How I Realized that I Needed to Limit Screen Time for My Kids

I don’t want to admit it, but I know that I have become the mom who lets her children have too much screen time. You know, when she gets busy cleaning or planning or cooking or whatever and decides that while she gets these things done, and in order to be able to get these things done the kids can watch a movie or play games on the tablet or whatever device to “keep them busy.”

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I did it. I was there. This is how I know: the kids whined and complained ALL.THE.TIME., they weren’t happy with turning off any show (even if I gave them fair warning), there was a lot of disobedience, bedtime became difficult, they were always hungry (bored is more like it), and I was angry and irritable.

It was very easy for me to go from “harmless” intentional screen limits to a nonchalant and permissive attitude. “Sure you can watch a show, I need to catch up on dishes.” “Okay, let’s do a movie night, I need to fold laundry.” “Alright, you can play games on the tablet, I need to pay bills anyway.”

I don’t have an issue with my kids watching shows or movies but I do have a problem when their eyes are glued to a screen all day, every day. (They really didn’t watch all day, every day… but it felt like it.) And I knew that I didn’t want them to have access whenever they asked. I had actually used TV as a reward if my daughter was ready for her day on time. She could watch one show before we started school, and that was usually it for the day.

But then quiet time came and they were behaving well, why not allow them more TV while I am on the computer doing work in the afternoon? Then, they were quiet and occupied while I cooked dinner. But as I became more lax, and this became more than an occasional occurrence, I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing. I knew they were getting too much screen time.

I started brainstorming how I was going to get out of this, because it was great to have time to myself, but I knew this was such a very bad habit that I had allowed. I talked to a couple of friends. One recognized too much screen time in her home and implemented no screens because she was just so sick of her children’s behavior. Another friend revealed that she’s had days like mine where she’ll allow screen time for her kids so she can get some of her work done. She also mentioned that they have certain times they allow screens. To really kick me into gear was another blogger who I regularly read. She is currently doing a series in the month of October called 31 Days of Screen Free Activities for Kids.

It was quite convicting to see this series just as I had been contemplating what I would be doing to quit all this screen time nonsense. Rosilind has come up with an amazing list of things you can do with your kiddos – check it out! Seriously, this could not have come at a better time.

After seeing what other mommas have been through and what they do in regards to screen time, I have come up with screen time rules in our house. Well, a screen time schedule, I suppose. This is what it looks like in our house right now: Wednesdays are Kid Movie nights, Friday afternoons each child may choose one show and they can watch those 2 shows together, the weekend allows each child 30 minutes of time on the tablet. That’s it!

Yes, only 3 opportunities are built in for screen time. And to explain a little, Wednesday nights are movie nights because we host an informal Bible study and they can look forward to this “event” and be occupied in the other room. We will occasionally say “let’s have a family movie night” which is a great surprise for them, obviously not on days that behavior was an issue. And I will occasionally have a specific educational game available for school lessons that they can do for 10-15 minutes on the computer or tablet. But not yet. I don’t want to give too many exceptions, I just can’t.

My reasons for the “schedule” are: that it is too easy to become lax, it gives a sense of consistency, and it seems to be just the right amount that the kids look forward to the screen time but not seem to want more. I have a feeling that a lot of behavior issues for my 5 year old are not only because I allowed so much screen time but because there was a lack of regularity and consistency in day to day life. We have been all over the place and I can see how it’s hard to know what mom expects if things are always changing. But that’s for another post.

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We are in week 2 since the addition of the screen time schedule and I have already seen an improvement in behavior, manners, imagination, desire to be helpful, and kindness. The kids have been perfectly fine with the rules and I have had no complaining about the rules. There are times when my daughter asks to watch something but she’s totally okay when I tell her to remember it for when she gets screen time. They have been playing very well with each other. I “caught” Elle reading a book to Finn this morning, it was so lovely to see. Several times I’ve seen them take dolls or stuffed animals on adventures. It didn’t take too long for them to figure out what they could do to keep busy and play.

How is screen time limited in your home?

Recognizing that your Child is a Brat (part 2 of 2)

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My last post was about recognizing certain behavior that leads to having a spoiled child – a brat. In this post I’d like to share how you can transition away from these behaviors to lead to a well behaved, content child.

Is your child refusing to accept your answer when you say no to him? Is there kicking and screaming, so to speak? Maybe there really is kicking and screaming? Have you had enough? Then let me ask you one last question… who is more stubborn?

I ask this because you are caught in a battle of wills, my friend. Will he continue to make a fuss and eventually get his way (which will make him more stubborn next time)? Or will you continue to stand your ground and show him that when you say something, you mean it. This has to be one of the hardest things for a parent of little people. At least, in this season, it is for me.

There will be a few rough days ahead, maybe even weeks. But stick to your guns, it’ll be worth it in the end. The first step after realizing you have given in one too many times is to understand that this ornery attitude is unacceptable. If you don’t address this now there will only be more headache and frustration to come. This battle you are facing with your child can lead to disrespect. Maybe he’ll be so angry with you that yelling, door slamming, hitting, or kicking will result. Gratitude will start to wither away. You tell him he can have “one more” but it isn’t enough. Sooner or later he’ll be inconsolable and uncontrollable. And that just won’t do.

The next step is to make the decision that when you say something you have to follow through with what you say. How many times do you find yourself telling your 5 year old “okay, one more episode and then it’s time to do something else” and two (or three or four) episodes later they are still watching? Or you tell your two year old “no, you can’t have a snack this close to dinner” but after a few moments of tears he’s eating those grapes he wanted. Your child is learning that they don’t really have to listen to what you say. They don’t believe your words and your credibility is gone. Remember that you are the parent. If you said no it’s probably for a good reason.

Finally, don’t give up. You will be tested. You will feel overwhelmed, perhaps defeated. Here are some ways to persevere through these trials. Change the subject. Sometimes all it takes is diverting your child’s attention away from what’s going on. Telling a joke, a funny story, or even a tickle can help to lighten the situation. Ask for help with something. “You know what Elle, Mommy needs some help in the kitchen. Let’s go put away the dishes, you can put the silverware in the drawer for me.” A time out or some quiet time alone to think about how they are acting. They have to know that their behavior is not okay, and that they can choose to act better.

We were at the grocery store and my pet peeve is any kind of riding or hanging on to the cart. The rule is you walk beside the cart. Well, we were almost finished and Elle insists that she’s tired and her feet hurt. Little Miss Dramatic here. She wants to hang off the side and put her feet on the bottom so that she doesn’t have to walk. “Sorry, honey, but you need to walk.” I stopped and waited for her to follow directions. Yes, I was pressed for time. But at the moment it was too important for me to miss the opportunity to ensure that my daughter is listening and obeying her mother. It was a battle of wills. I kept my cool and I stayed firm. Only 5 minutes later we were both walking to complete our shopping trip. Success!

You have to resolve to change this bratty attitude. Know that it’s not acceptable, follow through with what you say, and don’t give up. As your child learns that he isn’t the boss he will learn that he can count on your word. He will accept your answer and move on. And just because you don’t give in to his every whim does not make you love him any less. In fact, exhibiting consistency and discipline will show him that your love for him is because you want to see him do well.

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

Recognizing that your Child is a Brat (part 1of 2)

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My kids are great. I love them dearly. They are good at keeping busy playing. They mostly get along with one another. They listen – most of the time. They’re kids – they do what kids do. But, there are times when I feel so worn down by them. I feel defeated. I just want to give up, go in the other room and let them wreak havoc. But I know I can’t do that.

I have to teach these little ones that it isn’t always about them. And that just because they ask or they want something doesn’t mean they can have it. It was when Finn (the 2 year old) cried – tantrum style – after being offered the normal breakfast choice of cereal or eggs that I noticed this behavior has been happening all too often and that this was not acceptable. It was also hubby who pointed out this disagreeable disposition Finn was displaying.

So how do you recognize when your child is being ill-mannered and obnoxious? There is a difference between the occasional discord and the constant campaign to rule. I am talking about the latter. There are times when children won’t like your answer or when they just need to complain and wine, probably because they don’t know how else to express themselves. But, there are times when children refuse to accept your answer and when they complain and wine about everything.

There are two things to look at first. One is your child’s response to a want or desire that you just turned down. Second is your response to your child after his want or desire was rejected. Let’s say your little guy just asked to play with the play doh or get out the paints. You explain that lunch time is coming up and that we can’t get out those things because it’s time to eat soon. You even offer something else to do instead that isn’t so messy or involved. He is not happy. He asks again and he even resorts to crying (which can be appropriate for a little tot but not much older). Now here is the tricky part – your response. Do you tell him no again and remove him from the area to redirect his attention elsewhere? Maybe you tell him no again and walk away, allowing him to figure out how to deal with the situation. Perhaps you said no and then decided that it’s not that much of a mess and proceed to help him do the activity. If the last one was your response then you could be shaping him right into being a brat. Don’t worry though, we all respond that way at some time or another. But we do have to be careful that it is not the normal reaction. Here are some other indications to help you recognize that things need to change.

  • You are saying yes to a request because you don’t want to hear any complaining.
  • You are constantly getting push back. Your child never seems to be happy with your answers or requests.
  • You find yourself changing your mind. After you have said no you start to justify why you can say yes instead.
  • Your child cries, stomps, yells when you say no.
  • You child demands your attention in negative ways.
  • Your child has become ungrateful.
  • Your child has become “uncontrollable.”

It is important to stand your ground. If you tell him no then he needs to be able to accept that. You are the parent and you gave your answer.

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” -from Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann

When you change your mind all of the time or appease your child because you just don’t want to hear it then you are doing a disservice to him. He will learn that he can have whatever he wants and when he doesn’t get it he won’t know how to appropriately react.

Check back soon for: Recognizing that your Child is a Brat (part 2 of 2)