I have been intending to write this blog post for some time but have struggled with just what to say and most importantly, to advise. Many parents, including me, debate how much screen time to allow their children. Moreover, it is difficult to monitor what kids are watching or doing on smart phones, tablets, computers, and TV. Parents worry about the effect of screen time, video games of all sorts, and how to make sense of it all. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently revised its decade-old policy regarding screen time, recognizing that the previous "2 hours a day" rule no longer applies, especially given the amount of screen time required for school work alone. AAP recommendations now include having a "media plan" for your child, including turning off screens well before bedtime, and promoting a healthy "media diet". I applaud the AAP recommendations but also understand just how difficult it is to get a child away from a screen, as well as the effect of screen time on the brain. Here are some thoughts:
It is difficult to distill all the information that's available about parenting. One concept that I subscribe to is called Connection Parenting. The idea is that if a child misbehaves, it is because he is out of connection with parents, peers, or others, and thus, the misbehavior. Someone hurt his feelings, intentionally or not, he is just having bad day, or for some other reason, he feels out of connection with others. Our typical response to misbehavior is to move the child further out of connection, such as placing him in a time out, sending him to the office at school, and so on, when in fact, what the child needs is MORE connection, not less. Dis-connection is based on fear (do what I say or I will remove my approval), while connection is based on love (I love and care about you no matter what and really want to know what is going on).
There are a lot of boys in my son's after school program. One day they are all friends and the next, they have had some disagreements. When I pick up my son from school and find that he has had some challenges with other kids, the first thing I do is hug him for as long as he wants to hug. I get a pretty good assessment of his day by how long and hard he hugs me. Next, I ask him what happened and listen to his entire story. Then, we talk to the child care worker and come to some resolution. Sometimes, the resolution is that he and the other kid apologize to each other, sometimes it means problem-solving with the worker about what to do next time, sometimes the two kids shake hands or hug. The goal is for him to re-connect and form deeper connections. It is the web of connections -- relationships -- we have in life that mold us into the adults we become, and these small events are all part of the web. Here are a few ideas:
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JoAnne McFarland O'Rourke