Child Behavior Management, Kids Misbehaving When Parents Focus On Mobiles

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As part of child behavior management, it is important to ask if you think kids’ misbehaving or throwing tantrums rises when you as parents focus on your mobiles?


I am sure 99% of your said yes, or quietly nodded to the above question. Well, we don’t need a child behavior management study to tell us that 95% of a kids’ tantrum rises if you do not focus on what they want or say.  In fact, one Mr. Brandon McDaniel in his study of technology intrusions into face-to-face meetings or discussions coined the term “Technoference”. Basically, it means interference by technology in our social interactions.


The study took very few subset of US families, about 170 and tried to understand whether use of tech instruments by parents gives rise to child behavioral problems.  Results do suggest what we feared, that using tech instruments when they are not supposed to be used does give rise to problematic child behavior.


Child Behavior Management, what does it entail?


In order to be able to understand how these technology intrusions disrupt our quality time with our kids. We need to first understand how a child really behaves to situations. If I look at my own house, when my daughter wants me to play doll house with her, what she really means is that she wants me to spend some quality time with her. After being away from her for more than 8 hours, it is only natural for her to have such a simple request. In this situation how and what we tell the kid largely depends on how they are going to behave for the rest of the evening.


For a child, the math is very simple, either you come play with me or tell me you will play later. And that is what I more often than not end up doing. Since I get home after driving in traffic it is only natural for me to be wanting to relax. At the same time, I do not want to snub my kiddo and what she is calmly asking. So I would rather promise to play after half hour then say, No in her face. This type of interaction ensures that her behavior is in control.


Now in the same scenario if my answer was flat no, then she would start to sulk. She will start to insist that I play with her. If I am speaking to my wife she will come and interfere our conversation. All these acts are basically a way to tell me that since I said no to her request, she will not allow me to relax. I am sure we all have been through these challenges but never really thought about it.


How does technology cause a disruption


Now in the same scenario above, after agreeing to play with her, I spent some 2 mins building the doll house with pillows (that’s what she loves to do), then suddenly I will turn around and catch a glimpse on my mobile. Check some WhatsApp messages, emails, facebook, which by the way are all irrelevant at the moment. All these while she must be wanting to say something to me for the next course of play acting. But seeing me busy on my smartphone, would indirectly tell her that I am not concentrating.


Now after sometime, playing different games and peeking into the phone continues in parallel will really get on the nerves of the kid. Afterall, I am sure you do not like to be snubbed when speaking or doing something. That’s the same principle that applies to a kids behavior.


The kid will simply think that their Dad is more interested in the mobile than them or their fun times. They came up to you and asked you politely to play with them and not giving them undivided attention is simply very rude.


What to do when kids’ misbehave or show tantrum


Well, when they are at their peak of throwing tantrums then there is nothing much you can do except for giving them all your attention. But prevention is better than cure. To cut the misbehavior at the root, we as parents need to start respecting our kids time. When it is fun or family time, do not turn on the laptop, or the TV or worse keep peeking into your mobile. Afterall, these kids want only an hour of time to fulfill their desires of spending some time with their parents. In that time, you need to be 100% present both physically and mentally.

child behavior management kid sulking and sad


If we all start to practice giving our full attention during these family times, then the kid will naturally be more fulfilled and hence, show zero tantrums for wearing clothes, food, etc.


Try a case study by yourself


To understand this better, I tried a case study myself. For one week when my daughter asked me to play with her, I agreed but I always kept my smartphone nearby and purposefully kept glancing at it every now and then. By the third or the fourth day, she could not help but shout at me to keep the mobile away. Yes, it was that annoying for her that I kept glancing at something else when playing with her.


Her behavior was very erratic, sulky every evening from day 3 onwards. She would take hours to finish her supper. She will not wash her hands or throw tantrums before agreeing. In short, she was giving us hell. We never realized that it could be due to my experiments and thought it must be her hunger. But even after feeding her when her behavior did not improve it was quite evident why.


The following week I did not pick my mobile from the table spending time with her. Even when we out with her to the park or just playing inside the house. She was, in fact, a transformed child. Though the effects of the past week flowed into the first 2 days of the turn around a week from day 3 onwards her behavior was normal. In fact, by the end of the week, she was very happy and cheerful in the evening. She would drink and eat everything that we gave her. She would also wash her hands and even her face without us telling.


It matters that as part of child behavior management, we focus on kids not smartphones


That would be a resounding, Yes!. When we are giving some family time to our kids, our tech items should be kept away. If you need to be using your phone then never agree to play with them at the time. If you agreed then you have the responsibility to be giving 100% accountability to that time. For a kid, it does not matter whether you play with them for hours or just 10-15 mins. What really matters to them and subsequently to their behavior is the quality of time. If you are there mentally and physically then your kid will become the most behaved child you never had.


Try your own case study and see the results. For proper child behavior management technology instruments such as mobiles should not be allowed to interfere with the quality time. No technoference, please.

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