If you’re here, you may be struggling with the same dilemma I’ve found myself in countless times. How do I get my kids away from the screen without them constantly needing me to help entertain them? Hopefully, you’ll find a nugget of inspiration to help limit your kid’s screen time with confidence knowing you’re helping them establish healthy routines they can carry with them for a lifetime.
Prior to becoming a mom, I was one of those judgmental “experts” on parenting. I would see a disheveled mom pushing her screaming child who is wearing only one shoe through the grocery store. I’d say to myself: “Get it together. That child clearly needs a lesson in self control.”
With disgust, I would watch parents use electronic devices and televisions to “babysit their kids.”
Yes, this was me. I cringe now to think I could be so selfish not to see the struggle of those parents or even seek to understand their methods of coping.
Fast forward to today. I GET IT! I understand that mama’s dilemma. She’s exhausted. She has twenty minutes to get in and out of the market before getting back home for an important work conference call. Her little one is hungry and needs to lay down for a nap. Somewhere between the car seat and the grocery cart, that babe lost his shoe, and mama either has no idea it’s missing or frankly doesn’t care, because she’s got stuff to do. I see her and catch her eye long enough to give her an air hug and tell her, “You’re doing a great job, Mama. Hang in there.”
And screen time? I absolutely was that person who had no idea how difficult it was some days to keep a child entertained without a screen.
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Today, I am a work from home mom with two daughters (ages 8 and 10). I have no choice but to be intentional with my time (and theirs) or we will all be drowning in activities that don’t always serve us best.
I have learned that time management is pain management. Of course, that is a topic we could go into great depths about for hours. For the time being, here are some tips that you can implement right away to limit your kid’s screen time.
Teach your kids how to use a planner.
Let me preface this by acknowledging how daunting it is for some of us to make schedules and use planners. Often, we get off to a strong start sticking to a schedule, but have very minimal follow through. There are others who thrive on the structure of lists and planners. But if you’re like so many who can’t stick with planners and lists, just remember to KEEP IT SIMPLE. The more you practice implementing routine, the higher rate of success you’ll have.
Get yourself a simple planner that works best for you. Pencil in your upcoming week. Write in everything you need to get done for the week: your work hours, appointments, exercise time, kids activities, family time – schedule everything you want to get done. And don’t forget to add your quiet time.
(My husband I use Google calendar to sync our calendars. It’s an absolute must to keep our schedules and life more in order.)
Now, do the same with your kiddos. Sit with them and have them enter their school time, chore time, extracurricular activities, play dates, etc. Just like you did, it’s important to have them schedule their free time. (My girls love using the printable schedules and to-do lists.) Model the importance of setting goals, making a plan and then working the plan to achieve their goals.
I highly recommend downloading this planning & organizing bundle to simplify this process. Your entire family will benefit from implementing the tools provided within this organization bundle. The planning package was designed to help parents teach time management and give their kids an opportunity to establish the healthy routine of planning and thinking ahead. My family uses these printables daily and it has made a tremendous difference in our productivity (with work, school and personal tasks). And as a result, we enjoy our downtime together much more, knowing we’ve completed our to-do lists for the day and haven’t procrastinated.
I promise you that if you stick with it, you’re setting yourself and your family up for success.
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Set your expectations and make them crystal clear.
Healthy boundaries are essential to creating healthy routines. Make a copy of your calendar and place it somewhere where your family sees it. Highlight family time so everyone knows it is planned and non-negotiable.
Communication is key. Sit down with your family and explain that your work time is important. This is a great opportunity to review your calendars together. Converse about your acceptable interruptions. Cultivate problem solving skills by discussing examples of possible interruptions and how they can be solved without you.
Helping your child understand and practice time management fosters their independence. Ultimately, these healthy routines create freedom for all of you.
One of the most challenging tasks for me as a parent has been consistency. It would often be much easier to give in to my kids’ demands after the third time of begging. However, with nearly ten years of experience, I guarantee you being consistent with your expectations and follow-through pays off.
You’ve been clear about what is expected of them, now be sure to follow through with the reward and/or consequence that you’ve communicated. (I cannot express firmly enough how important communicating our expectations is.)
For instance, my daughters take piano lessons. I expect them to practice 20 minutes a day before they get free time or can play outside with their friends. I don’t care when they practice – I empower them with the scheduling. However, if they ask to play outside without practicing prior, they will always get the same response: “Practice then play.”
And remember the consistency of routine applies to you too — they’re watching you. You model the behavior.
Reward them with screen-free activities that include time with you.
One of the best books I’ve read as a parent is The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman. It really helped me understand what each of my girls need to fill their cup. For instance, my oldest daughter craves physical touch and quality time. When she is feeling anxious or angry, I’ve found that holding her tightly and being present with her helps calm her and get her through the rush of emotion. My younger daughter, on the other hand, seeks words of affirmation.
I share this with you, because rewards don’t always have to include electronics. Yes, it’s easier for us parents to be overly generous with screen time. However, most times our children crave more time with us and mind building activities that promote their growth and independence.
I encourage you to talk with your kiddo about what moves them toward action. Find the rewards they crave and then help build those into their week.
(Also check out our printable rewards system for kids.)
Helping your child work these routines into their lives is an effective way to keep them away from their screens. Be intentional about your time and your families’ time. Not one step has to be perfect all the time. Revisit your tactics, which may need to be tweaked now and then. Be kind to yourself knowing that you are doing your best to incorporate new healthy routines. I assure you it becomes easier with practice, and it will definitely help keep your kiddos off their screens…creating more serenity within your home.
Download your Planning & Organizing Printable Bundle now. I promise you from my own experience, that when you use these simple tools, your family time management routine will be transformed!