Dear Parents, do you ever have thoughts like this?

  • I wish my kid would just put down their &%$$ phone and have a real conversation with me.
  • My child should be nicer to me.
  • Why do I have to do everything for my child? They never appreciate me.

Yea, me too.

When I start to feel like a parent-victim or parent-martyr, I know I have an opportunity to come at the problem from another angle. If I’m feeling like a victim or martyr, I’ve lost my leadership role.

As a parent, I’m still the boss!

If you don’t like how your child is behaving, you can influence their behavior.

This is how:

  1. Let them know your expectations. For example, “I’d like you to say good morning to me when you come downstairs.”
  2. Tell them when their behavior isn’t up to standards, not in a threatening way, just an observation. For example, “I noticed you were doing your morning chores with your phone in your hand and then you were late for the bus.”
  3. Ask for their input. For example, “What do you think would help you get out the door on time?”
  4. Listen. As in, don’t talk or try to have a rebuttal, just listen.
  5. Ask if they would like your suggestion (and between you and me, I hope to god they say yes). For example, “Would you like to hear my idea?”
  6. Come up with a plan to try next time. For example, “I’m hearing you say you’d like 15 minutes on your phone to catch up with friends before school. What’s not working is multi-tasking chores and phone. So what you suggested is you could wake up 15 minutes earlier to get stuff done, then catch up or you could wait and catch up on the bus. What do you want to try tomorrow?”
  7. Try it. Circle back around as needed. Parenting is a dance.

At my house, access to screens is tied to face-to-face civility and family work.

Before screens, chores are done. Maybe even without me asking. (Maybe not). And throughout the day, I ask my kids for civility touchstones–“good morning” when they wake up, “goodbye” when they leave for school and “good night” before bed.

As you take back your leadership role, it helps to remember two things:

  1. You’re the leader and your job is to model and teach your kids how to be good citizens in real life and digitally.
  2. Screens are a privilege, not a right.

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