A Hand in Hand Parenting Approach To Screen Detox


With Hand in Hand Parenting we’re not a one-size fits all approach. We don’t recommend you breastfeed or bottle feed, or co-sleep or put your children in their own bedroom, or homeschool or send your kids to school. We know that with these big decisions, it comes down to you being the best judge of what is right for your family.

What we do have is amazing tools to help you figure out your decisions, (listening time), and then putting those decisions into action with lots of listening along the way through, special time, playlistening, setting limits, and staylistening.

Screentime can be a particularly difficult thing to make decisions about. I know I’ve often felt confused and overwhelmed about all the different ways to handle it, from complete abstinence to letting children have the freedom to set their own limits. Neither side of the spectrum has ever felt completely right for me, and so I jump around in the middle, setting limits depending on what the current situation seems to need.

I’ll add links to the various ways I’ve used the Hand in Hand tools to navigate the screentime challenge, but now I’m here to write about using Hand in Hand Parenting to have a screen detox for your family.

This is something that I’ve decided to do only recently. My daughter’s in Kindergarten now, and it had become a habit to come home and want to veg out in front of the TV. Due to a family crises I was feeling particularly disconnected myself, and it suddenly crept up on me just how much screentime we were having.

Although I set limits on screentime using the Hand in Hand approach my daughter does have screentime every day. I had resigned myself to the fact that screens are part of our lives, but now I was having second thoughts. With the daily separation of Kindergarten we need more time to reconnect and screens were getting in the way.

I found myself missing the days when my daughter was under 2 and hadn’t yet discovered TV, and mourning the fact that I couldn’t go back to them.

And then it hit me. I was the parent. If it felt right to go back to the screenfree days, then I could! Maybe not permanently, but perhaps for a day or week, or month, or whatever I decided was best for my family.

And so I introduced the idea of having a ‘together day’ where we would both get off our screens and simply be together for the whole day. Our first together day was spent, cooking and laughing together, and lots of listening to ”I’m bored.”

It was setting limits on my own screentime, that made me feel brave enough to try the detox. I knew how good it felt for me to have an afternoon and evening off the screen, so I knew it was a good thing for me to step in, be the parent, and set a limit. I’ve also been to Hand in Hand Parenting retreats recently which really gave me that deep feeling of being connected to people – rather than screens. I realised I could do that for my daughter, I could give her a daylong retreat where she could tell me how much she wanted screen, and release her emotional backpack by crying, and then show me how off-track she felt by throwing things on the floor, and laughing as I playfully set limits.

My daughter told me throughout the day that she ‘hated together days’ and I began to see that this was a ‘broken cookie’. All those upset feelings were bubbling up without the distraction of the screen, and she was projecting them onto needing the screen.

At dinnertime she helped me pour out rice to cook and some ended up going on the kitchen table. We ended up having a rice fight where my daughter was grabbing handfuls of rice, and trying to run out of the kitchen with it. At this point she said, ”I love together days!” This was the validation I needed that this was the right path for us to take.

The other great thing about the day, is that I didn’t want to be a hypocrite and I didn’t check my phone all afternoon except for a few essential messages. It felt so liberating!

I still haven’t figured it all out. I know TV is an inspiration for my daughter. She likes to make her own videos to send to family and friends, and she recently videoed herself singing a Kindergarten song to help her learn it. I think it would be pretty authoriarian of me to ban something that she will need to use for adult life, and can be a source of knowledge and a tool for creativity.

I’ve read a lot about unschooling, and allowing my daughter to set limits on her own TV use has worked to some extent. There’s been many times when she’s voluntarily stopped watching and gone to do something else. There’s so much to be learnt from unschooling about respecting our children, and allowing them to direct their own learning. But what I found when I was not setting many limits on TV is that we did have less time to laugh, to play and connect, to allow feelings to bubble up and be healed.

I’m happy I’ve named the concept of ‘together days’ to my daughter, and I’m planning to bring them into our life whenever it seemed necessary to reconnect. And part of me does feel like doing something radical like banning screens on weekdays, or banning them completely! I know I’m going to need a lot of listening time to sort through my thoughts and come to a decision that feels right. Although I’m writing this blog to share what I’ve learnt so far, I definitely don’t have all the answers!

From here onwards I can’t tell what our family policy on screens will be but this one of the things about Hand in Hand Parenting is you don’t need to be consistent. You can go with the flow of your family life, changing the rules to suit the circumstances. Because there’s one thing that’s always guiding your decisions; your love for your child and your commitment to building a strong connection with them.

6 Step To Having A Screen Detox With Your Child 

  1. Have some listening time. Prepare in advance by talking to your listening partner about your feelings about having the detox. What fears, and worries come up for you? Let out all your feelings about screens and how they impact your life and your child. See the further resources section for more info on listening time.
  2. Set some limits on your own screentime. Try out limiting your own screentime. For example check your emails 2-3 times a day only, or don’t have screentime first thing in the morning or after 7pm at night. Repeat step 1 if it’s hard!
  3. Tell your child what you plan to do. Let your child know in advance that you plan to have a break from screens, and although it will be hard, they’ll be lots of time for fun and connection.
  4. Listen, listen, listen! – Schedule some special time with your child/children, and be prepared to get through the detox with lots of staylistening and playlistening. You might find my 5 Ways To Encourage Independent Play article helpful. If it’s really hard then try not to give in to the pleas for the screen. If your children have been used to having a lot of screen, it’s probably not a sign that they are feeling deprived but more that they have been using screentime to avoid their feelings, and what you are seeing is all these unheard feelings bubbling up.
  5. Have more listening time to process everything. Talk to your listening partner about how it all went, and how you want to approach screens in the future. Do you want to stick with your current family policy, or change it?
  6. Don’t be afraid to change the plan. So you’re exhausted and need to cook dinner and just can’t listen anymore. Or the detox is going great, and you think your child needs more time to process their feelings? Don’t be afraid to change and adapt, using your best thinking for what suits your child’s needs, and yours!

If you try to out this detox plan, I’d love to hear how it goes!

Further Resources 

If you’re new to the concept of listening partnerships check out my introductory post here.

Here are a few of my previous articles on screentime.

What To Do When Your Child Just Wants To Watch TV 

Why Setting Limits On Screentime Starts With You 

Screentime Special Time

Are you looking for more in-depth help with screentime, or any other parenting challenge? Contact me to schedule a free 30 min introductory consultation, and find out how Hand in Hand Parenting can help. 

What To Do When Your Child Just Wants To Watch TV


Your child is asking to watch TV, over and over again. It seems like the only thing on his mind. What do you do? If you say yes, he’ll want to watch for hours. If you say no, he’ll collapse into a storming tantrum.

If your child seems on the verge of tears every time you set a limit on TV then it’s probably actually a good time to say no.

When children feel good they can think flexibly, they can accept your ‘no’s and go off and find something else to do. If their desire to watch TV is accompanied by desperation then it’s probably a sign that there’s something they need much for than TV and that’s connection with you.

When we humans get upset, we sometimes express our feelings freely. We have a good laugh, or a good cry, in the presence of someone who loves us, and this healthy, natural, physiological response results in us feeling better.

At other times our feelings get a bit clogged up and buried. And then we tend to gravitate towards things that will help us feel numb; TV, ice cream or a cup of coffee.

So, if your child is asking for TV, with an edgy, neediness, you can intuit that they are on the brink of a tantrum, and actually that saying no is a gift that will help them feel (and behave!) better. As they cry, stay close and over hugs when needed. This allows your childr to soak up your love and connection, so they can restore their natural well-being.

But what if your child seems relaxed and in a good mood when they ask for TV? How do you decide when to say yes and when to say no? This is a very personal and individual judgement for each family to make. And although I have some advice I don’t have any definitive answers.

Here’s something I’ve been trying recently when my daughter’s watching TV, and that’s to snuggle down with her for 10-15 minutes and call it our TV Special Time. What I’ve noticed is that often she tends to voluntarily stop watching TV sometime after our special time has finished. It’s like me watching with her gives her the message that I’m available and present. That I’m not disconnected and on my own screen, but close and connected.

If you regularly give special time in your house, and your child is always asking for TV you might want to say yes for the first 8 times. This lets your child know that you respect their interests, that you are a willing to take a journey with them into their world. And that added connection you give them might just help them regulate their own screentime.

For more information about the Hand in Hand Parenting approach to setting limits sing up to follow my blog in the top right hand corner of this page, or check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children


The Trust Approach To Screentime


As I blogged about in my last post, my daughter is recovering from a bad fall, where she landed hard on both knees. She has as the doctor described it, ‘knee concussion.’

The day before she’d mainly lay down the whole time until we went to her doctor’s appointment. She can’t walk more than a few steps at the moment. I woke up this morning dreading the amount of screen hours she’d be clocking up, and how fried her brain would get!

What happened wasn’t exactly like that. My daughter came across a youtube video about making your own homemade advent calendar. She then wanted to make her own with tupperware boxes for presents, with stickers and numbers on top.

We then ended up making santa and snowmen out of paper, to wrap around toys for surprises. A little unusual for this time of year perhaps! After that we had our own imaginary youtube channel where we wrapped up surprise toys for each other.

All of this was entirely self-motivated on her part. I didn’t need to go and look on Pinterest for complicated crafts (thankfully!). I just sat back and helped her when she needed sellotape or when there was something she couldn’t figure out for herself.

Recently I’ve been trying to let go of my fear about ‘screentime.’ To simply watch and wait for my daughter to notice when she’s had enough and do something else. No power struggles necessary.

It started one morning when I’d been on my computer for longer than normal. I’d been writing blog posts, jumping back and forth between facebook and twitter until I began to notice that I was losing concentration. I knew I needed to stretch my legs and do something that involved movement, such as tidying up and cooking. If I had the awareness to know when my brain had had enough screen could my daughter do the same?

There will be times when our children do use the screen to zone out, to mask emotions, and escape from reality. They’ll be times when it seems like the best idea to set a limit. Today wasn’t one of those days.

Our society tends not to trust children. We set limits on their screentime, because we struggle to trust that they might actually know when we’ve had enough. I’ve been trying to do the opposite, to let go of fear, and recognise the times when my daughter is thinking clearly, and knows when it’s a good time to turn off. Many times she’s told me, ”I’ve had enough screen.”

We can take a leap of faith and learn to trust our children. When we do so we help to nurture their own awareness. They can listen to their ‘inner-knowing’ of what they need to grow and thrive.

Would you trust your child to know when they’ve had enough screentime? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Further Resources

For more info on the Hand in Hand parenting approach to setting limits check out their  free e-book or the online self-study course, Setting Limits And Building Co-operation

 Raising Confident Children Through Trust, by Torsten Klaus of Dad’s Talk Community 

Why We Need To Trust Children To Play Outside, by Amie Gabry Perea

A Mum Track Mind

Playlistening Inspiration N.O 9 – Screentime Giggles

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Screentime can be educational! My daughter is doing sums inspired by watching an educational app called Brain Pop. She’s not in school yet, so this is all her natural motivation to learn 🙂 

Screentime is probably one of the biggest concerns for modern parents. How many of us spend our days worrying about our children spending too much time watching screens, or get into power struggles trying to keep our children away from screens?

I think at heart our concern about screens is about connection. We want our children to feel well-connected to others and with life, so they don’t have to zone out in front of a screen the whole time. We also feel guilty about the times when we aren’t available for play and connection.

Recently my daughter and both had colds and were both tired, and all she wanted to do was a ‘TV special time.’ Special time is one way that we can make screentime a more connected activity, instead of using it as an ‘electronic babysitter.’ We snuggled up together, and watched a few epsiodes of Octonauts.

Then she wanted to watch Numberjacks, so I typed it into youtube. Except I decided to pretend I misttyped it, so I would read aloud what I typed – ”Numberbums! Hmm that doesn’t sound right. Let me try again.” She giggled. I then mistyped it again, ”Number pee pee” and ”Number poo poo,” She laughed again, as I kept getting it wrong. I repeated it with other mistakes again and again, until she said, ”Lets just type it right now.”

It’s a simple way to elicit some laughter, and is perfect if you have a child who likes saying rude words at inappropriate moments! They can release some of the tension around that ”attention-seeking” behaviour by laughing as you say the rude words.

Screentime can be a disconnecting activity for kids that can cause off-track behaviour, but when we sprinkle laughter here and there, we can help bring our kids back to connection. After we played this game my daughter watched one episode of ‘Numberjacks’ and then she asked for a ‘playing special time.’ Sometimes a little laughter is enough to let our children know we are there.

Playlistening is one of the Hand in Hand parenting tools for building deeper connections with our children. You can read more here.




Special Time Solution For Screen Time


Screen time is an ongoing dilemma in our family. How and when, and if to set limits. When to allow my daughter the freedom to explore and enjoy screens and everything they offer so that she feels that her own desires and choices are respected. How to manage my own fears and anxieties about screen time. (listening time helps with that!).

One thing I’ve realised is that I’m no expert when it comes to having a one-size fits all approach to how to deal with screens, I’m more likely decide moment by moment, how to handle the issue. It often depends on what my daughter’s done that day, if she seems disconnected, or has been acting off-track, then I usually try and offer some connection using one of the Hand in Hand parenting listening tools.

Today my daughter was watching her ipad, and I could feel myself getting into a kind of downward spiral in my mind. I felt upset that she was watching the screen, but after a late night watching the fireworks for new year, I didn’t feel like I had the energy to offer much in the way of connection.

Then I remembered the blog post I’d written the day before. 10 Ways To Use Special Time To Transform Your Day. It was time to take my own advice! I didn’t have much to offer in the way of energy, but I could spend 15 minutes of my time, knowing that the timer offered me an escape route so it didn’t seem too foreboding!

Often my daughter will turn off a screen if I offer special time, but not today. She was pretty tired as well. So I snuggled down next to her, and we watched her favourite you tube videos where a mum makes some Lego Friends sets.

As I watched the videos, talking about the sets with her, and seeing how they were built I realised the importance of not just using TV as an electronic babysitter, but also of going into our child’s world. The joy and interest they have in the programmes and videos they love is real. I think we create a disconnect when we try to always to get our kids off screens to do something else, they want to feel like we are their ally, on their side, and facilitating their interests. And as I stepped inside my daughter’s world, we could share connection, and I realised that perhaps the screens aren’t the real problem.

Perhaps the problem is that we were born into this world longing for a deep sense of connection that our parents weren’t always able to provide. Perhaps it’s that we are trying our hardest to parent, in busy, stressful times, when we have to juggle so much, paid work and housework, often without extended family near us. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard to meet our children’s deep, emotional needs, all of the time, because our needs weren’t always met when we were young.

We are doing our best to work it out, to heal our lives, and keep striving for connection with our children. We have some wonderful tools to help us to be the parents we want to be, even when times are hard.

So this New Year’s Day, give yourself a break and snuggle up in front of a screen, if that’s what’s going to work best for you and your family!