Hand in Hand Parenting is all about giving children the deep sense of connection they need to be their natural, good, co-operative selves. And screentime can sometimes get in the way of providing this connection.
If your child’s behaviour has been a bit off kilter, then it’s highly likely they need more connection with you. You might be right there, and present and available, but if hurt feelings are clogging up their system, making it hard to think, then they might be more likely to zone out on a screen than come seeking connection.
If you are experiencing, whining, moaning, outbursts of anger or aggression, or withdrawn or shy behaviour in public, or pretty much any off-track behaviour then that’s a sign your child needs more connection.
If your child’s having a lot of screentime, then try this giggle parenting game to switch off, and add in more connection.
Move in close to your child when they’re watching their screen. Make eye contact, or at least try to, and put your hands on the screen. This is what we call physically ‘bringing the limit.”Rather than calling across the room to your child, you come close and add the connection they need. Tell them that you think you should do something else together.Let them know they can go back to their episode later/another day etc. Be warm and friendly in your tone, rather than ‘serious’ to invite them to be playful with you.
Don’t grab the ipad out of their hands quickly and put it away, instead, keep hold of it but let them hold it too, this gives them the chance to object, and to express their disappointment, rather than feeling powerless.
Your child might start crying or tantrumming in which case you can staylisten to those feelings. By listening and empathising instead of distracting or fixing, you help to heal the hurt that is causing their sense of disconnection.
Or they might try wrestling the ipad out of your hands, and start laughing as they try to get away from you. This is where ipad wrestling comes in! You need to stay one step ahead of your child so that no damage comes to the ipad. Stay within arms reach, or keep your hands on the ipad. Remind them that it’s time to put it away but stay warm and friendly. As your child, laughs, and tries to wriggle the ipad out of your hands, they are soaking up that warm connection they need to think clearly enough to co-operate.
Setting limits like this does take time, but it’s in an investment in time, because all those grumpy, off-track feelings get to be released so your child’s overall behaviour improves, and life becomes a lot easier. You can try this game with any object you’d like to take out of your child’s hands, and it can be a great one to use in sharing struggles too.
We tried this yesterday and within minutes my daughter was happy to put the ipad away. I noticed how the game shifted from her not wanting to give me the ipad to her simply enjoying the fun game and power reversal play. I didn’t need to physically take it away against her will, but instead wait until she was willing to co-operate. And she was in a great mood afterwards.
It was a helpful reminder to me, that setting limits with our child doesn’t have to be about being the ‘mean parent’ who goes against our child’s wishes. It’s about looking at the deeper need beneath their behaviour, and fulfilling that instead. And that deeper human need we all crave is quite simple; it’s connection.