Conflict Over Limits

This topic contains 16 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by  Lys 5 days, 21 hours ago.

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  • #50942

    Janice Rodden

    This question was originally posted by an attendee of ADDitude’s webinar. The ADDitude editors have included it here to encourage more discussion.

    We struggle with our 14 year old son adhering to screen time limits. When it’s time to stop, it often results in conflict. We lay out our expectations, give him a 5 minute warning, and it still is difficult to get him to stop playing. When he finally does turn it off, he has a negative attitude and is not pleasant to be around. Any suggestions?

  • #50951

    Following. Same struggle.

  • #50954


    I have had good results with giving a 15 and a 5 minute warning. Also, I found this book called Good Night iPad (, which I present or read to the grumpy individual which can’t give up their electronics. It injects some much-needed levity in the process.

  • #51063

    Randy Kulman

    This is a very common experience for many parents. Some kids want to spend more time with their screens than their parents are comfortable with, and arguments can ensue when parents attempt to moderate screen time. It is particularly difficult for teenagers who generally want to be more in control of their time and their interests. Because much of teens’ screen time involves interacting with their peers via online games and social media, limits serve to dictate whom they can “play” with, which is certain to provoke an argument with most teenagers. It may be useful to take a step back and, rather than laying out your expectations, initiate a discussion about screen time and your concerns. This could focus on the importance of having a healthy “Play Diet” in which your child could develop a more balanced set of activities that includes screen time but also other physical, social, creative, and unstructured activities. You may need to work hard to make other activities more attractive by doing things such as encouraging the child to join a gym where the youngster could see friends from school, get involved on a sports team or other after-school activity, or take lessons in an area of interest. Using an app that sets limits on screen time might be useful, although I recommend doing this with your child’s full awareness and understanding.

  • #51192


    I have a 10-year-old son who has ADHD and high functioning ASD. He seems to easily get fixated on any kind of a screen. It can be games on the iPad, the Internet, active games on the Wii U,learning and educational games, movies we need to turn off before they are all the way over, and TV shows that run back to back. In other words any type of screen time. He acknowledges his 15 minute warning, and five-minute warning, but then will not turn it off. And if you try to turn it off then he will get physically aggressive. The time limit on the iPad helps because it will stop the game automatically. But the television and the video games don’t have an ending. Especially games like halo where you have to get to a checkpoint before you can turn it off. Or so he tells me. The battles have gotten to be quite often. I have even hid the remote controls so that he cannot play the game. But this is causing it’s own problems of resentment and making the behavior worse. Does anybody have any suggestions on incentives to get him to turn the game off? I would like for this to be a cooperative effort, and not a dictatorship, but I am at my wits and.

  • #51210


    I have the same issue with my ADHD 15 year old son. He actually can talk over the computer game to one of his good friends,so, he is reluctant to get off. I’d love for him to do the myriad of other things I have listed for him when I am at work, but I fear that screen time is getting the most attention.

  • #51211

    Here is what we do:

    Each week he is given 5 pennies to spend on 5 days of video games. Once he is out for the week, he is out of time.
    He sets a timer for 30 minutes. When the timer rings, he gets off. If he needs a reminder after one minute, he loses a minute from the next day for any minute over.
    He also sets a timer for any TV/video watching. When it rings, he can negotiate to finish a show but otherwise will get off.

    This is the way we have always done it so there are no arguments.

  • #51212


    You need a home Wi-Fi Internet button. Electronic devices in the home are assigned users that have specific time allotments, including ipads, cell phones, Direct TV, XBOX, etc. Electronics simply stop working, so there is no arguments, no sneaking after hours. It is a Godsend for ADHD households.

    You set it up the device, designate a week night and weekend bedtime or electronic time-off time (in our house this is 7 PM), screen time amount (2 hours) and specific website limits (for example, one hour for YouTube). Parents set it up and run it through their cell phones. It is imperative that the parents’ cell phone locks with a passcode that the minors’ do not know. Parents can even block the creation of a proxy, which disables an Internet work around. Yes, kids can use their data plan instead of the home Wi-Fi and they will figure out they can access unfettered at their friends’ homes. Options for parents in these situations include a monthly service that will also monitor a cell when the teen is away from home. We have not had to do that with our 14-year old, but it is an option.

    Look into Disney Circle or others. Highly +++++ recommended.

    • #51461


      I just read a very in-depth review of Circle by Disney and I cannot begin to tell you how I think you’ve answered our prayers. We have a 14-year-old son who finds a way around every limit we set. Screen time is his drug, as we call it. We battle so much over screen time limits, ways to stay balanced, incentives to be balanced, consequences for sneaking screen time or lying about doing the things he has to do to “earn” time (something he wanted to do), and the list goes on. He fights us when it’s time to get off, mopes around when he’s used up his screen time, and takes every opportunity to sneak time. My husband and I spend entirely too much time playing detective and then bad cop, even when we work so hard to set up a positive environment for our son. It is the single biggest source of conflict in our home. This device is like a miracle. I cannot even tell you. My husband is reading the review right now and if he feels even half as strongly as I do (and he was very intrigued by my description based on YOUR description, lol, and what I read), we will be purchasing this tonight. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • #51221


    I find that doing screen time within a routine helps. We did online parenting classes through Positive Parenting and as a result we do screen time when they are ready for school (math games though not just open screen time) which helps keep them focused on getting ready. They know that we leave at 7:30 everyday and they can start screen time as early as 7am if they are all ready. The consequence of not stopping when they are supposed to is a loss of screen time the next day, and they are the ones making the decision on the consequence not me. When it is 7:30 I tell my kids that it is time to stop and to make their decision about screen time for tomorrow. 90% of the time they stop right away because they know if I start the next sentence they don’t get screen time the next day. The next sentence is again very calm, ok I guess you decided you don’t want screen time tomorrow. We had some negotiating up front about when the warning was and when the consequence occurred so I clearly told them that when I start that second sentence the consequence occurs, it is not at the end of the sentence or any other time.

    We also allow them to have 1 hour each weekend day of screen time and we use the same repeatable process, calm warnings and consequences. We use this approach on other transitions too – like getting out of the pool or leaving a friend’s house.

    Good luck!

  • #51241


    Hi, this is a major topic in my house, I have tech addicted 13 year olds. I tried a payed parental service to monitor and cut off but my son figured out how to bypass and then disable it. I even had to do a factory reset on my phone because my sneaky son sidestepped my Gmail and set himself up as a hidden administrator on my phone. I was locked out of my stuff and he had it all!
    Tell them it is time to get off technology and it is life watching a personality split or a full blown disaster movie right in front of your eyes. Any help or ideas are most welcome.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  Jn185.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  Jn185.
  • #51253


    You might consider letting him know that if he behaves badly when it is time to turn the I-Pad off, you will dispose of the I-Pad and anything associated with it. And you have to mean it.
    Your warning may not magically alter his behavior, and he may not believe you if you have backed off of consequences before. And when you do dispose of the I-Pad, that will not be the end of it.
    Expect promises (that would not be kept) begging (to annoy you and wear you down) crying (for increased effect) and more of the same in an endless cycle, on the theory that if a little bit doesn’t work, a lot will. A tantrum might also be tossed in, to intimidate you, or at least to wear down your will.
    The trick is to remain calm. If he sees himself getting a rise out of you, that will encourage him to continue longer.
    Also keep in mind that if attempting to verbally overpower him has not worked in the past, it would probably not work now.
    Also keep in mind that, though he may seem to be under the power of his symptoms, there is a rational part of him that he can control to a degree. To some extent he “can help it.”
    He may also see it as a chess game, with his task to outwit you. To get around your restrictions, he may look for alternatives, such as staying at a friend’s house with that game machine. If this happens, contact the friend’s parents and ask them not to allow that.
    Sometimes kids use argument to manipulate their parents. Remember, you do not have to have the better argument to have your way, and you do not have to have one more answer than he has. You are the parent, and that gives you the right, regardless of his arguments about fairness.
    I am a counselor, and one client’s kid convinced her that he worked for the money to pay for his phone, it is his, and he can use it at 3 a.m. if he wants to. I told her to let him know that if she calls the phone company and tells them to cancel his account, they will. If she contacts McDonald’s and tells them to fire him, they will. That settled the matter, though she hadn’t thought of that, because she had believed she had to win an argument before he had to obey her.
    If your kid makes it a chess game, you don’t have to play, and if you seem to be locked in to one of his moves, you don’t have to play by his rules or play fair. (If he says he hates you, that’s also for effect.)
    If he is near 18 years old, let him know that on his 18th birthday, you are not obligated to take care of him. He is a guest in your house whenever he is there. If he is unable to behave well in your house, he may not be there.
    See my web page at Go to More, and go down the drop-down menu to ADHD.

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  genedoug.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  genedoug.
  • #51264

    I am currently reading “The Explosive Child” by Dr. Ross Green. It was suggested to me by a psychologist I really trust. It is about behavior management. Just thought I’d share. 🙂

  • #51285


    This article offers some successful strategies to limiting screen time:

    More Face Time, Less Screen Time

    ADDitude Community Moderator, Author & Mentor on Parenting ADHD, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism

  • #51300


    I wasn’t sure I should post this, but here it is, in case it helps somebody. Ten to fifteen years ago, when our friends wanted to know why we no longer had a TV, my husband told them that we decided that because he couldn’t turn it off (I don’t watch TV, too stimulating for me, so that was entirely his decision really). There was amazing disbelief — how is it possible that a seemingly fully functional adult, with a responsible job that he does well, would be chronically sleep deprived because he cannot turn the TV off? But he really couldn’t, and in the wee hours of the morning he would fall asleep on the couch with it on. Netflix and computers in general are not a problem, because you have to click to move on to the next thing, so we have a computer and plenty of other electronic devices with no issues. But TV and games, anything that kept moving, was strangely hypnotizing when my husband was already in a stressed state. There is still no TV here and there will never be a gaming console here (and I’m not concerned about the kid). Is my husband infinitely happier and more rested? You bet. Does he ever want a TV or a gaming console again? Not in the least.

    My conclusion after this whole thing is unhealthy attachment to these specific kinds of screen time will never go away, and there is no such thing as “a bit” of problematic screen time. I also found that after the initial adjustment period my husband was very happy, but visiting family and friends were surprisingly unhappy (“what do you mean we cannot watch the news, or the game, at the dinner table?”). So keep in mind that if you decide to get rid of the TV and the game console, you might find this harder to take over long term than the kid. Also, there is no way, no how, a kid will not do something that he sees adults doing. If there is a TV running after the kids were asked to finish their screen time, or the parent is on their cell phone when the kid is supposed to go to sleep, the kid will not be able to see the difference. Making a distinction between adult and kid needs and responsibilities will not work with teenagers, which are fighting hard for their own adult badge. A “screen time” policy should apply to the whole household for best results.

    If the problem is using to communicate with friends, that is a teenage affliction as old as time. When I was a teenager, frustrations over hogging the family phone were high in all the families I knew 🙂

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  Lys.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  Lys.
    • This reply was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  Lys.
    • #51476

      Lys, we had a similar experience. When I started dating my now-husband (he’s the ADHD-spouse), I did not have a TV. I hadn’t had one in years, mostly because I hate media and commercialism. After moving in with me and being sans TV for several months, he realized the difference it made in his life (and the increased time he suddenly had). We started dating in 2003 and to this day we’ve never had cable (just a TV for watching movies).

      But TV was not the only problem; it was ALL media. We married in 2007 and he was finally diagnosed in 2011 (while I was in residency). From the beginning, however, we argued constantly over his distraction while on the computer. After coming home to a house full of unfinished chores and an infant with an overly-full diaper, I accused my husband of “being an unsafe” provider. Yeah, it was harsh (I said many harsh things before he was diagnosed), but I feared he would be so distracted by the computer that our one-year-old would meet a tragic end without Daddy realizing it until far too late (I was going through my Pediatrics rotation, so my brain was filled with the horrors of accidental trauma). I said something like, “Our son could drown in the toilet while you play World of Warcraft!” That fight left a dense miasma I suspect is still hovering over that house.

      After our screaming session (which followed the “undiagnosed ADHD script” nearly word-for-word), he angrily dismantled his computer. When I asked what he was doing, he said, “I can’t play ‘just a little.’ I can’t control myself on the computer.” He felt it was an all-or-nothing issue, and this was before he was diagnosed (looking back, I am surprised how insightful he was about the situation). Now we provide counseling for ADHD couples and we run into the “media problem” frequently.

      For some people, the answer is simply to be rid of TV, computers, and hand-held devices. In his case, he even rid himself of his cellphone, which he did by purchasing a Smart-Watch (so no Candy Crush!). We asked family to help out: no gifts involving screens (e.g. Kindles; game consoles; iPads; etc.), which was met with significant resistance (isn’t that bizarre? Family members reacted similar to the classic “diet debacles,” when one spouse goes on a diet and the other spouse subconsciously tries to thwart the progress). That’s a long-winded way of saying the entire family must be on board when it comes to changing media habits. If someone wants to stop smoking, don’t smoke around that person!

      While scrapping media completely is not the solution for everyone, it IS guaranteed to work. For families struggling with media influence, we recommend they start with a week of zero screen time (which is preceded by counseling and preparation; they don’t go ‘Cold Turkey’ without extensive discussion of shared goals). We have a series of questions they answer each day they are denied media, then we meet after a week to discuss media re-introduction (vs. continued abstinence). Again, it’s not the answer for everyone, but if it’s a true addiction it should be treated like an addiction: weaning, counseling, understanding, and treatment of associated conditions (ADHD, depression, etc.).

  • #51487


    Ren, thanks for answering. I admit that I felt quite radical in my approach, and I understand other parent’s struggles. After all, isn’t our job to teach the kids when to stop? By removing media, it can feel like giving up as much as letting the kids have unlimited media time. And what about all the computer skills kids will need in the future, will we be depriving them of that? And what about our rights, as parents and responsible consumers, to have access to media and electronics? But brain wiring is a funny thing, and sometimes fighting with it is either unwinnable or simply not worth it.

    I do think it’s very odd to have people wonder why we (as adults) have no TV and in the same breath ask why we let our kid spend “so much time” on the tablet (where any time greater than 0 seems to be too much). Sometimes I try to explain that her hobby is storytelling and she is really advanced for her age, which is why I allow her to expand her hobby in a very supervised way. Sometimes I just remember my grandmother telling me to stop reading all the time and do something useful, and I just shake my head and say nothing. We live in a world of many challenges and opportunities and we all try to tackle them as best as we can.

    I’m very glad you and your husband made it work. Anybody that has enough self-awareness to see what is best for themselves and their family is a winner in my book! The amount of attention a baby needs can be really overwhelming for people with focusing issues. We consider ourselves myself very lucky to have had a baby that made its demands known in no uncertain terms, despite the rather rough training period.

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