What This Is Like from Your Perspective

You’ve decided that you finally have the energy to set some new boundaries for electronics. So you tell your kids that you’re going to be limiting the amount of time they spend on screens. And when you do… 

… They act as if you’ve just told them that they’ll never be able to eat again. 

…They melt down, complaining about how unfair you’re being. 

…They threaten to find other ways to do what they want to do online.

Your attempt to set some new rules, but you see how many power struggles it’s likely to create. And you wonder if it’s worth it. 




What This Is Like from Your Child’s Perspective

Children enjoy their electronics. Playing games, watching shows, watching videos all  help them relax (and sometimes even feel better about themselves, especially if they are really good at games). So when they’re told that they need to limit the amount of time they can be on their screens…

They feel disrespected, like what THEY enjoy doesn’t matter.

They feel out of control, because they know there’s nothing they can do about it

…They feel like their “fun” has been limited and their life will be full of things they don’t want to do 

And they don’t handle these big emotions in a mature way. They treat parents with disrespect and try to maintain some sense of control however they can.

And that only gets them into more trouble. 





How It Usually Goes When We

Set a New Boundary Around Screen Time


Scenario: Diana is letting her kids Seth and Sasha know that they can only have screen time for 2 hours on each weekend day. The kids were used to having 4-6 hours, so they get really upset at their mom. 


Seth: I can’t believe this! 

Sasha: This is so UNFAIR!

Diana: Unfair? It’s not your RIGHT to have screen time, Sasha. 

Seth: But we used to be allowed to be on longer. It’s so dumb to change it.

Diana: I realized that we needed to cut back on screens. It’s not good for you to be on there so much. And your behavior is worse when you’re on them all the time. 

Sasha: No it’s NOT! 

Diana: Trust me, Sasha, it IS. 

Sasha (rolls her eyes and looks at her mom angrily). 

Seth: Mom, this is NOT cool. I told my friends I’d play with them this weekend. We’ll never finish the tournament if I can only be on two hours a day! 

Diana: You don’t need to be IN any tournaments that require you to be on for more than two hours a day… 

Seth: You don’t understand!

Diana: I don’t have to. I’m the mom and I get to say how this goes. 

Seth: I’m just going to go to my friend’s house to play…

Sasha: Yeah, me too. 

Diana: Oh no you’re not… 

The conversation continues, but Diana feels more and more out of control as her kids just argue about how unfair the rule is.



How It Could Go When We

Set a New Boundary Around Screen Time

Scenario: Diana is letting her kids Seth and Sasha know that they can only have screen time for 2 hours on each weekend day. The kids were used to having 4-6 hours, so they get really upset at their mom. 


Seth: I can’t believe this! 

Sasha: This is so UNFAIR!

Diana: OK. I’d like to hear why.


Diana is annoyed that her kids’ reaction is so negative.
​He also knows that complaining about their behavior while they’re in Yuck is not going to solve anything. So she focuses on remaining calm herself (rather than the kids’ behavior) so she can handle the situation effectively and model the behavior she wants to see in her kids. 


Seth: I was supposed to play in a tournament with my friends this weekend…

Sasha: And I wanted to catch up on a show that I haven’t been able to watch…

Diana: I can see why you’re frustrated then. I get frustrated too, when I expect to do something and it doesn’t go the way I want. 


Instead of telling Seth and Sasha all of the reasons that their perspective doesn’t matter, she sees the situation from their point of view. This new rule really will be a difficult change for her kids. 

Seth: So then don’t make this stupid rule!

Sasha: Exactly. 

Diana (slows the tone of her voice): I know you wish you could have everything you want. Sometimes I need to do things you won’t like because it’s my job to make the decisions that are best for you, even when it’s hard. 

Seth: This isn’t what’s best for us! We’re fine!

Sasha: Yeah, we’re not doing anything stupid, Mom.

(Seth and Sasha continue to complain. Diana just listens and doesn’t say anything. After a few more minutes with their mom not engaging, Seth and Sasha stop talking too.) 

Mom: Seth. Sasha. I know this stinks. I’m glad you’re telling me why you’re so frustrated. And I’m not going to change the rule. But I would like to let you talk about WHEN you can have your 2 hours on the weekend. I think you should have a say in that.



As much as Diana respects her kids’ perspective, she still maintains her boundary.  She does not change her rule. Instead, she gives the kids what they need (respect and control) in order to ensure that they can do the difficult thing she’s asking them to do. 


Sasha (sarcastically): Oh, like we had a say in the rule in the first place? 

Mom (doesn’t respond). 

There is quiet for a few moments. 

Mom: I really do respect that this is hard for you. And I’d like to give you some say in how we make this rule happen. Would you like that? 

Sasha (mumbles): Fine. 

Seth: I guess. 

Diana, Sasha, and Seth decide what time the kids will be able to play. When any bickering or complaining happens, Mom just listens and doesn’t engage. The kids don’t leave the conversation happy, but they know what the rule is and that they need to comply. 



What YOU NEED (Proactively) 

For This To Work Better In the Moment


Diana was able to balance FIRMNESS with RESPECT when dealing with the kids’ behavior.

However, proactive actions will make all of the difference in whether you are able to stay calm, connect, and correct behavior effectively.


You will only be able to stay CALM if:

a.) your biological or emotional “needs accounts” are met (otherwise you won’t have a reserve to draw from and you’ll immediately go into Yuck) and

b.) you recognize and respect that your kids have have a different perspective and agenda than you do, and that their perspective and agenda matter to them.

When you make sure your own needs are met and you set realistic expectations PROACTIVELY, you are more likely to be able to stay calm.


You will only be able to CONNECT if:

a.) you respect that ALL behavior has a reason and

b.) you understand those reasons (in a case like this, that kids do get upset when new boundaries are set, and that they don’t have the tools to handle their Yuck a mature way)

When you become comfortable with the reasons behind behavior PROACTIVELY, you will be able to connect more effectively.


You will only be able to CORRECT behavior if:

a.) You have demonstrated consistently in the past that you mean what you say when you set a boundary like “You will have less time on your screens from now on.” 

b.) You have made enough deposits into your kids’ emotional needs that setting a boundary doesn’t put them immediately into Yuck.

When you demonstrate that you mean what you say and when you make deposits into your kids’ emotional needs PROACTIVELY, you  will be able to correct behavior more effectively.