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  • This Method Can Help You Avoid Tantrums When Ending Your Child's Screen Time

    Sitting next to your child and asking a few questions can work wonders!
    by Kate Borbon .
This Method Can Help You Avoid Tantrums When Ending Your Child's Screen Time
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Most, if not all, parents today will know the struggle of getting their kids to put down their gadgets and do something else. As much as we try to avoid it, ending screen time might involve outbursts and tantrums that moms and dads might find difficult to deal with.

    If this is one of the things you grapple with daily as a parent, this easy technique from a clinical psychologist might just be what you need!

    Why screens are so addictive

    We already know that using mobile apps and games can be incredibly addicting, but in reality, screens themselves have the ability to put children under a trance. According to clinical psychologist Isabelle Filliozat, whenever kids use their gadgets, they encounter lights, sounds, and images which put their brains into a certain state of flow. Their brains then produce a hormone called dopamine, which is known to contribute to feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. In other words, using gadgets can bring kids a sense of happiness and enjoyment.

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    When the screen is suddenly turned off or when a parent tells their child to stop using their gadget, it can cause an abrupt decrease of dopamine levels, and this can in turn create a literal sensation of physical pain and shock. That is when children begin to throw tantrums and lose their temper.

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    How to end screen time and avoid a tantrum

    So, what can you do to help ease the process of ending your child’s screen time? Filliozat, who specializes in positive parenting, says that the technique is not to cut her off without any warning. Instead, you should share in her experience, or “build a bridge” between yourself and your child.

    It’s not that hard. All you need to do is, when you decide that it’s time for your child to stop using her gadgets, sit down next to her and take a moment to express interest in what she’s doing, whether she’s watching a YouTube video, playing an online game, or exploring the Internet.

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    As you are sitting with her, try asking questions that relate to what she’s doing. For instance, if she is playing a game, you can ask, “What level are you on?” or “How do you play this game?” If she is watching a show, you can make remarks like, “Who’s that funny character?” or “What is this show about?” At first, she might not answer, or even get exasperated because she might think that you are trying to distract her, but Filliozat says it is important to just keep going.

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    This whole process of “building a bridge” works in two ways. First, it allows you to show your child that you are actually interested in what she is interested in. In an article for Motherly, author Anita Lehmann writes, “Children love it when their parents take an interest in their world.” It can help your child learn that you care about her and that you are willing to pour in the effort to form a connection with her.

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    Secondly, when you build a bridge with your child, you are slowly easing her back into the real world outside of the screen, instead of cutting her off so suddenly. “She’s coming out of the state of flow and back into a zone where she is aware of your existence—but slowly,” Lehmann says. “The dopamine doesn’t drop abruptly, because you’ve built a bridge.”

    What’s more, when you have established that bridge, it becomes easier for your child to actually hear you out and respond to your instruction.

    Next time you find yourself struggling to end your child’s screen time, try out this simple, expert-approved method. It might just work and let us know how it goes!

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