I don’t know how to get my 13-year-old off the phone. She hardly spends time with us, and prefers to message her friends or take selfies instead. How can I persuade her to hang up once in a while so we can spend time together? I don’t want to threaten her as I feel it would lead to a situation where she’ll hide things from me.
I understand your worry. It can seem like the gulf between teens and their parents is growing wider due to technology, but you need to take back control.
She’s still very young. It’s vital you stay on top of what’s going on in her world and I believe that’s all about finding the right balance. You don’t want to widen the gulf, but you do need to assert your authority. And there’s a subtle, but important difference. She needs to know you’re in charge and that you make the rules, but also that you’re going to listen to her and be fair about it. There will be no need for threats if you establish the ground rules first.
You might feel that you’ve let this situation get to a point where you can’t change it, but it’s never too late to introduce certain expectations and discipline. At 13, it might take longer and that’s where commitment on your part will come in to see it through. First, you need to create a clear set of boundaries when it comes to phone use. Of course, her friends are very important to her, but she also needs to understand she is part of a family. Sit her down and explain that she is spending too much time in the virtual world that you are excluded from. It’s important that you give her a voice and really listen to her feelings about it too. Then tell her there are going to be new rules and explain that if she fails to follow them there will be consequences.
You will need to be consistent in the way you handle her every time she breaks the rules, else she will feel you are easy to manipulate and this won’t play out well in the long term.
Also seize the opportunity to reinvolve her in family life; plan enjoyable things to do together and allow her to take on a certain level of responsibility when it comes to chores. Role-modelling the person you’d like your child to be is one of the most important jobs of a parent, so ensure you’re fully focused on her when it comes to family time, and aren’t tempted to check emails or social media and take calls. It’ll send out the wrong message.
Take control of the situation now. Be committed to changing it and consistent in your application and you will give her the opportunity to grow as a person and strengthen the bond between you in the bargain.