My husband and I do not share the same view on how much technology our kids (nine and thirteen) should have access to. It creates a lot of tension in our house, not to mention confusion with our kids, who of course ask him if they can have time online instead of coming to me.
Few parents are crystal clear about how much is too much when it comes to giving their kids access to technology. It hardly surprises me that two adults from different backgrounds and with different sensibilities don't see eye to eye on how much screen time their children should have. Here are my thoughts:
Don't parent your partner. Nobody likes a Know-It-All, particularly someone we live with who knows that we don't always have all the answers -- even when we act as though we do. If you come AT your husband in a way that presumes you know what is right or best for your children, he is not -- I repeat, not -- going to be receptive to your input. Resist the urge to tell him that he doesn't know as much as you do, or that he's flat out wrong.
Acknowledge his reasons. Some parents resist facing the possibility that their child is relying too heavily on their screens because they themselves like to veg out in front of the compute or iPad and don't want to appear hypocritical. Others enjoy playing video games with their kids; they view it as a bonding experience. And other parents want their kids to be savvy in a digital world, believing that more is mostly better. Find out specifically what your husband believes so that you can respectfully acknowledge his point of view before proposing you find a middle ground.
Propose a compromise. Marriage is built on both people demonstrating a willingness to choose the relationship over Winning. While this doesn't always play out in real life, it is important to try to forge a compromise when parents have differing opinions about what is best for their child.
Suggest a short-term trial. Perhaps your husband will be more willing to reduce screen-time in your home if you propose something that feels manageable. Some families try an unplugged weekend -- from Friday night until Monday morning. Others take a week off, filling in what might have been screen-related down time with art projects, outdoor play or board games. If your husband observes happier, more cooperative kids after a temporary pause from their digital use, he may come on board with your plan to cut back overall.
In many respects, your issue is as much about strengthening the connection between you and your husband as it is about deciding on how many hours a week your kids should be on their iPad or video games. By coming alongside your husband as an ally rather than an adversary, you may make more headway around this challenging parenting issue.
Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and the brand new Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (An Eckhart Tolle Edition). She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.
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