How to optimize parenting

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I find this statistic staggering: thirty percent of adults and the same percentage of youth report that they argue daily about screen time at home. That is millions of kids, teens, and parents fighting every single day about screen issues and many millions more who fight often, though not daily.

I have some suggestions about how to put more joy into parenting given all the new stressors that have come with today’s tech revolution.

1.     Have technology do some of the parenting work for you.
Rather than constantly repeating, “Time to shut it off,” why not have your wifi at home set to automatically turn off at a specific time. Circle, for example, is a device that enables you to set individual filters and wifi access times on all your devices. With the Circle app, you can monitor data usage times for all the apps on your families’ phones. Some internet services like Xfinity also allow customers to set internet access times and limits for specific computers. Still, I always suggest that phones be put away at bedtime because kids are constantly finding workarounds to mobile data control apps. 

2.     Adjust your thinking about “fighting.”
Think about the upsides of arguing. I have been reviewing the research around parent-teen conflict and have found some “silver linings” to consider:  

  • Teens consistently report feeling much less stressed about arguing than their parents do. So how about as parents, we decide to be less bothered by it too—after all, fair is fair.

  • Research shows many benefits that teens get when they have productive arguments with parents. Healthy, productive arguing, from the teen perspective, is when the parents listen well to their claims and will change rules at times based on good sound input from the teens.

3.     Optimize good times with your kids.
There is a study (3rd reference on the link) that examined happiness and scarcity where college students were instructed to imagine they had only one month left in the place they lived. The control group did not get this instruction. After a month, the students that imagined time was coming to an end had branched out and done more interesting things and saw more people they cared about than the control group had. Why not try that with your family?

For this TTT, let’s discuss some discussion ideas I’ve shared so far—

1.     Just a reminder, but I always recommend starting each TTT conversation by everyone saying something positive about tech in their lives. This helps kids remember that we really do appreciate the countless benefits of the tech revolution and that we really do understand why they want to be on screens so much. For me, this week my positive is how much I love that I can access research studies so easily via Google Scholar (when it is only a study abstract I still have to get the full article, but as a start, Google Scholar is wonderful). What is something each of you loves about tech?

2.     What are things you argue about regarding tech?

3.     When are your arguments productive — when do they work for you vs. when are they just downright annoying, repetitive, etc.?

4.     What devices might help create better tech limits/balance in your home?

5.     If you had only one month left to live where you currently live, what would you want to do as a family? Now make a plan to really do one or some of those things this month!

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