Love is very powerful. It motivates sacrifice. Generosity. Awareness. Growth. Security. Risk. Love. Change. Peace. Obedience. Joy. Service. Forgiveness.
Love is more powerful than fear or anger or force or threats. Or anything.
Love wins even over screen power. I hear it often. Children and teens use screens more than their parents would like. Many adults have been honest to say they, too, are using screens more than may be appropriate. This is especially true when they think about their responsibility as role models.
How can we decrease the amount of time our kids spend with technology?
We’d be foolish to act as if screens didn’t have power. We’d also be foolish to act as if we don’t have power. We do. People power is – or can be again – stronger than screen power. This is even more true of parent power.
Parents have power when they parent. I just heard of yet another parent letting their kids do whatever they want. When a Sunday school teacher asked how a child was disciplined at home so she’d have suggestions to try in class, the parent looked at her almost like she was crazy. She then admitted they don’t discipline at all. She wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed. They’re doing nothing to direct or redirect their son’s behavior.
What can we do when teens’ screens appear to scream at them, I’m off! Turn me on! You know you want me on! Use me! Use me! I’m here to make you happy. You know you need me.
We love our children in the middle of their confusion and concerns. We respond with compassion because we must admit screens seem to scream at us, too. We calmly redirect their attention to us, others, and healthier choices for their free time.
When parents tell me they yell and argue with their kids too much and they want to change, I recommend they tell their children: We love you too much to argue with you. Then hug them or walk away, depending on various factors.
We can use the same type of statement when we want them to decrease their screen time: We love you too much to let you use your screens as much as you have.
Then, depending on your situation, you may want to continue: We’ve made some mistakes and allowed you to be entertained too often by your games. You’re spending more time texting and scrolling Facebook than we want you to. It’s going to be good for your heart, character, and mind to spend time doing other things, including interacting with us. We understand this may not be easy at first, and we’ll have compassion for you, but that doesn’t mean we’ll put up with whiny, complaining behavior. We’re going to be making changes, too, and definitely using technology less. We can learn together how to become a healthier family again.
Teens and children appreciate honesty. It doesn’t mean you should expect to hear “thank you,” but honesty is always right anyway.
Our love power shows up when we don’t just tell children to use screens less, but show them what to do instead. The substitution principle will be much more effective than just taking away their screens. If we do that, of course, they’ll complain. They don’t know how to handle quiet or boredom well. Their screens have always allowed them to escape both.
Sit alongside your children with a good book. Begin reading. They may not act interested at first, but they’ll engage. Reading together as a family can build emotional security. If you plan to do it every night after dinner or at bedtime, it also gives everyone something to look forward to. This can increase joy and security.
Play a board game and laugh and talk while you’re playing. Take turns letting children choose the games and believe these times can build sibling commitment and cooperation. Don’t give up.
Spend time outside. Make up games, explore together, just walk or bike and enjoy the sunshine and quiet. Is this old-fashioned? It doesn’t have to be! It shouldn’t be.
Think of your own things to do.
Parents have power. Love has power. Children are designed by God to connect to people. Win them back. We can do it!