What This Is Like from Your Perspective

Sometimes having kids on their device can give you some space you need to get things done (or to just breathe!). But sometimes when you ask them to stop playing / watching, it almost seems not worth it because they…

completely overreact, as if you’d asked them to climb up a snow-covered mountain with no shoes on

…keep promising to get off in “a few more minutes…” but then they never do

…simply ignore or defy you, which leads to a power struggle

You want them to be able to enjoy their screen time, but you’re not sure how to make it end without all of the drama and exhaustion.


What This Is Like from Your Child’s Perspective

Kids love being on their devices. Playing games and watching shows fill their huge craving for engagement and stimulation. (Video games are also deposits into their emotional needs as well.)

So when they’re in this place that feels so good and they’re ask to stop, they

feel completely out of control and respond from that place

experience a lot of Yuck because their brain cannot transition easily when they’re in an engaged state

don’t know how to handle these big emotions in a mature way

So they misbehave because they don’t know how to do anything different. And they’re just as frustrated with the situation as we are.



How It Usually Goes

When Your Child Won’t Get Off Of Their Device 


Scenario: Harrison is playing a video game when his dad comes in to let him know he has to stop for swim practice. Harrison says he’ll stop playing but makes no move to do so.

Dad: Harrison!

Harrison doesn’t look up from his game.

Dad: HARRISON! You have swim practice!!

Harrison doesn’t look up from his game. 

Dad walks over to Harrison.

Dad: I am going to take that device out of your hand if you don’t stop NOW!

Harrison: Dad, I just want to finish!

Dad: You don’t have time to finish! We have to get to swim practice.

Harrison: Who cares if I’m late for practice…

Dad: I CARE! I’m paying for this class and you committed to it. You’re GOING.

Harrison: Fine, I’ll pay for it.

Dad: Oh really? How would you make the money for that?

Harrison starts to turn back to his game.

Dad yanks the device from Harrison’s arm. Harrison starts wailing and screaming. It takes him a long time to calm down, and he’s late for swim practice. 


How It Could Go

When Your Child Won’t Get Off Of Their Device

(That Teaches Tools for Transitions)

Scenario: Harrison is playing a video game when his dad comes in to let him know he has to stop for swim practice. Harrison says he’ll stop playing but makes no move to do so.

Dad: Harrison. It’s time to get off of your game.

Harrison doesn’t look up from his game.



Harrison’s dad wants him to stop playing and go to swim practice. He knows from past experience that coming in and yelling at Harrison won’t motivate him to get ready more quickly. So he reminds himself to model mature behavior and focuses on staying calm.


Dad walks over to Harrison to watch what he’s playing. Oh hey, you’re so much further along than you were last week!

Harrison smiles but doesn’t stop playing. 

Dad: I see you’re right in the middle of that level. Ugh, no wonder you don’t want to stop.



Harrison’s dad doesn’t think the game is as important as swim practice. He also knows that the game is important to Harrison, and that if he doesn’t respect that, Harrison is less likely to cooperate. (Plus, he can recognize that when someone interrupts him when he’s in the middle of something, he gets really annoyed too.)


Harrison: Exactly. So can I have one more minute?

Dad: I wish we could, but then we’ll be late.

Harrison: Who cares? It’s only swimming.

Dad doesn’t respond directly to that comment since he knows it’s Harrison’s Yuck talking and engaging will do no good. 

Dad: Harrison, it’s time to get off. I know it’s a really bad place for you to end, and we’ll think about how to handle this better next time. 

Harrison: Yeah! It’s not a good time. 

Dad: Maybe not. And I’m sorry. But I do want to hear how you got to level 10. How the heck did you get that far?


As much as he respects Harrison’s perspective, his dad is still firm about his boundary. But instead of convincing Harrison to stop playing, he gives him tools to transition more easily based on how Harrison’s brain works. (The brain transitions much more easily when it shifts gradually out of a place of engagement instead of being yanked out.)

Harrison (still holding the game): Well, I had to do 3 challenges…

Dad: I don’t meant to interrupt… I want to hear. But can you put down the game as you tell me?

Harrison (puts down the game): OK. So, I had to do these 3 challenges…

Dad starts walking to the car and Harrison follows him. 


What YOU NEED (Proactively)

For This To Work Better In the Moment


Harrison’s dad was able to balance FIRMNESS (maintaining a boundary) with RESPECT (focusing on teaching tools) when dealing with Harrison’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 when kids are in engaged in something, they struggle to dis-engage and can’t just hop off because we want them to)
(Find tips here to teach kids to how to transition more effectively)

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 playing now.”

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. They will also be less likely to fight with each other because they have less Yuck built up inside.