Here are some practical strategies to implement. If you have tried these already and they don't work, give me a call—it might be time for more advanced and personalized help.
New Blog Coming.
I haven't been great at keeping the practical hints up to date, and that is partially because I've had to type directly into the html. That is a big pain, so I haven't done it as much as I would like, and you don't get to read as much as you would like. So, a blog is on its way. It will replace the Practical Hints section of the East Bay Family Therapy website, and the newest post will show there (here) as well as on the front page, where it will replace the lower left section, now titled Therapy where the whole family benefits. With the blog software in place, I'll be able to post more easily, plus there will be a place for you to comment, both on my article and to others who comment as well. My aim is to provide an outlet for helpful information, some of which I will write, and some of which I will link to. My hope for you is that you find it informative, keep coming back for more, and form a community with other commenters. That, of course, will take some time to grow.
Technology Home Invasion
Technology is here to stay. How to make peace with it:
The Hard: Pulling your child away from instant messaging, video games, text messages, etc. is a major struggle. You see your children are wasting their lives.
The Easy: Technology provides several benefits to your kids. You are the foreigner in this world. You could just let it go.
What to do: Make use of the relationship you have with your child to begin a discussion about the pros and cons of technology. Stay away from "addiction" metaphors. You will get better results if you use a healthy/unhealthy discussion rather than an addiction/abstinence talk. Instead, host the same type of conversation you might have with your child around healthy eating, such as the difference between bringing your own lunch and eating fast food. Help your children make choices about what is healthy for them, asking after such details as learning, concentrating on homework, lack of sleep, the best ways to restore energy, exercise, and the benefits of face-to-face connections with real people.
Benefits: Your children might not have made connections between technological-use choices and longer-term (more than a day or so) consequences. Your children are much more likely to stick to rules they help create for themselves, especially when they are out of your sight. Later, when they are in college and find they are not getting the studying done they need to, these conversations can float back into consciousness.
Whose problem is it?
Answering this question can help you relax.
The Hard: Your child is in trouble, and it is hard to let him figure it out on his own.
The Easy: You don't have to go into emergency-problem-solving mode. You can watch your child grow right before your eyes.
What to do: First off, you have to decide if this is your problem or not. If the problem only affect you indirectly (for example: poor grades, lousy friends, ruined clothing, lost teddy bear), then it is your child's direct problem. Second, empathize. Let your child know you care, that you get how upsetting this is to them. Third, pass the problem back to your child. "I'm curious to see how you work this out," "Let's agree that if I rip my jeans, I won't ask you to replace them," "I wonder what you will do next time she asks to borrow your MP3 player," or simply, "How are you going to fix this?" You imply in these messages that you believe your child can take care of their own consequences. You are saying, "You can handle this, sweetie."
You may ask questions of you child about how she might deal with a concern, and you can allow your child to consult with you. You can help your child discover for himself what the solution should be. However, be sure not to give firm answers, take over, solve or give advice. Otherwise, your message will be, "You can't handle this."
Benefits: Your parental workload will be cut in half. Your child will begin to learn about living life in the real world, where mommy and daddy are standing by to rescue.
Spend time with your child
The hard: If you are in conflict with your child, this can be difficult, as it can be if your child is in lots of emotional pain.
The easy: You still love your children and would like to spend time with them if they didn't behave so badly.
What to do: Once a day with younger kids, and once or twice a week with older ones, spend some time hanging out, sitting on the bed together. Listen to your child. Try to grasp the world from their points of view. Don't argue, don't give advice. Ask questions for understanding and to show your interest. Show them you are beginning to understand—empathize
Benefits: This will strengthen your relationship and increases your ability to ask for compliance later. The more you are talking, sharing, listening, the less you are arguing. Understanding your children will help you parent better.
Empathize with your child
This is not only feeling your children's emotional states, but also communicating back to them that you get it. Empathy absorbs lots of emotional pain. It also gets you out of the way of the lesson the pain can teach. For example, if your son smacks his head on the couch while roughhousing, your response to his wailing can be, "Ow, that hurts! You really hurt yourself there! Owie, Owie, Owie." (While it is difficult to show in writing, say this without sarcasm and with enough forcefulness to match your son's pain.) Since a fair amount of emotion is simply trying to communicate to another person, once your son feels heard, that you actually get that he is in pain, he will begin to settle down.
Refrain from saying, "I told you so," or "You know better to roughhouse in the house." These responses place you in between your son and the lesson the pain is trying to teach him—the exact same message you want him to learn. If you get in the way, your son can say things (perhaps only to himself) such as, "My dad is a jerk," or "My mom doesn't care about me." This shifts the focus from the pain and what caused it to your son's relationship with you, and thus misses the lesson. It also is not empathic, and thus you son may continue his caterwauling since he sense you have not yet gotten the message that he is in pain.
Keep checking back for more practical hints. Topics to come:
- It will get worse before it gets better
- Catch your child being good
- Turn off the screens