I was furious all week.
Every day brought more arguments–too much screen time, messy house, being late, kids fighting and shouting. I felt my patience disappear and anger build up. Seconds before I exploded I wanted to shout, “No screens! I’m taking your iPads, and I’m not giving them back!”
I wanted to. But I didn’t.
Instead, I said, “We need to have a family meeting.”
“No!” each of them said. One glance in my direction made it very clear to them that I was angry. I guess they imagined the meeting results and preferred to avoid it.
Honestly? I wanted to get even. To show them who gets to make the decisions in this family. Who is stronger. I wanted to, but I managed to hold back.
The meeting was set for Friday evening, during dinner time. At 7pm we sat down, knowing that we were going to discuss one of the most explosive issues at our house–screen time.
When I think about it, we even sat on different sides of the table–parents against children.
The duel had begun.
Fast forward to the end of the evening. We were all smiling and eating dessert with both kids admitting it was the best family meeting ever. How did that happen? How did we move from war to peace? How did we reach agreement and understanding?
Actually, we didn’t reach it. It was there all the time.
Researchers and brain scientists have come to the conclusion that the way to reach people is by finding common ground–something both sides can agree on. Psychologists call it “shared reality,” the platform from which we can start talking. The reason for that is the fact that our brain better codes information that we perceive as positive. This is true for both adults and children.
In order to build our common ground, we created a list of all the benefits we get from using screens. There are so many! As a result, the tension dropped. There was actually no duel, just openness, and attention.
At that point, it was ok to talk about the actual problem. Each of us shared his or her side. The kids talked about the annoying limitations, and my partner and I talked about the importance of setting priorities when it comes to screen time vs. other activities of the day.
Now it was time to look for solutions. I decided to try a new approach and told the kids, “Let’s switch. You are the parents now. What do you suggest we, the kids, do? What is your plan?” One of the reasons it is so hard to find solutions is because we become attached to our ideas. Sometimes standing in someone else’s shoes, looking at the situation from a different perspective, helps to stay open-minded for new ideas.
A few minutes later, the kids (or should I say the parents?) got back with a plan. Together, we made some small changes, agreed on the details, and adjourned the meeting.
It was time for dessert!
Later that evening, when everybody was already asleep, I thought about our meeting. Did we solve the conflict? Probably only for now. Each of us has different needs and desires. Answering those needs is bound to create tension from time to time.
So why am I smiling? Because conflicts can be solved only in a place of communication, listening, and openness. I believe that my kids learned that today.
Those of you who read the words “screen time” and have questions or those who want to learn how to have a successful family meeting are more than welcome to contact me. I’m here for you.