My 10-year-old is addicted to digital gadgets. What should i do?

We look at the ‘difficult’ situations you often face with your children. Our expert answers your queries on how to deal with such situations.

By Arundhati Swamy and Parul Agarwal

My 10-year-old is addicted to digital gadgets. What should i do?

Q. My 10-year-old-son is addicted to digital gadgets. He gets angry when we refuse to give him our phones. My husband and I tried imposing rules but that didn’t work. We are working parents and don’t know how to change him for the better. Please help!

A. First, work out the underlying causes responsible for his behaviour. Because of your work, in the absence of your companionship, your son could be seeking comfort in gadgets. Demonstrate your care and interest in him. Have frequent conversations about things that are fun for him, and notice his different emotions and abilities. Together, make rules on gadget use for everyone. Rules don’t work well unless they apply to all members of the family, including parents!

Q. My wife and I have planned a 10-day family summer vacation trip but my 16-year-old daughter does not want to come. She finds family trips boring and prefers to spend time with her friends instead. What can we do to convince her to join us?

A. You must have invested a great deal of time and resources to plan your family holiday and it hurts when your daughter is uncooperative. Let’s explore a few possible explanations. One reason is that she is at a stage in her life where friends are more fun to hang out with than parents. This is not because she loves you less, but because she is busy making important and interesting discoveries about herself through her friends. Try inviting her friend(s) to join in for the holiday. A second reason could be her involvement in the whole planning process. Teens are more cooperative when parents consider their ideas and preferences. They enjoy researching destinations and planning the itinerary. A third reason could be family problems. If your family holiday is an attempt to compensate for your guilt about other family issues, your daughter’s reluctance could be her way of expressing resentment. Lastly, some teens are preoccupied with a special relationship and find excuses to stay back. Understanding the cause of her reluctance can open up the channel of communication.

Q. My four-year-old son has learnt the trick of getting what he wants. If we say no, he throws a tantrum and screams. To avoid embarrassment in public places, we give in. How do we make him understand that this behaviour is not acceptable?

A. It sure feels like a coup when your four-year-old snatches the power right out of your hands. For toddlers and preschoolers, the world appears to centre around their needs. Their tantrums and screams, though embarrassing and difficult to handle, are their way of expressing their emerging sense of ‘I’. It is difficult to make a four-year-old understand what appropriate behaviour is, so let him experience and learn. First prepare him - set firm guidelines about his screaming and crying before you leave home. Let him know that a meltdown will ruin his chances of getting anything at all. When he throws a tantrum, keep your cool and talk to him in a calm-but-firm tone to settle him down. Raising your voice will only push him to further test your limits. Stick to the consequences consistently. He will soon know what response to expect from you.

Q. My four-year-old son has learnt the trick of getting what he wants. If we say no, he throws a tantrum and screams. To avoid embarrassment in public places, we give in. How do we make him understand that this behaviour is not acceptable?

A. It sure feels like a coup when your four-year-old snatches the power right out of your hands. For toddlers and preschoolers, the world appears to centre around their needs. Their tantrums and screams, though embarrassing and difficult to handle, are their way of expressing their emerging sense of ‘I’. It is difficult to make a four-year-old understand what appropriate behaviour is, so let him experience and learn. First prepare him - set firm guidelines about his screaming and crying before you leave home. Let him know that a meltdown will ruin his chances of getting anything at all. When he throws a tantrum, keep your cool and talk to him in a calm-but-firm tone to settle him down. Raising your voice will only push him to further test your limits. Stick to the consequences consistently. He will soon know what response to expect from you.

Q. Over the last two years, my 9-year-old son has become very emotional about everything. Almost anything makes him sob. I am not against being sensitive, but this is going too far. Please advise.

A. First, I’d like you to reflect upon this thought—could it be true that your child can get your attention only when he's crying? If that’s true, look at ways in which you can be there for your child—set aside time to talk or play every day. Then, ask your child if there’s someone touching him in a manner he doesn’t like, or which confuses him. Also, talk to him about safe and unsafe touch when both of you are feeling calm. Finally, interact with others your child is closely associated with. Share your observation with his school teachers and household helpers, and see if it brings any clarity. Hope this helps.


Arundhati Swamy is a counsellor and the head of parent engagement programmes at Parentcircle

Parul Agarwal is a counsellor and psychologist from Siliguri, West Bengal