Institute of Child Psychology

Removing Electronics

Does this sound familiar?

“Stop being so sassy! Give me your phone.”

“I’m taking away your Switch for a month!”

“You’ll get your iPad back when you can learn to be respectful!”

For so many exhausted parents, removing electronics- the one thing that their child seems to really care about- seems to be an impactful consequence…until it’s not.

The best type of consequences are natural consequences and logical consequences. Natural consequences happen as a result of the child’s behaviour without a parent’s interference.  An example of a natural consequence would be to refrain from rescuing your child from an assignment due date and to let the resulting course “play out”, or a child getting cold because they didn’t wear a coat (despite you telling them to). A logical consequence is when the consequence is related to the behaviour and is determined by the parent. This is the type of consequence that we are going to focus on. Logical consequences need to encompass the 3 R’s…they need to be Related to the behaviour, Reasonable, and Respectful to the child.

When the removal of electronics is utilized for every behavioural issue with your child- it eventually loses its power. It’s often not related to the behaviour, so no real learning occurs in the incident. It’s also common for it not to be reasonable- as parents try to hold onto power- the removal of electronics often happens for longer and longer periods of time. Furthermore, it lacks in being respectful- it’s an impulsive reaction that does not focus on what just happened between you and your child.  There is no deeper lesson. It is simply to make your child feel “bad” for their behaviour, which in turn threatens to erode the bond between you and your child. Imagine if every time you were in conflict with your partner that instead of trying to figure it out with you, they demanded that you hand over your phone. It’s a power move that lacks respect and integrity.

Every challenging interaction with your child is an opportunity to teach, to guide them, and to get to know them from a new perspective- relying on constantly removing technology stumps all of this potential growth.

In my clinical experience, I have seen that eventually teens outsmart their parents. Parents will remove a teen’s phone, to which they shrug and say “go ahead, I don’t care.” I have had teens tell me that, even with devices removed, they still access the internet via a second device, via school, or through a friend’s device. Eventually parents become outsmarted.

There are times when the removal of technology may be warranted- when this removal is related to the action. Examples include a child not being able to switch off their device when asked, a teen using their phone late at night when they should be sleeping, or when a child is engaging in inappropriate behaviour online. It is always best if the consequence is discussed ahead of time and then consistently (and warmly) enforced by the parents.

The next time that you need to utilize a consequence, stop and ask yourself- what is the purpose of the consequence? How can I guide my child in learning from this experience? Is the consequence Related, Reasonable, and Respectful?

When we utilize the 3 “R’s”, we move away from knee-jerk reactions and instead become intentional about how we respond to our children during critical moments.

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