.”
That’s you and me!
Technology has revolutionized our world and it can be hard to put it down without dropping spinning plates.
But, Whether we’re booking a holiday, transferring money, accepting a party invite on our child’s behalf or buying a gift, it all looks like the back of a phone to our child.
Do you ever answer your phone in the middle of a conversation with your children?
Look at it during dinner?
Check it at breakfast time?
Offering to restrain yourself in these situations can help your child to feel that you're walking the journey with them and prepared to expect to curb yourself, not just them.
you can offer to take your notifications off your phone so they don’t pop up when you get a Whatsapp, text or app notification.
One woman contacted me recently to say that she’d moved her social media to the end of all her home pages. That will send a clear message to her child and prevent her from being managed by her phone.
Another thing we offer our kids is they can ask what we’re doing if we are on our phones and we can try to volunteer it each time we pick it up so it makes sense of our distraction.
Let them know it hurts!
If our children know that we find our self-imposed limitations hard then they'll expect that when something is hard, it doesn't mean we don't do it.
You'll find lots of resources in my book
Parenting For Life
A boundary has to be enforceable, otherwise it’s useless.
One that we use for example is.
If a phone is found in the bedroom after curfew. you lose it for a day the first time, then a week and then a month.
That's a direct consequence.
The trouble with using their technology as a punishment for things unrelated is that the phone or Tek becomes a centre for conflict in family life.
I was standing next to a mum recently and she spotted her son sneaking another biscuit. She immediately said “If you eat that you won’t get your ipad for the rest of the day.”
It isn’t relevant and it’s confusing for them
If you don't put petrol in your car it's likely it will grind to a halt, probably at the most inconvenient place and usually when you're running late! That's a consequence. Nobody comes and taps on your car window to say that you can't go out on Saturday night. In just the same way, we need to keep it relevant for the kids too.
If it’s got nothing to do with the poor choice
it’s not a consequence
it’s a punishment!
If they’ve stolen biscuits from the biscuit tin, let the consequences be food related.
If they’ve wasted your time delaying their bedtime, let the consequence be time related.
That way, your boundaries and consequences around Tek are a much more effective.
Then what do we do when they pour their wrath on us because they’re walking in a well chosen consequence of a poor choice they’ve made?
Yes, it will happen!
I remember one particular occasion when our eight year old was furious with me for dolling out a consequence. When my husband came home that evening, my son asked to see him in the bedroom.
“About that woman you married,” he began, “Is that your final choice?”
As uncomfortable as it is to be in conflict with our children, it is possible to be strong and gentle at the same time.
If our consequences are fair and well thought through, we don’t have to get mad. In fact our first response can be empathy.
If they’re finding it hard to be the only child in the whole of the world who’s not allowed……
To take their phone to bed
who has to have limited access
who can't have certain apps
You can empathise
When our 14 year old lost his phone for a month he was in a right old strop the next morning. I didn’t need to get annoyed with him, or lecture him, the consequence was doing the teaching. That left me free to say
"I realise that must be hard for you."
"I’m sorry you’re finding it difficult."
Of course I WANTED to say I WARNED YOU
But that’s not helpful
It’s okay for them to be annoyed
Remember – they’re detoxing!
And, lets not think they’re rejecting us. They’re just rejecting our boundaries. It’s their job!
In a survey 55% parents said that they wanted to be their child’s best friend. Our kids will get many opportunities to make good friends. But parents are in shorter supply.
If we can’t bear to lose their approval because we’re seeking their friendship, then we’re not parenting. We’re just looking to meet our own relational needs.
They need us to be courageous- and gentle parents. Not bezzys
As one parent said to me recently "The pain of rejection is nothing to the pain of regret."
"The pain of rejection is nothing to the pain of regret."
One of the questions I’m often asked is "Are there any particular apps that you would avoid?"
Last week I went through a list of platforms that I thought had a toxic edge to them, so that’s worth hearing. But this week I just want to mention one that often goes under the radar. It’s not toxic, it’s just one that parents often don’t feel cautious about, so I want to flag up some potential issues.
It’s whatsApp. I’m not that surprised that the minimum age for whatsapp is 16!
When you're fairly new to a phone and you get put in groups, the poor kids can pick their phone up and find 100s of messages. It's too much.
Also, kids in groups can be thoughtless. Friends can feel left out or ignored. They're not ready for the group interaction.
Let them get used to meeting in groups IN PERSON without adults and allow the SM to back up the personal relationships rather than the other way around.
Is there an antidote to Social Media?
Yes and No.
We used to run a course called How To Drug Proof Your Kids and on the last session we'd invite Tony France to come and answer questions. He's the go-to drug guru in Gloucestershire.
And the parents would always ask, "Why do they do it?"
He never claimed to have the definitive answer, but he did say that
"We’ve safe-zoned their world. We used to climb 100 foot fir trees and slide down slides with metal sides. I’m not suggesting we risk their lives, but if you give children measured amounts of adventure they’re less likely to seek it in unchartered places!!!
Let them whittle wood with pocket knives, make a fire and poke sticks into it, use the electric drill, go wild swimming.
It courses adventure through their veins and distracts them from thrill-seeking on line.
So yes, if you can give them some dopamine hits off-line, they will be averted.
I’m going to end with this.
One of the messages that you might pick up from your children once they have the world at their fingertips, is that they are less in need of time with you.
That’s a misreading!
They might chase it less,
Time alone with you is deeply nourishing.
Whether they are four, fourteen or twenty-four, they need to feel that they’re important in your world and that you have time for them. You may be amazing at providing for them and ensuring that they have a full schedule and it's true, all their activities have value, but many of them are possible to carry out without actually connecting with that child.
In this increasingly digital age, researchers are noting that children are losing their ability to concentrate, to read faces and develop empathy. These skills are picked up by paying attention to others without distractions because 80% of communication is non-verbal. In this spinning world, the small gift of creating space in your diary to pay attention to them teaches them how to pay attention to others, sit and hold conversation (a dying art!), and be reminded of how important they are to you.
But that time also has another powerful factor.
It releases Oxytocin.
That's a feel-good hormone released in the brain when we experience love or bonding.
It's the very feeling they're looking for on-line
love me...approve of me...
They're up high on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
And they get it from us when we connect with them.
Sowing in that focused time meets some of their deepest needs for connection.
If we instigate Oxytocin and Dopamine to course through their veins, we overcome some of their on-line cravings.
See you there,