Last night when we sat down to dinner, I politely grabbed the iPad from my daughter’s hands and said, “You’re all done with that now. I will take that. Thank you very much.”
Unfortunately, this approach didn’t work out so well.
As I placed the iPad in the living room and sat down to my own dinner, my daughter scowled at me. She pushed her dinner plate to the center of the table and made an announcement. “I’m not eating any of this. It’s yuck!”
You’ve probably been there too, right?
You give your kids a 5-minute warning – or 3 warnings even – and no matter what you do, it’s never enough. There is always some battle when it comes to ending screen-time.
And from there begins the downward spiral into power struggle Never- never land. It’s frustrating!
Fortunately, there is a quick fix to all this.
Before I tell you what it is, you should know two things…1. All kids must continue to communicate until they feel heard and 2. All behaviors are driven by three healthy needs: power, experience, connection.
When I think about those two things, it makes so muchsense why my seemingly polite approach to ending screen-time didn’t work out so well. It also makes a lot of sense why 5-minute warnings don’t work all that well either.
1. All kids must continue to communicate until they feel heard.
In the case of screen-time, most kids want you to know that, while a show or game seems pretty meaningless to you, it is actually very important to them. Simply taking the time to say what your child is thinking, doing or feeling can change everything. It shifts the dynamic in a matter of minutes! (More on how to do that in a second).
2. All behaviors are driven by three healthy needs: power, experience, connection.
If kids are acting a certain way, there is always a reason. In the case of me taking away the iPad, my daughter probably felt pretty powerless. It makes so much sense why she’d turn to refusing her favorite dinner to regain a feeling of power and control. She was simply meeting her need for power in the best way she could think of in the moment.
After this two minute technique, she was happy and eating.
When my daughter pushed her dinner plate to the center of the table and said, “I’m not eating any of this. It’s yuck!” I had two choices. 1. Continue to fight with her over dinner (and we all know it wasn’t really about the food) or 2. Find a way to help her meet her need for connection and power.
I pushed my chair back, stepped back and grabbed the iPad.
I handed it to her and said, “Looks like you weren’t finished yet. Show me what you need to finish.”
Immediately she stopped pouting, and turned on a song about dinosaurs. I said, “Oh I see! You wanted to see this song about dinosaurs. You love this one! The T-rex is dancing around and he’s so hilarious.” She smiled, looked back to me and nodded. I continued, “Looks like the song is almost done and it’s time to eat. You can finish this one.”
The song finished two minutes later, and what she did next surprised me. She lifted the iPad into the air and handed it to me. As I walked back into the living room to put it away, she made another announcement. “Thanks mom.”
At first glance, it might seem like I gave into what she wanted. And…you’re right, in a way I did. Because I was the one who missed the mark in the first place.
If it was really about her wanting more time on the iPad, I wouldn’t have taken two steps back.
But if I’m being honest, and looking at the big picture, her upset was about wanting to connect with me and wanting to feel a sense of control over how the game ended.
I smiled knowing that this simple technique worked again. My daughter met her own needs, and I got the peaceful family dinner I wanted. We all won in less than two minutes.
Here’s the thing about kids.
All they want is for you to notice. To feel heard and understood by someone else. It’s what we all want, really. When you validate what your child wants, a beautiful connection blossoms. This is the sweet spot because when your child feels connected to you…
They want to cooperate.
They want to listen.
They want to keep the peace just as much as you do.
Next time you need to end screen-time for your child, try this: Sit down for a few minutes to connect and notice what your child is doing, thinking and feeling. It can change everything in only a few minutes time.
Print this free toddler listening checklist.
This post comes with a free printable checklist to help with toddler listening. I always have the hardest time remembering these phrases. This printable simplifies it!
Here is a sneak preview…
Download Your Free Printable
- Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable, plus join 37,000+ parents who receive my weekly parenting tips and ideas!
- Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
- Place it on your refrigerator. Check things off as you go and don’t forget a thing!
Want more on parenting?
- 10 Empowering Ways to Improve Toddler Listening
- How to Calm a 1 Year-Old Tantrum Down in Minutes
- The Most Overlooked Reason Why Kids Won’t Listen, Focus or Sit Still
- How to Stop Toddler Whining
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- Learn simple, yet highly effective listening strategies
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