“That’s not fair!” my 11-year-old screamed at me. Maddie stormed from my parents’ porch, where we’d been talking, and slammed the heavy oak and glass door leading into the house. Opened it. Slammed it. Opened it. Slammed it.
The house reverberated with the sounds of a tween thwarted.
Soon her angry footsteps thudded in the direction of the living room. I took a deep breath as I felt the heat rising in my chest. My body itched to storm across the room and yell at her. Or maybe throw her bodily from the house. I took a deep breath of the cool breeze wafting across the porch. I struggled to be calm and firm. I reminded myself of everything I knew about brain science. Her amygdala was activated — that’s the fear center of the brain. She probably had no access to the problem-solving, rational parts of her brain.
This wasn’t how I’d imagined the first day of summer vacation unfolding.
My children were done with camp for the season, and I’d cleared my work schedule for a couple of days so we could prepare at a leisurely pace for our family trip to California. Then I committed the parental crime of enforcing our family’s screen rules.
Just as with our chore chart and bedtime agreement, we created the screen time rules by consensus. Days before this explosion, I sat down with my 9- and 11-year-old kids to rewrite the screen rules based on their suggestion that the daily limit be bumped from thirty minutes to 45 minutes. It was summer, they argued, and I conceded the point. We were vacationing at my parents’ lake house in Wisconsin while my husband Brian worked back home, so the three of us drew up a fresh agreement to post on the wall. After the kids ate and cleaned up from breakfast, dressed and brushed their teeth, did 10 minutes of math practice and completed chores, they could enjoy 45 minutes of screen time.
Usually the screen rules were a workable compromise between our kids’ desire for some entertainment and our goal to include healthy activities as part of the day. But my daughter had violated the rules…