Dopamine is a chemical produced by our brains that plays a big part in how we feel. Certain activities make us feel good and as a result, we get a dopamine rush in our brain. When rewarded with a dopamine hit, we want to feel it again!

When we get a like on social media, it can feel a lot like getting a high five in real time. That dopamine hit feels good! As parents we need to be mindful of connecting with those we love most in real time versus the easier, more convenient connection we might find on a device.

I’m not just going to tell you to ditch your phone and spend hours on the floor playing with your kids; I’ve got a better plan!

I’ve created 3 R’s to lead you to a healthy relationship with your phone and your family: rituals, rewards, and recharging.

By being intentional with our device use, we can replace the likes on our phones, with love in our homes.

Screen-free Rituals

  • Cling to family rituals and make them screen-free. Things like family dinner, an evening walk, game nights, reading aloud, chores, singing together, playing instruments, a nightly football toss, evening back rub or foot rub for your teens, are all examples of rituals that ground our families. What are those sacred spaces and hours when screens will be set aside in favor of connection with those we love?
  • Create personal boundaries around your device so your children and spouse know that you are available and present. Use a charging station and get in the habit of using it.
  • Define the bookends to your day. No one will be perfect at this, but deciding on boundaries ahead of time will help! You can decide what will work best for you. Some boundaries that have helped me, especially as a mom running a business, is to leave all devices out of bedrooms and bathrooms. We reserve our bedrooms for rest, relaxation, and relationships. I don’t use social media on Sunday’s. Boundaries = love.

Reward Your Kids With Your Time, Not Screen Time

  • I proactively teach against screen time reward charts because when we use screens as a reward or a punishment, we give the screens too much power. Instead, I encourage families to create a family tech plan together so boundaries are in place ahead of time, and then make an effort to reward your kids with your time. So perhaps you have an older child who want to watch a YouTube video about how to….decide how long that will take, let them watch nearby, while you get something done, then when his/her time is up, you can say, time’s up, let’s go jump on the trampoline or let’s play that board game.
  • One-on-one dates are one of my favorite ways to bring more love into our home. They can be planned outings, but they can also be simple activities at home.
  • I believe your kids would rather be with you than be on a screen. I challenge you to test it out! Ask them, “What would you like to do?” or “Is there anything I can help you with?”

Healthy Screen-free Recharging

  • Get out a giant post-it note or whiteboard and make a list of screen-free activities that you love to do together as a family. What do you wish you had more time for? Those are the things that should go on this list. Then when someone is bored or has spent too much time on a device, you can refer to this list. (This is actually discussion #9 in our book, Creating a Tech-Healthy Family.)
  • Decide how you will model screen-free recharging. What’s something you could do for even 10 minutes each day away from a screen that will bring you sanity and peace?
  • Encourage your kids to spend time away from homework, away from devices and distractions, and allow their mind to wander. Big tech and devices are fighting for their attention, and one of their greatest resources, their childhood. It’s up to us to preserve it.

By creating screen-free rituals, rewarding your kids with your time instead of screen time, and finding ways to recharge sans screens, you can replace the likes on your phone with love in your home.

If you’re not sure where to begin, we have resources to help you get started!

You’ll love our list of 100+ Screen-Free Ideas for When You Want to Do Nothing. Click here to get the list!

Next, you can work with your family to create a simple technology plan to help everyone be accountable and work together to create tech boundaries you can all live with. Check out our free Quick Guide to Creating a Family Tech Plan below!