"Don't ask a child a question if you don't mean for the child to have a choice in the matter. "

In Control Without Controlling

Question

We seem to be stuck on screen time issues in our house. Our kids, 11 and 7, are allowed 20 minutes a day after they have completed all their chores. This is markedly less time than many children are allowed (as my 11-year-old son has assured me his friends are allowed to play for hours). They set a timer to let them know when time is up, but my oldest son will usually ask, "Is it okay if I finish this battle/race/etc.?" I usually say yes. I do not feel he abuses this extra time, but this is where my husband and I are at odds. He says, "Timer goes, time is done." I say, he has done all we have asked, it is minimal time, and I usually let him finish. I do not see this as one of those battles to pick knowing that if it were me, I would have trouble dropping my book mid-chapter or stopping mid-sentence in an email, etc. Suggestions?

Answer

I agree with your husband that enforcing the rule/policy is far easier if we keep it simple, i.e., when the timer goes off the game is over. However, having said that, the world I live in is colored in shades of gray and there are times when we must be flexible. Leaders understand that to be in control is essential, but "to control or be controlling" is destructive and sooner or later leads to rebellion. My suggestion is that you or your husband set and keep the timer with you. Let them know when their time starts, and five minutes before it goes off give them a heads up like, "you have five minutes left so finish the race, battle, etc...".

As parents we can disagree at times without being disagreeable. It is best for our children to know their parents are on the same team, in the same "book", even if at times they are on different pages. For future reference take heart that when our children become very upset about a decision we make, that is usually a clear indication we made the right one.

If you have not already done so, I also recommend that you pick up a copy of "The Well Behaved Child", it describes "Season 2 of Parenting" (Decade of Discipline) and will serve as a great precursor to "Teen Proofing". It's all about Love and Leadership, the love part is easy. Hang in there.

David Martin
Certified Leadership Parenting Coach
pittparenting.com
412 925 9882

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