A Screens Family Meeting the Parenting You Way
The issue is screens. What to do? Time to call a family meeting. Focus on Connection. Listen and be open to learning something new. Keep it simple. Don't stack. Less is more. The goal is to keep the conversation going without reactivity. Remember screens are not a problem to be solved but an opportunity to get to know one another.
It might go something like this.
Dad – I’d like to talk about screens. Can we meet before dinner tonight, let’s say 5 pm after I pick you up from soccer.
Son (13) – I’m busy. I’ve got homework.
Dad – I know you’re busy, but I need you to help me understand why you want to be on screens more than I want you to be on screens.
Son – What do you mean?
Dad – It means this time I’m going to listen more than I’m going to talk. Promise.
Dad – I’m not going to take your computer away. I’m not going to punish you. I want to understand the intoxication of it. I want you to teach me. I want you to tell me how this is good for you.
The goal of the family meeting is to surface what’s internally going on for both parent and child.
Son: I love it. It’s fun. It makes me feel good. I need a break from people being at me all day long.
Dad is listening. He's open to being taught something new about his son's computer use. To not take over, he's willing himself to stay quiet.
Son: (expecting to be interrupted).. I don’t know. I come home, and all I have to look forward to is doing homework. I have this cool game going on with these kids from all over the world. And I’m winning. I’m really good. I mean really good. Like kids are trying to kill me and they can’t. I’m unkillable because I know how to protect myself.
Dad: That’s cool. And you love it.
Son: Yeah. It’s more fun than homework and listening to you and mom talk about stuff.
Dad: I get it. I love playing golf for the same reasons. I’m good at it, and it makes me feel good about myself, and it’s a break from things I don’t like as much.
Dad: So how much computer is too much computer, do you think?
Son: I don’t know.
Dad: Do you think you should be on screens as much as you want and I shouldn’t say anything?
Son: Yeah. The reason you don’t want me on screens is that you don’t understand it. You think it’s like a drug and I’m becoming that kid who can’t talk to people in real life. It’s not true. I can and do all day, and I also like to talk to kids through gaming. And because you don’t do it and don’t get it, you think it’s unhealthy. It’s not.
Dad: Ok. I get it. I do. But here’s the thing, if you were me, would you want your child to have some boundaries on computer use?
Son: No. I actually wouldn’t care about it like you do. I mean you get upset and then yell at me because you don’t understand. So somedays I can be on it and other days I can’t because of how you feel that day or hour.
Dad: I’m inconsistent.
Son: Totally inconsistent.
Dad: So how do you want to move forward?
Son: Let me be on screens when I want to be on screens and if it starts to get in the way of school and other things..
Dad: Like hanging out with Mom and me?
Son: Yeah, then we should talk again about this because maybe I can’t see if it’s “taking over.”
Dad: That sounds like a good plan. If it starts to interfere with school and hanging out with us, then we’ll talk again. I like that. How about you?
Son: Ok. Do you feel better?
Dad: Yeah, I do. Thanks for talking to me.
Son: You’re welcome.