GUEST BLOG POST: Limiting Screen Time While Keeping Your Relations with Your Child Intact by Cynthia Gill, Co-Author, JUMP-STARTING BOYS

What is more important than the relationship with our children? I can’t think of too many things. But most parents make one of several mistakes. The first is they tend to focus more on the behavior than the child’s heart, correcting in ways that do not nurture the relationship. Punitive, harsh, drill-sergeant type of discipline is very discouraging for the child.  The other extreme is to give in to the child’s desires, being their friend, and not correct them effectively. Then there is the parent that hovers; a strategy of over-involvement also leaves the child discouraged. The child that defies parental limits is crying for encouragement. 

In today’s world the allure of screen time is robbing our children. Research is showing that screen time increases kids’ aggression, obesity, and impulsivity, while decreasing their attention span. It is vital for parents to set firm limits on how much time their children spend in front of a screen.  So how to correct effectively? 

One key is nurturing the relationship the rest of the time.  Connection is attained by laughter, eye contact, physical contact, and a sense of doing things together. Play together. Do projects together. Let them choose activities to do with you. This will assure that there is enough deposit in his/her “love account” so you won’t “drain it” or go into “overdraft” when it is time to correct your child.  

The number one rule when correcting is to keep yourself calm!  A child is frightened and goes into fight or flight mode instantly when the parent is angry.

Secondly, use tools of connection to correct the child. This may be a question “Are you asking me or telling me?”  “How do you think we can solve this problem?”  Or it may be a choice: “do you want to clean up the bathroom or do the dishes?” It maybe a time-in, where the child sits near you until they calm themself down and are ready to talk.

Encouragement does not mean flattery. It is the ability to convey to the child “you can do it! I believe in you.” Let your child have the dignity of being able to think for him/herself. Ask them to problem solve with you. Admit it when you are too harsh, or when you are too rigid. Nurture them, showing them by your calm, encouraging manner that they are capable, they count, and that connection is as vital to you as it is to them!

It is easy to see how this applies to limiting screen time and keeping a strong relationship with the child. Here are a few tips:

Use an encouraging stance. “I know you want to be a kid that others respect. What makes people admire someone?”  This will open a discussion on character: honesty, creativity, consideration, ability to collaborate, and other such qualities. Gently lead your children into coming up with ideas of how to practice those things. Chances are as you brainstorm together, ideas for activities that are fun, co-operative, and creative will flow. Examples could include: puppet shows, baking and bringing food to neighbors, reading books to younger kids either in the family or the neighborhood, writing and illustrating original stories, having a lemonade stand, playing board games, making cards for kids with cancer, entering contests of various kinds, sports involvement… The possibilities are endless.

        Focus on the positive, not the restriction. Use questions that begin with how and what to engage them. “How are we going to find enough time to put on puppet show for the neighbors at the get-together this weekend?” “What shall we do to solve the problem of taking turns on the computer after school?”

They can earn screen time through valuable activities. One hour of reading, creating, working, for each ½ hour of screen time. Keep tally cards on the fridge.

Model it yourself. “Do as I say and not as I do” is ineffective, so limit your own entertainment screen time. And be honest with them about your struggles to do so.

In conclusion, your attitude is the most important component in determining how your child will respond to limits and guidance. Calm, confident, playful, creative, and flexible parents have a much better success rate in connecting with their children. Replace anger, lectures, and threats with encouragement, playful humor, and choices. If you need to, administer logical consequences with empathy. You and your child will reap the benefits the rest of your lives.

(There are many more tips, ideas & anecdotes in our book) 

Cynthia Gill and Pam Withers are the authors of JUMP-STARTING BOYS: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life.

Everyone knows boys are falling behind girls in education. And that has lots of people, especially educators and politicians, busy pointing fingers and engaging in loud discussions. But what about the average guilt-ridden, frustrated mother or father of an underachieving boy? Someone who wants to know in plain language what’s behind this trend and what they can do about it? What about readers who crave positive support, not political shrillness? Most existing books on “the boy problem” make parent readers feel even more helpless than the school system and their job demands have made them feel already. Jump-starting Boys is the first book that offers parents a sense of being able to reclaim the duty and rewards of raising their children and assuring them they really can mitigate and/or work with the influences of school, media and more.

 Jump-Starting Boys has heart-warming true stories and take-action checklists. Filled with reassurance and support, the authors turn fear and guilt into can-do confidence. Through easy tips and action list sidebars, this is a practical, readable book that also features findings from original surveys commissioned amongst education and psychology professionals.  This is a smart read!!

Cynthia Gill, MA, LMFT

During her thirty-year career as a high school teacher, Cynthia Gill worked on innovative curricula development and served as an academic dean, while winning acclaim for her work in the classroom. She completed her master’s degree in Adlerian psychotherapy and counseling in 2006, and has since worked with families, adolescents, and children as a licensed marriage and family therapist. She currently counsels fulltime in Chanhassen, MN.

Cynthia teaches as an adjunct instructor at Adler Graduate School, Richfield, MN, and enjoys public speaking, particularly on parent education. She has led numerous groups of students on educational and service trips to Russia, Germany, and Latin America. A former homeschooling mom, Cynthia also served as a consultant to homeschooling families with an accrediting organization. She and her husband live in Chanhassen, MN and like to bicycle and travel. They have three grown sons, two daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. Her website is

To purchase the book, click HERE.

Pam Withers is a former business journalist and the bestselling, award-nominated author of more than a dozen adventure novels particularly popular with teen boys. She is also co-author with John Izzo of the highly acclaimed Values Shift: The New Work Ethic and What It Means for Business (Prentice Hall Canada 2000). Her magazine writing credits include McCalls, Working Woman, Profit and numerous inflight magazines. Withers travels North America extensively, speaking at schools, librarians’ and writers’ conferences. She’s a dual U.S./Canadian citizen. The second of six siblings, she spent her growing-up years trying to measure up to her smarter, better-looking older sister, Cynthia. (She has just about outgrown that.) Withers and her husband, a university professor, live in Vancouver, Canada, where they recently completed raising a high-energy son who spent his adolescence as the official teen editor of her teen adventure novels. Visit

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