Mia has asked her son James to start putting away his phone at 11PM. She’s had a conversation with him where she really tried to see his point of view. Even so, she’s not changing her boundary and wants to give James a little bit of control over the situation. 

Mia: OK, so having to put the phone away affects you… it means you’ll have to change things about how you do homework… it means you’re going to be left out of conversations at school.

James: Yeah. 

Mia: If you want help figuring any of that out, I’m happy to help you find solutions that work for you. 

James: No, I’m fine.

Mia: OK. Well, I do want you to have a say in how this is going to work since it affects you.

James (frustrated, but less so since he’s had time to process it and realizes his mom isn’t giving in): If I had my say, we wouldn’t be doing this.

Mia (choosing to respond lightheartedly instead of angrily, she chuckles): I know. So… at 11… do you want me to come get your phone or do you want to bring it down? 

James: Oh I want to bring it down. 

Mia: That’s fine. How will you remember to do it? 

James: I don’t know. I’ll set an alarm? 

Mia: That’s a good idea. And I think we can give it a try. But I also know that you’ve just turned off alarms in the past instead of stopping what you were doing. 

James: That was different! 

Mia: You’re right. But you will likely be in the middle of doing something at 11 when the alarm goes off and if I were you, I’d be really annoyed if an alarm went off when I was in the middle of doing something. 

James: Yeah. 

Mia: Can I make a suggestion? You don’t have to use it, but it’s just a thought. 

James shrugs

Mia: If I were in your shoes, I might set an alarm at 10:30 and figure out the last thing I wanted to work on so I could be done by 11. 

James (mumbles): Yeah I guess.

Mia: OK, well it’s up to you how you handle it.  You know more about what works for you than I do. Or if you don’t, you’ll be able to figure it out better than I will. 

James doesn’t respond. 

Mia: OK, let’s wrap up. But one more question. 

James: What? 

Mia: What do you want me to do if the phone isn’t down here at 11?

James: What do you mean? 

Mia: Well phones need to be down here at 11. And I’d like you to tell ME what you’d like me to do if yours isn’t. I want you to have some say in what happens. 

James: I guess if I don’t have it down, then maybe give me 20 minues less time the next day. 

Mia: So give it back to you 20 minutes later than normal? 

James: Yeah. 

Mia: OK. Let’s try this for a week or so and see how it goes…

James: Fine. 








  • Without changing her rule, Mia gives James as much control within the boundary as possible. 
  • Even while making suggestions, Mia is deferring to James as the expert in his life. 





For this situation to go well, Mia must proactively:

  • Work on her calming skills so she doesn’t try to take over the situation when it doesn’t go the way she wants it to. 
  • Deposit into their relationship so James doesn’t use this conversation as an opportunity to rebel or disrespect Mia.