In my book, “Keeping Kids in the Home and Out of the System,” I included a section entitled, “Courageous Conversations.” I discuss topics that, in my experience, some parents have found it difficult to hear.
One of the courageous issues is entitled, “If she loves it, she won’t want to lose it.” I remind parents that they have untapped power that does not require them to raise their voices or expend physical energy to get their children to comply. Parents have to take something desirable away from the child that the parents control to get kids to obey.
Today, more than ever, that thing that kids love and fear losing is their connection to the world-wide-web. Most kids will do anything not to lose their phones, tablets, laptops, or desktop computers. According to Cash, Rae, Steel, and Winkler (2012), the overuse of electronics has resulted in what experts call Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD). This condition may meet the criteria for the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) definition for addiction in that IAD interferes with daily functioning, causes neurological complications, psychological disturbances, and social problems.
Despite the potential issues associated with prolonged and persistent use of the internet, social media devices offer a reinforcement object that parents may use to reinforce good behavior. When kids do not comply, the device(s) are withheld until they comply.
Recently, one of my clients was complaining of emotional and physical fatigue. He had completed many physical tasks and was frustrated because the teen in his home would not volunteer to help him with the work. When I asked why he didn’t require the teen to assist with the manual labor on that particular day, he didn’t want to awaken the teen because he had been up all night on that “dumb computer game.” Further discussion revealed that the teen enjoyed playing video games with people all over the world. My client’s California teen would sometimes stay up all night to play with a “gamer” living out-of-state or another country.
I asked my exhausted client what would have happened if he had awakened the teen. My client said that he would prefer to do the work himself instead of being subjected to the teen’s grumpy attitude. I confirmed that to avoid confronting the teen’s attitude at the moment, my client chose to do the work himself and be frustrated and tired in the long run. That realization did not feel right to my client.
I then asked my client if he believed that the teen would have been more helpful if he had taken the gaming device away from the teen or disconnected the internet the day before so that the game was not operational, allowing the teen to have a good night’s rest. With sufficient rest, the teen would have been willing, able, and available to help with the chores. My client would have had less physical labor to perform and would be less physically tired and emotionally frustrated with his teen.
We agreed that if his teen loved gaming, he would not want to lose the privilege of using his gaming devices. In the long-run, we concluded that my client’s son should earn the right to use the extra resources that his parents have to offer.
The Parent Project© curriculum offers proven and practical advice to parents who are raising challenging children. According to the program, when kids do not follow directions when asked, parents should take everything away for a short period of time. This strategy is called T.E.A.S.P.O.T. The emphasis is on taking away something that the child desires just long enough to miss the object but not long enough to get used to not having the desired item.
Kids are very resilient, so they adjust quickly. When denied using something they like for a long time, kids will either find another way to get it or get used to not having it. According to the Parent Project© curriculum, parents should make a list of the things that their children enjoy doing. Kids enjoy listening to music, talking/texting on the phone, goody foods, privacy in their room, time on their electronic devices, driving a car, practicing sports, going to social events, etc. Parents are to prioritize the list from least restrictive to most restrictive. When the child is not displaying desirable behavior, the parent will begin taking away things from the list for a short time or until they perform the desired action.
The Parent Project© curriculum cautions parents to be conscious of returning the desired object immediately when the behavior has changed to shape the behavior. My client could have turned the internet back on when the teen gamer mentioned above completed the chores if he were not too tired.
n Lisa Hill, Ph.D., is an associate professor in criminal justice at California State University, East Bay and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She worked for county and federal probation departments for three decades and in 2018 published a book inspired by her career, “Keeping Kids In the Home and Out of the System.” She and her husband have lived in Tracy for 32 years and have four children. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cash, Rae, Steel, and Winkler (2012). Current Psychiatry Review, 84(2). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3480687/
Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) on-line measurements. https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/practice/dsm/educational-resources/assessment-measures
The Parent Project© https://parentproject.com