Posted: November 01, 2016 12:14 by admin
Topics: technology, discipline

Discipline & Technology
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Recently, while I was driving to work, I noticed that I was feeling very melancholy. I wondered why and then I remembered that the previous evening had been somewhat tough. I took my 16-year-old daughter’s iPhone 5 away from her. She knew it was coming based on the consequences of a contract she had signed related to her failing grades. End of semester grades were posted last evening and when the time came she handed over her phone without argument.  But why was I feeling glum when I had done the right thing as a parent?
 
Part of the reason, I realized, had more to do with me than with her.  I’m not blaming my parents. I did that years ago and am over that now. I’m just taking my own teenage experience with discipline into account to explain my reaction to conflict and discipline.  My parents were “old school” and my father was in the military.  It follows that their style of discipline was harsh and based on high expectations for children’s behavior. For me as a teenager, conflict was about a lot of yelling and crying, being grounded and then feeling very sorry for myself.  This in turn resulted in a blow to my already fragile self-esteem.
 
You may ask why is this important? Parents need internal control before enforcing a consequence with their child.  One method of having internal control is to take a minute to reflect on how you react to conflict based on experience and emotion attached to the experience.  In my personal experience, I never want to enforce a consequence when I am angry because my old memories and emotions surrounding them may make me fearful, angrier or both.
 
If you feel that anger is starting to take hold, take a time out by telling your child that you need a little break and that you will talk with them when you are feeling a bit more logical. Your child then learns that his parent actually gets angry yet manages their emotions in a healthy and respectful way.
 
Part of the reason had to do with her and not me. One of a teenager’s favorite tactics is either deflection or guilt-tripping the parent. Deflection may sound like, “well, it really wasn’t my fault,” or “I don’t learn anything in this class,” or “the teacher doesn’t really teach.”   Guilt-tripping may also sound like “all my other grades are good; doesn’t that count?” or “you didn’t do this with my brother/sister.” This is a teenager’s attempt to regain their precious phone and get what they want, not necessarily what they need. Hence, the parent may feel guilt for not giving their child what they want and even try to convince themselves that it is what the teenager needs because the teenager tells them that they have to have it because it is their social life, etc.
 
Tonight, just before sitting down to write this blog, I came across an article by John Cowan (http://www.theparentingplace.com/technology/is-your-child-ready-for-a-cell-phone/). What timing! In the first paragraph, Mr. Cowan states, “ Good discipline that leads to internal discipline, coupled with ongoing good relationships, are the real keys, not banning cell phones.” His topic is whether cell phones, particularly in the hands of a child, destroy families.  While that is not my topic here, his comment resonated with me.
 
After all, isn’t internal discipline the ultimate goal we, as parents, are striving to achieve in our children? In order for our children to ultimately grow into healthy, democratic (not the political term), and productive individuals, they must have values, virtues, and many skills. One of these skills is internal locus of control. So how do parents teach this? How do parents instill internal locus of control in their children? Authoritarian parents instill internal locus of control by providing and following-through with logical and natural consequences for their child’s undesired behavior.
 
In his article, Mr. Cowan suggests, and I agree with the following guidelines pertaining to cell phone use:
 
  • Set limits around cell phone use.
  • Even if your child buys the phone and pays their own phone bill (John and I both think they should when they are old enough to earn money), a child’s use of their phone is still subject to your house rules (e.g. reasonable rules might include phones off at mealtimes, phones off after 9 PM).
  • Cell phones (and internet use) are a privilege, not a right. Privileges come from trust and trust comes from transparency. Transparency comes from parents reserving the right to review their child’s contacts, and both incoming and outgoing texts, posts, & pictures.
 
Beware! Following the above guidelines will not make you popular with your children and not even with some of the parents. You may not be well-liked but you will be well-loved in the sense that your children will know that you care about them and love them.
 
Now, here comes the hard part. Children tend to model what their parents do and model less what they hear. This means that you, as the parent, need to turn your phone off at mealtime and show your children that your relationship with them is more important than your virtual relationships. Mr. Cowan suggests showing your child that you have “e-free” moments in your busy life by turning off your phone when you go for a coffee, a walk, or to a sporting event with them.” I couldn’t agree more.
 
Yeah, I know. You are most likely thinking, “no way.” Parenting is not easy and neither is “walking the walk” by modeling the behavior we expect from our children. But pat yourself on the back. You are doing a good job! You’ve read this blog, haven’t you?
 
Dr. Lee Ann Lehman, The Family Psychologist, 3/30/2016


 

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About Dr. Lehman

Dr. Lehman is a recognized change agent in the field of psychology. Her passion is to find ways to achieve what each client needs – even when others say, “it can’t be done." As such, she encourages her clients to think about things differently in order to achieve their desired outcomes. Dr. Lehman brings honesty, empathy and discretion to all clients.

Dr. Lehman earned her doctoral degree in school psychology at the University of Florida and holds master’s degrees in the areas of school psychology, social agency counseling, PK-3rd grade teaching and special education. She brings more than two decades of experience working with those with emotional and behavioral disorders, personality disorders and substance abuse.

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