You want to reign in your kids' use/abuse of video games and gadgets, right?
Does the old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” ring any bells?
Does this mean that you should keep off screens, yourself, to model “good” behavior?
Not exactly. Sure, in the everyday struggles of parenting a child with complex issues like ADHD, Anxiety and more, it's imperative that you set the example.
But it's more about keeping your cool than anything else -- even in the face of meltdowns or objections when you start to set limits.
Go with me here – it's not as hard as you think.
Your ability to mindfully choose your thoughts and responses has a direct impact on the outcomes you want to achieve…including helping your kids reduce their dependence on screen-time!
Here are some tips for upping the quality of your thoughts.
Setting the Stage
The sort-of-obvious starting point is to appreciate what's going on in your child's brain, and in your own...
Understand The Lack of Regulation: The ADHD child, in particular, has a fundamental issue with regulation -- of impulses, emotions, actions. Anxiety and other issues can have a similar impact. This calls on the parent to double-regulate, which can be frustrating for everyone.
Feed (Both) Your Brains: What's in the stomach directly impacts what happens in the brain, and at the kitchen table. Keep both your brains fueled with protein, and steer clear of sugary drinks and simple carbs.
Know (Both) Your Triggers: Do a quick inventory of the things your child does (or doesn't do) that most frequently freak you out. Do the same for the things you do that tend to trigger him/her. Awareness of these two lists will help you “cause the pause” that can mitigate escalation.
Count (Both) Your Blessings: Gratitude is perhaps the most underrated behavioral savior. A brief check of blessings, or pausing to find the positives in a given situation, can literally change your brain chemistry on the spot.
Taking Control, Starting with Stress
When we're not in control, our kids don't have a shot at being in control, themselves. Indeed, as ADHD and mindfulness expert Dr. Mark Bertin says, “One of the best predictors of a child's stress level is the parent's stress level.”
What is stress in this context? For the most part, to paraphrase Elaine Taylor-Klaus, it's what's going on inside our head (as well as our body) in response to what's going on outside.
“The greatest weapon against stress…is our ability to choose one thought over another.”- William James
To the extent we can control our own thoughts, we can control our reactions to the situation at hand.
Now, you might say, “Control my thoughts? How on earth…? I'm no Buddhist monk!!” Actually, there's a Buddhist monk trapped inside you just waiting to break out …
Choosing Your Thoughts
It's just a matter of identifying and labeling your thoughts so you can escape the overwhelm, have calm control over tough situations, and influence others around you to be more Zen (your kids included).
So for instance, let's say you're either on the verge or in the midst of a classic struggle with your kid. There are more choices than you might realize:
Big vs Small: The first choice we have is whether the situation is a relevant issue, or just a peevy little one. Stop and consider. If its small, you might be able to decide… “Hey – I'm not gonna react at all!”
Take It Personally vs Take It in Stride: Its sometimes hard not to take the actions and utterances of our little ones personally. Your child's losing his/her cools does not always equal disrespect.
Take the Bait or Count to Eight: This is about those triggers. If you're keenly aware of your and your child's, you've got a better shot at choosing to count out a pause-for-peace.
Defensive vs Inoffensive: When either party starts to feel defensive, things can quickly escalate to a new level. Watch for defensive thoughts of your own and defensive posture from your child. Both signal a time to choose wisely.
As Dr. Bertin says, “When we're not mindful, we're not making choices.” And when we're not making conscious choices, we are not in control.
The good news is, when we ARE making conscious choices, we are in COMMAND!
By the way, the more you practice these Zen choices, the more they'll rub off on your kids – cuz yes, they CAN learn mindfulness techniques…if they have a mindful teacher!