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Taking Away Devices as Punishment


I know, it's such a simple thing to do! They act up, you take their device away. It's easy and effective, right?

Yes, it's definitely easy, and it might seem effective in the moment, but here are a couple of reasons why punishments actually create more misbehavior in the future.

  1. Taking away a cell phone makes the child focus on you and what they need to do to get their phone back, not on improving the behavior you want them to. This can encourage lying, manipulating, and people-pleasing.

  2. When taken away for unrelated misbehaviors like backtalk, not completing a task you asked them to do, or having a messy room, this can feel "mean" and may cause resentment to build, which might eventually turn into rebellion.

The most important need children receive from their parents is secure connection. When you take a device away as punishment, that connection suffers. Instead, think of ways to use appropriate consequences and boundaries to keep the connection intact.

  1. When your child misbehaves, use curiosity to figure out their missing need. The missing need usually is mirrored in the feeling YOU feel. If you feel disrespected, they are feeling disrespected too, which might come out as backtalk. Take some time to evaluate how you have been relating to your child and find if there are ways to build back more mutual respect.

  2. If it's something as simple as not completing chores, you can set up a respectful and related consequence. "I asked you to help by doing the dishes before you went to your friend's house, and I see they weren't done. You will need to finish them as soon as you get home before you do anything else." Or set a personal boundary, "Your room is so messy that I can't walk through it. I won't be able to get your laundry or vacuum until it's cleaned up and safe enough for me to walk through."

However, if you notice your child continually not keeping up with schoolwork because they are overusing time on their devices, then it would be an appropriate consequence to take it away in a respectful way. "I've noticed you have been on your phone a lot this week, and your grades have slipped. Let's try a few days without electronics to see if you can catch up on your missing assignments, and then you can try to balance your device time better next week."

It's important to have time limits and boundaries that are right for your family, but you also want to make sure you communicate those respectfully. This will help foster a trusting relationship with your child, which means they will more likely come to you for help when an online issue arises.

For more tips like this, you can also follow me on TikTok, Instagram, or Facebook.

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