What This Is Like from Your Perspective


You know that kids love to be on their screens, and you allow them time to do just that. But when you find them on their screens when they know they’re not supposed to be on them…

You may feel disrespected. After all, you know that THEY know the rule… and they’re blatantly ignoring it!

...You may feel angry. You do so much for them, and they can’t follow the few rules that you have?

You may feel worried. You wonder what else they may be sneaking (or lying about?!)

You know the behavior has to stop. But how can you get them to stop sneaking the electronics when you can’t physically MAKE them stop?


What This Is Like from Their Perspective


Kids do love their electronics. They feel relaxed when they’re watching the shows they love. They feel important when they beat another level of their game.

So when someone tells them that they can’t be on their devices…

…They may do anything they can to get those positive feelings again

…They may figure that they won’t get caught

…They may simply not care what the consequence is; they just need to do something that feels good (or avoid something that feels bad)

Kids don’t have great impulse control, and while punishments may make them feel bad, they’re not necessarily going to help them control their impulses or deal with the discomfort of NOT playing.



How It Usually Goes When Your Child

Uses Their Device When They’re Not Supposed To


Scenario: Keith knows that the rule is that he can’t be on his tablet after 8:00. At 8:15, Keith’s mom finds him playing a game… and he doesn’t look like he has any intention of finishing. When he sees his mom, he looks up sheepishly, clearly knowing he did something wrong. 


Mom: Keith! I cannot believe you are playing right now! You know the rule!

Keith: But MOM! I HAD to finish!

Mom: You never “have to” finish a game, Keith. What you HAVE to do is follow the rules of this house!

Keith: The rules are stupid.

Mom (raising her voice): You may not like the rules, but they are the rules. AND YOU BROKE THEM.

Keith: If I jump out of the game now, I’ll mess up all my friends who are still playing. THEIR parents let them play until 9:00.

Mom (starts to yell): I couldn’t care less what other parents are doing. You are MY child! And you just snuck onto your tablet when you KNOW you’re not supposed to!

Keith: Mom! You’re ruining everything!

Mom: Nothing is RUINED. It’s a game, Keith. You’ll live. You cannot break the rules of this house and think it’s OK.

Keith (starting to take the device and leave the room): I’m just finishing this one thing so my friends don’t get mad!

Mom (going after him): Oh no you won’t. You will get off right now!

Keith and his mom continue to argue with Keith’s mom running after him.



How It Could Go When Your Child

Uses Their Device When They’re Not Supposed To


Scenario: Keith knows that the rule is that he can’t be on his tablet after 8:00. At 8:15, Keith’s mom finds him playing a game… and he doesn’t look like he has any intention of finishing. When he sees his mom, he looks up sheepishly, clearly knowing he did something wrong. 


Mom: Keith… You know you’re not supposed to be on now.

Keith doesn’t respond.

Mom (more firmly but still in control): Keith, it’s time to get off of the tablet.


Keith’s mom is frustrated that Keith has not gotten off of his tablet. She also knows that losing her cool will not motivate Keith to cooperate and will only make the situation worse. 
So she focuses on remaining calm herself (rather than on Keith’s behavior) so she can handle the situation effectively and model mature behavior.

Keith (looks up): But MOM!

Mom: Kiddo, I know this is the time you’re playing with your friends. And I know you want to finish the game with them…


Instead of trying to convince Keith why his behavior was so awful, Keith’s mom sees the situation from Keith’s perspective. She knows that pushing her own agenda will likely only lead to more resistance. 


Keith: Right! So let me stay on.

Mom: Keith. You know the rule. (Firmly.) It is time to get off. NOW.

Keith (whining as he puts down his device): That’s not fair!

Mom doesn’t respond.

Keith: All of my friends get to stay on later! I hate the rules in this house! You never let me do anything!

Mom doesn’t respond.

Keith: Why aren’t you answering? You just want me to do whatever YOU want… You don’t care what I want!

Mom remains silent. Eventually Keith stops talking. 

Mom: Keith, I completely understand why you’re upset. I do not like how you’re talking to me, but I do understand it. Your friends will probably be upset with you tomorrow because you messed up the game.

Keith (nodding): They will.

Mom: That’s a hard thing to walk into. (She pauses for a few moments and speaks more slowly.) And we still have rules in the house. It’s not OK to break them.

Keith doesn’t respond.

Mom: I’m not sure this situation is going to change. We’re not changing our rules, so it might happen again that your friends are still playing when you need to get off. Sneaking is not an option. What we CAN discuss is how you can handle it if your friends are mad at you tomorrow.


As much as Keith’s mom respects Keith’s perspective, she still maintains her boundary.  She does not allow Keith to break the rules. Instead, she teaches him tools to be able to follow the rules (like being able to handle it when his friends are mad at him) to be able to follow the rules so that he can be successful next time. so that he can be successful next time.


Keith: There’s nothing I can do.

Mom: You’re right, I think they’ll be mad. But I think there are things you can say to them so that you don’t make the situation worse…

Keith: Like what?

Mom: Well, here are my ideas… But you may have some better ones of your own…


Note that Keith will NOT stop sneaking until he has tools to handle his discomfort. While our instinct is to “punish” this behavior — of course it seems to make logical sense!  — punishment will not teach him how to handle discomfort in the future, so Keith will continue to act impulsively to prevent discomfort. 

Note also that Keith will NOT be open to considering ways to handle his discomfort if he doesn’t feel safe. If his mom had focused on how bad his behavior was, or if she had engaged with him when he was upset, he would not have been open to problem solving. 




What YOU NEED (Proactively)

For This To Work Better In the Moment


Keith’s mom was able to balance FIRMNESS with RESPECT when dealing with Keith’s behavior.

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

a.) 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 may choose to do things they’re not supposed to if they don’t know how to handle the discomfort of doing the “right” thing)

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 need to stop using devices at a certain time.”

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.