Are you worried about how much time your kid spends on his phone, playing video games, or scrolling through social media?
You’re concerned that if he keeps this up, he’s not going to know how to be in the “real world”—that he’ll turn into a loner, a hermit, or just be plain awkward socially.
It’s also so hard to watch him “be there” physically, yet completely disengaged—as if you’re relegated to being in the same room with a stranger.
Is there anything you can do to stop it, or is this just how it is in today’s world?
If you’re honest, you know that YOU are checking your newsfeed or email more than you’d like, but you don’t want your kid to grow up so disconnected from the here and now.
You hate watching her in a trance looking at the glare of a screen, and you worry that her grades will slip or she won’t develop socially.
But what can you do?
When parents come to me worried about how much time their kids spend on their computers, they’re surprised to hear me say they shouldn’t discuss screen time—at least not at first.
Because human beings reflexively put up walls of resistance when people come AT us with advice we haven’t asked for.
If you focus on the behavior you don’t like, your child will feel judged and controlled, and he will likely want to dig in his heels and do the opposite of what you want.
Just think about how YOU feel if your mother tries to tell you how to run your household or a friend gives you unsolicited criticism about your parenting.
Not only are you likely to not take the advice, but you will also probably want to distance yourself from the offender, at least temporarily. Criticism NEVER leads to connection.
It’s no different for your kids. By coming AT him about his tech usage, he’ll likely rebel AND you’ll suffer a loss of precious connection. This then leads to a cascade of negative consequences, namely that he’ll gravitate more towards taking direction from his peers instead of you.
So how do you keep your connection to your kid strong while also motivating him to unplug?
The best option is to help inspire and invigorate your kid to be more engaged with the 3D world by being encouraging and supportive.
I call this “Love Flooding,” and I’ll teach you how to do it in Session 3 of my program Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes.
Essentially, you create a list of qualities about your child that thrill and delight you. These should not be about his accomplishments and achievements; rather, include things about him that warm your heart or inspire you in some way.
Your list may include things like, “I love how you always notice a beautiful sunset—and you make sure I see it, too!” Or, “You are so patient with Grandma; it reminds me to slow down and enjoy things at her speed.”
Comments like these are priceless for kids who may see themselves through the eyes of their peers who often cruelly point out their flaws and deficiencies.
When you bolster up your child through love flooding, you make him feel good about himself while making him feel good about his relationship with you. When he sees he can feel good instead of numbing out in front of a screen, he’ll gradually want more of what feels good. And as he starts to engage more with you, he’ll also see that there’s so much more to him and what he can fill his time with.
You’ll notice that I am not suggesting you bolster your teen with comments like:
“You’re better than those boys who play video games all day. Why are you wasting your time with them?” Or, “You used to be so serious about your grades. What’s happened to you?”
Again, criticizing your son or his friends will not accomplish much of anything other than creating more distance between the two of you.
Instead, spend time with him in a way that does not emphasize where he is “going wrong.” Help him find his way back to the young man he wants to be. Ask him for his opinions about politics or animal rights or the environment, and then listen with true curiosity.
The more you help him feel your love and respect, the more likely he’ll find his way to greater self love and self respect.
This is the circuitous way we can help our teens become sturdier. It isn’t as simple as saying, “You’re a great kid!” Our actions and heartfelt appreciations need to speak for themselves.
Still, your teen may take some time to find his way. Be kind to his friends, who may also benefit when you demonstrate genuine interest in who they are. Kids are so tuned in to the adults around them; if your attitude toward them screams, “Loser!” they will feel it.
You can certainly set guidelines for your teen regarding video game use; you don’t have to go along with unlimited access. But you’ll get further by having a dialogue about healthy digital media habits than by trying to prevent him from playing his games.
Strengthening the connection you have with your child is the key to influencing his choices.
When you focus on what delights you rather than disappoints you about him, you automatically forge a deeper bond.
My program Parenting Without Bargains, Battles or Bribes is all about developing and strengthening the parent-child connection.
When the connection is weak, defiance and bad behavior ensue. Your days are filled with power struggles and your home is filled with tension.
When the connection is strong, the joy of parenting is yours and your bond with your child lasts well after he has left home.
Besides diving into the Love Flooding exercise, I’ll teach you many more techniques and strategies I’ve taught to thousands of parents who now enjoy a more rewarding, peaceful relationship with their kids.
You’ll also learn how to “come alongside” your child rather than AT him so that he’s more receptive to your advice and wants to come to you for guidance—not other people.Take The Turmoil Out Of Teen Parenting
Parenting at any age is tough, and parenting teens is especially challenging. When you stay focused on your connection, you’re way ahead of the game.
P.S. Kids who are already struggling socially often drop into depression when they become disconnected from others, numbing out by spending even more time playing video games—alone.
Again, the most important thing you can do is to strengthen the connection he has with you, so that he always feels safe to share his deepest feelings:How To Influence Teens