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. 

A New Direction For My Blog


Dear Blog Readers,

Now my book Tears Heal is out in the world, I’m thinking about my next projects. My mission is to share the knowledge about the healing power of tears with as many parents as I possibly can. Every day I see parents struggling with their parenting because they lack information about this simple, life-changing fact. And it seems that the world would be a much more peaceful place if children are raised compassionately without rewards, consequences and punishment.

The message is getting out there, and now there are a few other messages I’d like to share.

One of the other projects I have in mind is to share the knowledge about the healing power of tears with adults, not just parents, so they have tools to heal and recover from their childhood. The tool of listening partnerships is powerful and I hope one day it will be available for everyone, and intertwined in our lives. So many adults are struggling because they aren’t sure what to do with their feelings. Perhaps they don’t feel ‘broken’ enough for therapy, but they are still dealing with difficulties and insecurities relating to childhood experiences.

These past few weeks I’ve been travelling in the UK. When we set off on our journey my daughter picked up a stencil for drawing letters. I’d seen it in a charity shop a few years back, and I’d bought it after becoming interested in unschooling and homeschooling. Now she’s five she’s started writing shopping lists with her dad, and drawing the letters that she can do, and then, stencilling the ones she can’t. I just had a big lunch with extended family to celebrate my book coming out and my daughter wrote out all the place cards herself. It has been a real joy to watch her try to figure out reading and writing for herself, and watching her self-motivation has reaffirmed to me just how broken our school system is.

A few years back I read a book called Learning All The Time by John Holt in which he explains how children naturally learn to read much more quickly when they teach themselves rather than be taught by teachers. His observations really shocked me, but they make sense when we look at the history of schooling. Part of the aim of schools were actually to ‘dumb people down’ so they would be compliant workers for factories. They were not designed with the intention of nurturing children’s innate intelligence and creativity.

The people involved in the education system are working so hard and are so passionate. I know many wonderful and caring teachers (in fact I’m married to one 😉 !) but the system itself is broken.

I’ve begun interviewing parents of adult ‘unschoolers’ and watching my daughter development, and it’s really clear to me now, that school is completely unnecessary for children’s education, even if it does provide parents with free childcare, and a much-needed break!

And yet another passion of mine, is something I’m just learning about; natural health. After watching the documentary The Truth About Cancer, I’m really questioning everything I thought I knew about the healthcare system.

Everything I write seems to come from the same place. A passion for spreading knowledge that is somehow hidden in society. So now I’ve shared ‘Parenting’s Best Kept Secret’ I hope as time goes on I’ll share a few more secrets with you too.

I feel like I’ve written a lot about Hand in Hand Parenting, and I will probably continue to write more. But lets face it, there’s only so many posts about crying and giggles I can share with you all! And I never quite know which blog post will pop into my mind wanting to be written. I can feel my horizons expanding and this blog may evolve to include posts about my next writing projects.

If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog, and have any thoughts, I’d love to read your comments! And I hope you’ll continue on the journey with me, and enjoy my new posts.

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.




What Happens When You Let Children Eat What They Want – Part 2


You can read part 1 of this post here.

I made this menu for my daughter a while back before we started letting my daughter eat what she wanted. I felt that food just wasn’t working well for us. My daughter is a grazer and would constantly say she was hungry, and then ask me or her dad for a ‘list.’ Then we’d have to think of all the possible foods she might want and make suggestions. It got pretty tiring having to go through lists of foods the whole time!

So we got pictures of her favourite foods and made her a menu of things to choose from. Since my daughter is more of a snacker than a big meal eater there were lots of things we could get for her with zero preparation.

However the menu ended up being disappointing, when I realised that my daughter would immediately flick to the back of the menu where I had the ‘unhealthy’ options. Chocolate, ice cream and crisps. At this time I was only giving her chocolate sweetened with Stevia that I got when we were back in the UK, and I also made this delicious chocolate ice cream from avocados and bananas. More often than not these items were ‘out of stock.’ I didn’t always have the time to make ice cream, and the chocolate ran out. With crisps I didn’t keep them in the house, because unconsciously I was trying to keep her away from the ‘bad’ stuff, and try to control my own crisp addiction too!

The menu soon lost it’s appeal to my daughter when she realised that the items she wanted to choose weren’t freely available. She hadn’t picked it off the shelf for months.

However things have changed since we started to let my daughter eat what she wanted. Yesterday after a day’s travelling munching on french fries and croissants she came home, picked up the menu and asked for red and yellow pepper sticks and carrots!

The novelty of having chocolate hasn’t worn off yet. Every time she picks a chocolate bar for breakfast or a snack she looks at me with an uncomfortable expression like she’s waiting for me to tell her no, and suggest other foods that would be better options. But as I allow her to trust, and listen to the signals her body is giving, food isn’t a battleground anymore.

In the book Kids, Carrots, and Candy the authors say that when we have limited certain kinds of food in the past our children will eat lots more of it when we do relax the limits, but over time the novelty wears off. When children trust that we are no longer controlling what goes into their bodies, eating becomes out what children sense their body needs, rather than about power struggles.  We’re still on this journey, still learning to trust and let go of control. But when my daughter’s munching on carrots she chose without me lecturing her about nutrition, or making ‘healthy suggestions,’ then I’m at peace with where we are right now.