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  • How To Take The Phone Or Tablet Away Without Explosive Temper Tantrums

    You can keep the peace and minimize your exhaustion.
    by Thumby Server-Veloso .
How To Take The Phone Or Tablet Away Without Explosive Temper Tantrums
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  • It’s quiet at home. Everyone is minding their own business. Dad is on his laptop. Mom just finished uploading her latest Facebook post. The older kids enjoy a game on the PSP while the toddler is happily watching videos on the iPad.

    Then it’s time for bed, and gadgets are being turned off and put away. Except the toddler starts screaming at the top of her lungs and won’t stop unless the iPad is given back. You don’t want to give in, but everyone is so tired, and you just want the tantrum to end. Five more minutes won’t hurt, right?

    What happens when you always give in to the kids

    This is a common struggle for many parents of toddlers during the pandemic. The kids have been glued to their screens much more than we would like to admit. Parents realize their toddlers can be good at managing devices — unlocking phones, opening apps, playing games — even before they learn self-help skills like feeding or dressing, brushing their teeth, tying shoelaces, and using the potty.

    We need to remember that tantrums are goal-oriented. Children have them for many reasons, including feeling stressed, tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, or unable to communicate. With screen use, tantrums occur because they want their gadget back and all the feelings that come with it, such as being in control, feeling happy, and getting entertained.

    Every time we hand over the devices, we are only reinforcing the cycle and telling our child it’s okay to use crying as a means to get what he wants. Eventually, they can turn into adults who manipulate others using big emotions.


    Signs of addiction to gadgets

    We see the term “gadget addiction,” and wonder if that’s something our child is suffering from. Well here

    Characteristics of addiction for toddlers include:

    • Displaying problematic behavior when gadgets are taken away like becoming very sad, angry, or listless
    • Using screens as mood boosters, wherein the child seems to get excited or especially happy when using gadgets
    • Showing little or no interest in other activities, toys, or even playtime with family or friends, which could also affect their relationship with others
    • Continuing to use gadgets beyond acceptable times such as way past bedtime or even during meal times

    How to take phone or tablet away from your child 

    If you are worried about your child being addicted to gadgets, help him disengage from the screen through a calm and consistent approach.

    • While the tantrum is going on, empathize with your child. Acknowledge that his strong feelings. For example, “I know you’re mad because you want to play some more.”
    • Give reassurances: “But you’re going to be okay.”
    • Offer alternatives or try to re-direct: “Mommy wants to play with you for a bit. Let’s go get your toys.”

    Try to stay calm, or at least try your best to appear calm. Avoid shouting, do not spank or threaten a child with a tantrum — it will only escalate the episode. Instead, think of tantrums as a power struggle: the person with the most control of their emotions gets to be in charge.

    If your child continues to have a tantrum, and you feel there is nothing more to say, then move away. For example, “I know you’re upset, so I am going to finish folding our clothes until you’re ready to play.”

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    Continue with your chores or whatever you were doing, where you can still keep an eye on your child to make sure they don’t hurt themselves. Some children have figured out how to control their parents by holding their breath or forcing themselves to vomit. While these may seem hard to ignore, always try to keep your reactions in check. The bigger your response, the more likely your child will use this technique again.

    Two ways to handle toddler tantrum

    Sometimes, when they get to this point, kids are actually crying for your help to assist them in regulating their feelings. There are two very different ways to help.

    The first is to completely ignore your kids. While the second is to give a tight hug, rock them gently and say over and over, “Enough.” Whichever you choose depends on your parenting style and how much self-regulation you think your child can handle.

    To help your child enjoy a life with less gadget use, you will have to:

    Lessen screen time gradually. Increase other playtime activities by engaging with your child in music and movement, including your child in household chores, and encouraging them to do physical activities or sports.

    Praise your child whenever they can give up screens without a struggle. Give warm hugs and big smiles so your child knows that the reward for this behavior is positive attention, which feels good for everyone.

    Lead by example. Work together as a family to deal with the problem. Toddlers and preschoolers living in families with older siblings and parents that are constantly connected to their gadgets cannot be expected to switch off their devices if everyone else is glued to a screen.


    How to spend gadget or screen time wisely

    Re-think about how your young children are using technology and how you can make it work positively for your family. Then, break down your child’s gadget time into three categories: interactive, educational, and fun.


    Look at your screen times, and find out where you can include interactive activities. For example, having virtual play dates with friends or Zoom meets with grandparents, family video game time, or watching movies or shows together, so you and your child can talk about the show’s characters or moments.


    This does not only apply to online school work, but it also includes reading for fun or doing educational videos or games.


    This is the time your child is allowed to play games of their choice or simply watch videos or shows for pleasure.

    You also want to make sure that screen-free times are allotted for parents and children to interact together — this needs to include mealtimes, playtime, or just enjoying each others’ company. The more social interaction and parental attention your children consistently receive, the less likely they will be glued to their screens for relaxation.

    We want to remember that young children need our help in regulating behavior, managing emotions, setting routines, and enforcing rules. This way, they can do these things on their own as they grow.

    And while it may seem like the easy thing to do to allow our children to do whatever makes them happy (and they aren’t hurting anyone), we are doing them a great disservice by letting their tantrums over screen time win.


    Barbara Server-Veloso is known as Teacher Thumby at her preschool, Toddlers Unlimited, and Ms. Thumby at her grade school, Thinkers Unlimited, Alabang. She is also a partner in Spark Discovery Center, where she teaches the Baby and Me Class. Teacher Thumby has a Master’s degree from the University of the Philippines in Family Life and Child Development. She has been teaching since 1993. She is also the mother of Lucas and Verena.

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