How to use Screen Time as a Tool for Regulation with Ash Brandin, Ed.S


00:00:00    Alyssa

You're listening to Voices of Your Village, and we heard you loud and clear after our last digital media podcast interview that you wanted more. We are diving in with Ash Brandin. They do work around screen time. You might know them as The Gamer Educator over on Instagram. And today we get to chat about how to use screen time as a tool for regulation. I am stoked to share this and also know that for a lot of us, there's a lot of messaging around screen time as a dysregulating tool and that this is something that's only dysregulating for folks. We get to look at what's happening hormonally. How do we use screen time with intention? And Ash is someone that I have had the privilege of learning from over on Instagram and it it was so rad to get to hang out with them here in this podcast interview. What a gift. All right, folks, let's dive in. 


00:01:06    Alyssa

Hey there, I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a master's degree in early childhood education and co -creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing Method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together. 


00:01:29    Alyssa

Hello everyone and welcome back to Voices of Your Village. Today I get to hang out with Ash Brandin. They have been a public school teacher for over a decade and in that time they found innovative ways of using student interests, including video games, to increase engagement and make learning more fun and effective. Since February 2021, their Instagram page, @thegamereducator, which if you're not following, just like press pause on this episode, head over to Instagram and search The Gamer Educator, just click follow, you'll thank me later, and then come on back, has helped tens of thousands of families make screen time beneficial for the whole family. Y 'all know that like, I am, I don't know, I don't know if there's like a pro or anti -screen time. I'm definitely not anti. And I want to make sure that we're using it in a way that is supportive. And so that's something that, Ash,  really drew me to your work and the way that you present this is that the idea that it's going to be a part of our lives. It doesn't have to be the center of our lives. And how do we help folks use it in a way that serves and supports? I dig that. So thank you. Thanks for doing this work. And I'm excited to get to hang and chat about it today. Screen time gets a bad rap. 


00:02:49    Ash

It sure does. Thank you so much for having me. It's like a thrill. Before I before I entered Instagram world as a creator, you know, and I was just a consumer.  Like, I've been following you forever. So I'm like trying to just-- 


00:03:06    Alyssa

Oh my gosh, it's so funny. Well, thank you. Thanks for being in our community. That's rad. 


00:03:12    Ash

Yeah. And I feel like we're very similar in the way that we approach a lot of these conversations and there's been many times where I I'm like, oh, yeah, that Seed and Sew post's amazing. How do I like channel a screen time ethos of this? But yes I have found like there's just not a lot of room for, in my opinion, for binary thinking in this space and that I think you know, a lot of parenting advice in the social media world tries to be very binary because it's it's sellable. 


00:03:46    Alyssa



00:03:46    Ash

If we stick to something binary, then we're selling a solution. And then we're convincing people that actually, there is one answer, there's one right or wrong way to be doing things. And it is not that simple. You know, we would be so lucky if kids were that simple.


00:04:01    Alyssa

That'd be dreamy. Yeah.


00:04:02    Ash

Right. And it's not and as you said, whether we like it or not, we are entering and our kids are entering a technologically driven world we really can't even envision. And that is, it's only going to get more that way. And, you know, abstinence-only education doesn't tend to work, no matter what we're-- 


00:04:24    Alyssa

You don't say 


00:04:25    Ash

Yeah. I do try to frame it that way. Because when you frame it that way, people are like, oh, right, it doesn't. 


00:04:32    Alyssa



00:04:33    Ash

And that's true, you know, and if we want our kids to grow up to be older kids or young adults who can manage this stuff on their own, then we kind of have to be teaching that skill. That doesn't mean that it's the only thing they do with their time, it doesn't mean we have to start that really, really early. It doesn't mean we can't, you know, make sure it aligns with other boundaries, but framing it as a set of skills that we want them to have, I think can help. And as you mentioned, not being like pro or anti screen, I think a lot of people assume that I must be pro -screen. I don't think of myself as pro -screen, but I am pro -families getting their needs met. 


00:05:11    Alyssa



00:05:12    Ash

Yeah, and I am pro -taking the morality out of these kinds of decisions and really viewing them in like an ethically, morally neutral way. Because I think that allows us to make decisions that really do think about all of our needs. 


00:05:31    Alyssa

Yeah, and I think of it as like a both and, and like you think of Sagey, for instance, my little guy, we will use screens sometimes just as like a fun like whatever we're all gonna watch something together. For a while he thought that the TV only played baseball (we're Yankees fans). And so he was like, when he was really little, he would chant Let's go Yankees when he would look at the TV, which is hilarious to me. So like, we'll use it in those ways. But now he'll like watch a show, he'll watch Daniel Tigers' his fave and he will sometimes request it in moments of dysregulation and sometimes request it in moments of regulation. And I, I, I'm a curious human just like by nature. And so for me, it's like a fun little study to look at, like, when is he requesting it? And then what are the results after? How do we use it in a way that works for him and that works for us sometimes in the short term and sometimes in the long term, right? Like that is where I think there can be a lot of shame is when folks are like, yeah, I'm using this right now because it's going to make me a better mom tonight when my partner isn't here and I'm solo doing dinner or whatever. And Sage is going to watch a show while I get to do this. And this, I, this is fully for me to be able to show up as a more regulated human. This is a win for my whole family then. And I think that that's where shame can come in. 


00:07:01    Ash

Absolutely. Because even, I think many adults, particularly like default parent, who also tend to be people socialized as women or raised as women, they can, they can't even get to the point of naming that it's for me, and it's okay that it's for me. 


00:07:19    Alyssa



00:07:19    Ash

If we were to even name that I'm doing it for me, then the immediate thought after that is "and that's bad". Because most of the time, instead, we are expected to always give more of ourselves to prevent needing to center ourselves, right, we should be willing to martyr ourselves perpetually to avoid anything that could be not ideal for our kids. But then what happens is that we burn out, we get dysregulated, we snap, and then we feel bad all over again, 


00:07:56    Alyssa



00:07:57    Ash

Because we snapped at our kids. 


00:07:58    Alyssa

What a fun cycle. 


00:08:01    Ash

And that's, that's a reframe I tend to try to come back to a lot is, you know, we tend to get very myopically focused on the child and think like, well, what is it's bad or good for them? What's it doing to them? But my reframe is like, what is it allowing us to do for them? Like, what is it allowing me the adult to then provide for my child. And if they are maybe not getting anything, primarily from screen time, right, if it's really mostly a distraction, because you said, 


00:08:34    Alyssa



00:08:34    Ash

But if it's allowing me to then better meet their needs, and meet my own needs, then that is benefiting them, if not in a primary way than in a secondary way. And that is that does get to count like as beneficial. 


00:08:48    Alyssa



00:08:49    Ash

And as you mentioned earlier, you were talking about with your child with sometimes, it does seem like they're seeking screens as a source of regulation. This is a concern that I sometimes hear from families, like, but, well, they're getting upset and this is what they want. Okay, and if we think about it from the adult perspective, how many times do we seek out regulation in the form of media? And that doesn't mean it's necessarily the thing we want to do, but you know, how many times do we get home from a really long day and we rewatch something that we've watched 1000 times because we want the comfort of it. Or we put a podcast on in the background so we can kind of tune out whatever anxious chatter's in our brain. Or we pull up a phone game and we just kind of do that for a few minutes to kill the time. We do a lot of that and that is regulatory. And it doesn't mean that that's, you know, we can look at that and say, well, I don't know if I might do that too much. Okay, we can rethink that for our own self. But it isn't, you know, some unique thing to kids, and it's really just it's a human trait. I think sometimes taking some of that weight out of it and recognizing, oh, yeah, this is something I also engage in. If I do want to change that relationship for myself or for my kid, those are perfectly fine things to think. But then it can be based more on how do I make this one tool in the tool belt, as opposed to it's bad that they're ever seeking regulation in this way. 


00:10:20    Alyssa

Sure. Yeah, a hundred percent. So I'm going to get nerdy real quick with you and dive into like what's happening when we're tapping into a screen versus if you were like, I'm going to sit and take deep breaths, or I'm going to journal or I'm going to go. And what we're looking at is what hormones are being produced, right? And then what's the outcome of that. And our body is designed to when we're feeling something hard and we're producing adrenaline or cortisol to make it stop as fast as possible. Because it's really shitty and hard to be in that space, right? It's really hard to feel hard things. And so when you're having a hard feeling, you might find yourself pull up and scroll down. I'm so good at that. Or filling a cart. I can fill a cart like it's nobody's business. I don't even need to check out, but boy, can I fill a cart. Lately, it's Facebook Marketplace shopping. We are moving the Seed offices. And so I'm like, oh yeah, I have to do this for work. I'm like looking for things. But like, it's really, I'm turning to it, not when I'm like, oh yeah, I have a spare moment at work. It's when I'm dysregulated and I'm like, I'm gonna use this. And none of that is bad, right? Like what I'm doing is looking for dopamine to temporarily pause the disaster that's happening inside and the hard part. And we need dopamine, we all produce it, and it's a really key part of human function. What we're looking at, and we talk about this in Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, is that if we're only turning to things that produce dopamine, and we aren't ever turning to things that produce serotonin or oxytocin to regulate the nervous system, this is where we can get stuck in this pattern of like, I'm gonna turn to the thing that produces dopamine, temporarily feel relief, and then I'm gonna go right back in to feeling dysregulated. And so what we look at is how do we have a toolbox to pull from? Sometimes it's what we call coping mechanisms. These things that are going to produce dopamine. And sometimes there are things that are going to produce serotonin and sometimes they're going to produce both. Like I'm going to play a game with my kid to get upstairs to go to bath and I'm going to race him. Right. And so we're going to produce some dopamine in this because I'm like, I'm going to beat you up the stairs. He's trying to win, but also we're getting movement in. And so there's going to be some serotonin that comes into play as well. And the serotonin will pump the brakes on the production of the adrenaline or cortisol, which brings us into the dysregulated state and help to like cool that down in the nervous system so that we can have an overall regulation. One thing that you recently shared in your story, so I was like, yes, like I want to see more of this in the screen time discussion for folks who are like, okay, my kids leaving screens and they're dysregulated, was really pairing those two things, like I just said, with the racing up the stairs together, where you shared something around along, like, yeah, maybe they could sit on a seat or be in some sort of, yeah, share about that. 


00:13:25    Ash

So that so this was one of those moments, I'm sure you have these moments, as a creator, where like, I was literally just in it with my kid. 


00:13:32    Alyssa



00:13:32    Ash

And suddenly had this like, light bulb. And then I was like, Oh, gotta remember that one. And so I was like, okay, I'm going to share this in a story real quick. But like, I absolutely need to return and make this some grid content. Because and I immediately got DMs that was like, Oh, please make another form of this. 


00:13:48    Alyssa

100 % I'll partner with you. I'll do a collab post. I'm here for it. 


00:13:52    Ash

Perfect. I love this. Because yeah, I hear that a ton of like, well, it's time to end screens. And then they're a super dysregulated mess. And what I've often said is, you can build in regulatory breaks, you know, you can immediately plan a regulatory activity for right after. But what occurred to me the other day, was like actively building regulatory activity into the screen time itself. And I can already hear sometimes the naysayers like I try to predict them sometimes of them, you know, maybe the naysaying to that would be like, well, you if your kid's dysregulated, you should just stop. You know, if your kid is dysregulating on screens, then you should stop. And it's like, well, anyone who's ever had a young child who is entering a state of dysregulation knows that that is sometimes like pouring gasoline on the fire, especially for certain kids.  Certain kids, okay, we cut them off early enough. Okay. But and for some kids, it will feel punitive. Right? Like, this is my screen time, right? You told me this is my screen time. Now you're taking it away because I got excited? Now what does that say to me, that doesn't necessarily feel good. So I think everyone, everyone figures out their kid and you figure out what their tells are. My kid has tells. And my kids tells are like movement, they get very like bouncy and move-y and they get loud. They're not like screaming. They're not mad. They're just like the volume level just gets loud. So all of a sudden they're talking like this. I'm like, okay, we're getting there. And so what I did with them was I said, Hey, like I noticed you're just you're moving a lot. So can you stand up on one leg while you do this race? So like, they're still doing the screen time. I'm not taking it away. I'm not saying Hey, this game is making you such and such and such, because that's also not helpful. But I am helping them notice like, Hey, your your body has a lot of movement happening right now. So I'm trying to get them to realize my body does like, what does that mean when that happens? And then immediately give them a way that they could maybe be challenging their physical body to go along with what their brain might be going through. Because that's what often is happening with screen time dysregulation is the brain is getting amped up and up and up and up. It's getting tons of stimulation, but the body is still, and that can be really hard. So it's like, okay, what if we just built this in. But that way it's helping them notice, oh, this is what's happening in your body. We're not blaming anything. Yeah, try something embedded into the things they might already like, that can again, hopefully, this be some skill building. And I love what you were talking about. I'm backing up a bit. 


00:16:43    Alyssa



00:16:44    Ash

Dopamine. That word comes up a lot in my sphere. Because it's turned into a four letter word, which I find fascinating. 


00:16:52    Alyssa



00:16:54    Ash

I find it so fascinating that in so much screen time conversation, what you'll hear thrown around is like, oh, it's dopamine, they're going after their dopamine. And I'm like, you know, it's so interesting. When someone goes for a run, or they sit in a hot tub, or they eat a hamburger, no one is like, oh, yeah, you're seeking that dopamine. We don't tend to talk about like, oh, you went on a five mile run, was that to avoid your feelings? 


00:17:20    Alyssa

I mean, yeah, it was, yeah, and it turns out I came back and they still exist, darn it. But yeah, I think that this is huge. I actually, interestingly had, I did a hormone panel for myself with my doctor earlier last year, I guess. And one of the things I was low in was dopamine. And I was like, oh, so funny because everyone's like, it is this four letter word now and trying to avoid it and now here I am like trying to get more dopamine and trying to build up my dopamine and there's pretty interesting research that's come out and more that's underway right now around folks with ADHD and looking at low dopamine stores that you might have lower dopamine and that then what we look at from like the emotional intelligence world is okay if you have low dopamine, what we're finding is that it can be hard to access those coping strategies, taking a deep breath, taking a walk, journaling, etc. And that we can use dopamine as a bridge to serotonin. So we can use something like screens or distraction or playfulness or whatever, as then a bridge to be able to access the serotonin rich, like coping coping strategies, we call them.


00:18:42    Ash

 And I was just about to ask you if that was the case. Because when you were talking about doing an activity like racing, my kid is huge into racing, that maybe is getting this little cocktail of things. Again, we've all been in that moment where we might know that our kid would be totally into that, but they are too far gone. 


00:19:02    Alyssa



00:19:03    Ash

And so that's where I feel like sometimes you do, sometimes going straight, like straight to the source, it can help bridge you there. I'm like, okay, maybe we do spend 10 minutes watching a show or playing something or using a screen and then we've like gotten to a place where you have some of 


00:19:22    Alyssa



00:19:22    Ash

You can actually like kind of see a little more clearly we're not just in this hyper dysregulated state and now we're gonna say okay I feel a little bit better now and we're gonna choose something else to do now do you want to-- and then we're giving them another variety of tasks because again if we're really concerned like well if if they if they're using a screen to get that dopamine or to help with their emotions, it's going to be the only thing they want to do. And it's like, okay, that might be the only thing that they want to do, because it's the only thing that they might know, or it's the lowest hanging fruit, 


00:19:56    Alyssa

It's the lowest hanging fruit. 


00:19:58    Ash

Yeah. But our job as the caregiver is to then provide them with other ways to meet that. 


00:20:05    Alyssa



00:20:05    Ash

And it and that is not always going to be easy, right? And it's nice to stick around with the lowest hanging fruit. 


00:20:11    Alyssa



00:20:11    Ash

It feels nice. We do that too, as we were talking about earlier, filling the cart or watching The Office for the 50th time. 


00:20:16    Alyssa

I watch it every night before I fall asleep. Not a lie. Every night before I fall asleep, I watch The Office because it's so regulating for me in a way that like I can tap out. So my, my hardest part is when I'm falling asleep and my brain's like, and go. So for me, like the office is a coping mechanism that I have embraced of like, I will put it on. I can see it in my head. I know all the words that are coming. I don't actually have to watch it. I can listen and fall asleep. And it turns off the chatter enough for me to fall asleep. And I'm okay with that. I love sleep. And if that's going to help me access it. Sage has recently, he loves vestibular input. So like moving the plane of his head. He loves the sit and spin. He loves to swing. And for watching TV, he's been really into like headstands and he's started doing a headstand when he is dysregulated and watching TV. And so he's coming into this like, okay, I want Daniel Tiger. He's like crying. I want Daniel Tiger. I want to watch Daniel Tiger. And sometimes I'm like, yeah, sure. Let's put on an episode of Daniel Tiger. And it allows him to then like access the headstand. Right. And so like, then he just is naturally starting to get some of that movement in or he'll like bounce around on the couch and his body then is, but if, if when he was in the crying state, I was like, let's try some headstands. He's going to flip me off. Right. Like in the toddler way and not legit. He doesn't want to flip me off yet, but he is like, not going to be open to it. And so Daniel Tiger just allows him to be able to access the headstand. Right. And this is where they're for me. I'm just like, when we're in that binary of like, it's good or it's bad. No, sometimes it's a tool that helps us access other tools. And what a gift, right? Like if somebody what if I was raging at Zach, my husband, and I'm really fired up and someone came in and was like, let's take some deep breaths. I want to throat punch you. You know, like I-- 


00:22:20    Ash

I was just about to make this comparison. 


00:22:21    Alyssa



00:22:22    Ash

And once again, it's like, Hey, can we just remember that these are humans? Like, like your book,  like, 


00:22:27    Alyssa



00:22:27    Ash

These are humans. And how would you like it? If you are like a crying mess and you're thinking about what you need and you're like you know what I think I just want to mask my emotions and get a sugary coffee. Right like sometimes I'm like I feel bad I'm gonna medicate with food and I know that's what I am doing but if you came up to me in the moment you're like oh actually why don't we just journal. I'd be like I'd be flipping them up. I'd be like F you, get out of the way,


00:22:54    Alyssa



00:22:54    Ash

Give me my latte or whatever but then if I have my latte and I then I can probably sit and then I can breathe and then I can regulate a bit. And then if someone was like, Hey, do you wanna talk, then I'd probably be at a place where I actually could. 


00:23:08    Alyssa

This literally happened last night. I was in conflict with my partner. He didn't know yet that we were in conflict, but we were in conflict. And I'm like, seething, but I'm not ready to talk. Like if I talk right now, it's going to be a disaster. And we have very different conflict styles. So I want to like word vomit, talk it out. For him, that's very dysregulating. And then he shuts down, and then I get more annoyed that he's not having a back and forth. So I've learned that now. 


00:23:35    Ash

Oh wow. I empathize.


00:23:38    Alyssa

So I've learned that for myself, like if my end goal is we can navigate conflict, I need to be in a space by the time I come to him or I'm going to word vomit. And I was still in the word-vomity space. And so I turned to Facebook Marketplace and did my like pretend shopping, bought nothing, but scrolled through whatever and like felt myself start to come down. And then got to a place where I was like, now I can talk this through in a way where I'm not going to be forming my argument as he is coming back. And I like put my phone down, and I must have like, there must be a tell on my face. And he goes, Oh, are we gonna have a chat? And I was like, Oh, yeah. Yeah, we are. And he was like, Okay, all right, like, buckle up.  And then he asked, he was like, are you ready? And I was like, I think I'm ready now. And we've done this dance enough times that like, he knows I'm gonna go through my process and try to come to you in a space where I am ready and whatever. But the screen was a tool that I used to get to the place where I could have a productive conversation through this conflict. So I think when we can look at it as like, how do we really use coping mechanisms? Honestly, whether it's a screen or that sugary drink or whatever, in a way that helps us then access these other tools, it's a total game changer for us. 


00:25:06    Ash

Yeah. And for some reason, the conversation has become like, you get to choose one tool, like choose one. And then you're stuck with it. And I mean, screens can sometimes seem like a hammer, right? And everything becomes a nail. 


00:25:23    Alyssa



00:25:23    Ash

And I think that's the fear that we will turn everything into a nail, if we have a tool that can be a hammer. And yeah, I mean, I get I get that. And it's hard, like it is hard to navigate those things that can be really enticing, be it screens or sugar, good feeling, or whatever those low hanging fruits, but we can choose to decide actually, this is a this is actually a Phillips head screwdriver, like this actually is going to have a very specific purpose. And I'm going to focus on it for that purpose. 


00:25:55    Alyssa

I'm going to use it with intention. 


00:25:57    Ash

Exactly. Exactly. And with kids, you know, we might think, well, I don't want them to just associate it with being dysregulated. And again, it's like, okay, we, it doesn't, it doesn't have to be that way. It doesn't always have to be the first thing we go to. We can, the way we figure out what works for our kids is through a lot of trial and error, right? It's how we figure out, oh, they like to race or, oh, they like to do headstands. We throw every trick at the book to figure out what it is they're going to like. And then when we do find those things, well, then that becomes the tool belt. And if we are working with a kid who is in a really dysregulated place, we might think, OK, this might be one of those times they kind of need that bridge, that low hanging fruit. And there might be times where we just leave with that. It's so far gone. But there might be other times where we present options and we are giving them the choice. And if they do choose that and they do choose, actually, yeah, I do. I do want I do want to watch a Bluey. It's like, okay, cool. We're gonna check that off the bingo card. Like we've chosen, okay, that Bluey. And when that's done, then we'll choose one of these other things. 


00:26:59    Alyssa



00:26:59    Ash

It doesn't become this path we're stuck on. 


00:27:02    Alyssa

And I think the level of dysregulation is huge, right? That like, if a kid is getting to a point of distress or they really, we know our kids best, right? Like if it's like, oh, we're not coming back from this one easily. That like, yeah, that's a time where we're gonna tap into screens a little bit more or coping mechanisms in general. Sometimes Sage will ask for a binky, which he only ever has for sleep. And then there are certain transition times. Coming back from vacation was a big one where all of a sudden he was like, I want a binky and he was asking for it more. And Zach and I had a chat and we're like, both noticing this, he must be dysregulated coming back from vacation. This'll be a phase. And then when he gets back into routine and flow, we'll go back to like, it's only for bedtime. But there were times where he'd say, I want to have a binky. And he would walk up to his crib, and he would even say, Do you see what I have? Like, as he goes down, and I'm like, I see it, buddy, that's fine. I was like, if it helps you feel calm, that's fine. And then we'll figure out a place to put it. And we can do something else next. I think what's key is then pairing that with the strategies, right? So if it's just like screen time ends, and there, there's been no other offer, we're not then like reading, there's no touch, there's no movement, there's no whatever. And then we can fall into that, like swing from screens where I temporarily feel this regulation to like, oh, I'm back to this regulated to back to whatever coping mechanisms next to stop feeling versus, okay, I'm going to use that as a bridge. It's a totally different nervous system, regulation pattern. And we don't always need it, right? Like there are times where I feel frustrated and I can say, you know what, I'm going to take some space. I'm going to go to the bathroom. I'm going to breathe. I'm going to whatever. And there are times where I'm like, I'm in a Facebook marketplace before I have this conversation. And that level of dysregulation matters. 


00:28:53    Ash

Yes, and the kind, right? Like, for me, like, I, I never watched The Office. I never watched Friends. I never really got into that. But if I am in a really, for me, it's anxiety. I'm in a very anxious spiral and churning. And, and I know I am not getting out of it. Right? I watch Jackass movies. 


00:29:14    Alyssa



00:29:15    Ash

And I don't know what it is. I mean, I can do like a 15 minute TED Talk about why I like Jackass. But I focus. 


00:29:23    Alyssa



00:29:23    Ash

Like, I laugh. I know what to expect. 


00:29:28    Alyssa



00:29:28    Ash

I don't like if it's other mindless stuff, my brain will be like, Oh, cool. We can half watch that while we continue to churn. 


00:29:35    Alyssa



00:29:35    Ash

And over here we're gonna keep spiraling. 


00:29:37    Alyssa



00:29:37    Ash

And it's like, it gets my attention just enough. But it but I'm gonna feel good. And like, if I'm in a a real bad spiral, that's what I need. 


00:29:48    Alyssa



00:29:49    Ash

And other times, like you're talking about conflict, like in that moment, it would make no sense for me to be like, oh yeah, I just need to stare at a screen for a minute. I'm like, that's actually not gonna help me. Like it might distract me, but it is not actually gonna help me be a more regulated partner in a difficult conversation I have. And in that state, it's taken a long time, but I can be like, I'm not abandoning this conversation, but I need to leave the room for like two minutes. I'll be back, I promise. I need a moment. And then I go and breathe and come back in, like, okay, what's my plan here? And that has taken, you know, decades. Decades--


00:30:29    Alyssa



00:30:29    Ash

--for me to figure out, right? To figure out like, what is it I need in these specific instances? And everybody is gonna be different. And I think all of us would love to know that our kids can grow up into adults who can recognize their emotional needs and how to meet those needs in a way that feels sustainable and healthy. And that starts like that can start as early as we as we want it to. And that is probably going to involve actively walking them through some of these coping mechanisms that they might want to use less or more that might not work at all. But if we're willing to kind of get a little dirty with them in the mud of figuring out like, Oh, wow, that did not work. 


00:31:10    Alyssa



00:31:11    Ash

Now we know, don't do that. Right? 


00:31:13    Alyssa 



00:31:13    Ash

But it's not just for our kids now, it's for them in the future, so that they have all of this built up, instead of having to, you know, kind of do that later in retrospect when they're older. 


00:31:27    Alyssa

Right. I think one of the barriers to that to us getting there is the acceptance and realization that no one is supposed to be regulated all the time, right? And that if we are operating from this place of like, oh, if I do all the right things, if I proactively tap into these forms of regulation, we're moving our body, we're not hangry, we're not tired, we're whatever, I can avoid dysregulation. I think that exists out there that folks think like, there is a way to not feel dysregulated, to not have big feelings, to not have to look at like, oh, what, how do I regulate? And I think before we can get to the place of like, how do we learn what to tap into when we're dysregulated starts with the acceptance of everyone experiences dysregulation on and off throughout the day. 


00:32:26    Ash

Yeah, and so much that is like coming back to, for me that really comes back to this place of being willing to or able to center the not always the needs of my child but just the experience of my child over, often for me, what it is is like the the feeling of judgment of other people.


00:32:48    Alyssa 

Correct. Whether they're there or not right.


00:32:51    Ash

Oh yes this isn't necessarily people actively outwardly judging so right of it is in here is in the head, its my perception of like but what are they gonna think? Or, oh, I have to make sure that they're, you know, being as convenient as possible. For me, I feel like it's me trying to make my kid very convenient. 


00:33:11    Alyssa

Totally. Because then they're a, quote, good kid. 


00:33:15    Ash

Good kid. Mm -hmm. Absolutely. So, like, we were traveling a lot this summer. We were gone for a month and we were in another country and I had to, I found myself, like, often trying to be like, Ash, stop, like, you're just you're trying to make sure that they're like, not an imposition on this whole other like city of people, which I totally get. I hold myself to the state of like, be the good tourist who's not in the way. 


00:33:40    Alyssa 



00:33:41    Ash

And I'm like, but your child is not you. And maybe should not be held to that standard. And it's also okay, if your kid is a kid who takes up space. 


00:33:51    Alyssa



00:33:52    Ash

As a human in the world. And so some for me, so much of that is like my own, and like sitting with my own feeling of like expectation on me as a parent and therefore also my kid, I like, and, and figuring that out for myself. 


00:34:09    Alyssa

Right. Well, and that you're allowed to be dysregulated. You're allowed to take up space. You're allowed to have needs. You're allowed to not be easy and "good" all the time. Right. And like, I think starting there for ourselves, I grew up very much in like obedience culture, right? So it, we could have feelings, but like in my room. Right. And then when I was ready, I could come out and by ready,


00:34:34    Ash



00:34:34    Alyssa

It meant like, you're no longer, yeah. You're not crying. You're not going to be snippy or sassy or sarcastic. Like you're going to present in this exact one way. So of course, like growing up in that, then as an adult, I'm like, okay, cool. If I'm having a hard time, I have to do that behind closed doors. You know, I was dropping off Sage for school for like, he was going to a new school for his first time. And the day two, day one, I like went in, it was novel. He was jazzed, bye mom. I'm nervous, but I'm ready to feel brave, he told me. And then, it's very sweet. And he went and he played, and then I left and sobbed in the car and like called a friend and was like, huh. And day two, he has like a harder time at drop -off And I'm like near tears, and the teacher was like, how are you? And I literally said, like, please don't ask. Like, I can't, I can't really go there right now and be there for him right now. Like, all feeds into that, like, this isn't a place I'm supposed to have feelings. This isn't a place, like, once I drop him off, then I can go to the car and cry. Then I can call that one person. But like, I'm definitely not going to walk into the coffee shop crying, right? Like I got to get it together. And so I think like, this all just kind of comes together for a lot of us of, we're not supposed to experience dysregulation. And if we do, we're failing. And so if our kids experience dysregulation, we're failing, yeah. And then we're turning to these tools to try and make it better, but we already feel like a failure going in. 


00:36:13    Ash

Right. Right. Oh, yeah, so much of it is like, yeah, reparenting yourself, figuring that stuff out for yourself, having more grace for yourself. And to come back to that kind of like, binary feeling of conversation, like, that's so much more complicated. Right? We've been talking for like, 30 minutes about all this nuance. And that is so much more complicated than being like, Oh, yeah, just don't do that. 


00:36:43    Alyssa

Yeah. Exactly. Screens are bad. 


00:36:47    Ash

Right. Screens are bad. Don't do that. But to me, there's this feeling of like, if we try to make it that simple, like, well, probably we're really just kicking the can a bit. 


00:37:05    Alyssa



00:37:05    Ash

And we're kicking it down the road for somebody. And are we kicking it down the road for our future adult self to deal with as a parent? 


00:37:15    Alyssa



00:37:15    Ash

Or am I kicking it--


00:37:16    Alyssa

The kid.


00:37:17    Ash

-down the road for my kid to deal with on their own with no increased set of skills? 


00:37:24    Alyssa



00:37:24    Ash

They'll just be bigger. 


00:37:26    Alyssa

Yeah. Just be bigger. 


00:37:29    Ash

Right. They'll be bigger. But like, will they have more skills? So sometimes families will say like, like, well, we're going to delay delay screens. I'm not going to tell someone not to do that. 


00:37:40    Alyssa



00:37:41    Ash

Do what do if you want to never have a screen? Okay, and it is an it is an eventual inevitability 


00:37:50    Alyssa



00:37:50    Ash

It's just that's the reality we're in. We really can't this is not something that we can prevent from ever being part of their lives. 


00:37:58    Alyssa



00:37:58    Ash

 And it is absolutely okay, if you've decided that it is best for your family to just not have them or have them in a very minimal or controlled- Okay, fine. I hope it works well for you. Genuinely.


00:38:09    Alyssa

 Totally, totally. 


00:38:10    Ash

Because that's hard. Like, so I genuinely, I hope it is. I hope that that works well, and is beneficial for everybody. And we do need to recognize that by delaying, we can make it so that our eventual child, like when they're grown, whatever stage, is then having to be able to regulate themselves around something that they've never dealt with before without those skills of how to do so, or necessarily applied in that way. I always think it's interesting that we will say, or we'll hear, well, you know, screens are different now, and they're just so engaging, they're so exciting, they're structured in this way. And that is true, but it's used as a way to say, well, we should just delay or we should not have them. I'm like, okay, so then what is your plan to prepare your child to then deal with these incredibly exciting screens that you're talking about when they're 16, 17, 18. Because if their first introduction to having a video game console is moving into a dorm, where they now have to be the one who decides when they get up, when they go to class, when they eat, what they eat, how much they study, then we've kind of put them in the deep end of this, right? 


00:39:33    Alyssa



00:39:33    Ash

And we're kind of expecting them to manage this on their own, without much of a tool belt. 


00:39:40    Alyssa



00:39:40    Ash

We might think, oh, we've taught them how to balance school and life and everything else. Right. And you're right. But on the one hand, we're like, oh, yeah, screens, we have to delay them, because they're so overwhelming, or they're so exciting. They're so dysregulating. It's like, okay, so we're recognizing that they're unique in this way. But we're not recognizing that we have to then maybe prepare kids in a unique way to then deal with them. 


00:40:01    Alyssa

Right, right. And when I look at this, I really look at like, what are my actual goals, right? And I think I have two goals just maybe in life. One is how can I show up as the most intentional parent I can be as often as I can do that. Recognizing it's not gonna happen 100 % of the time, it's not whatever. And for me, there's a difference between like, Oh, I had a hard day and there are one -offs versus like there's a pattern or a cycle. And so when I find myself in like patterns or cycles where like, oh, every time we're trying to get out the door in the morning, I end up snapping like, cool, I got to take a look at this or whatever. You know? So like, how can I, so that's like goal number one, what's like mine to carry. And then goal number two for me is how do I equip my kids with tools to navigate whatever's gonna come up in life, that I don't think that they're going to avoid hard things. I don't even think they'll avoid trauma. I want them to know that whatever comes up, they've got a toolbox to call on. And those are my two real main goals in life. And when I look at screens in that way and I can say, how is this supporting one of those goals? It actually supports both of them when I use it with intention, and I think it can take the binary bad or good out of it for me of just like, am I using this in a way that's productive? Either for them building a toolbox or for me being more regulated. 


00:41:52    Ash

Absolutely. Something I do a lot of that I don't actually know if it's that like unusual, but I say it a lot and people always seem kind of surprised by it. It's like, you know, we do we do so much scripting when when kids are babies, and then we kind of stop. 


00:42:08    Alyssa

Mm hmm. 


00:42:09    Ash

And we kind of think like, oh, yeah, we do that for language. And then they can talk. So we stop. 


00:42:14    Alyssa



00:42:14    Ash

And I'm like, No, there's so many things that we do that we have reasons for that are, you know, are sound, or they're ours, and they're justified in whatever way. And we don't name those things. And then I think we somehow assume that it will be something that they're just absorbing. And so much of decisions around regulatory things and recognizing dysregulation and choosing how to try to regulate and figuring out if it works or not. So much of that is just happening in our heads. And without the active modeling of that, or sometimes the scripting of it, it's that that the skill is not necessarily going to be imparted in the same way, you know.


00:43:01    Alyssa

Can you give a script example? 


00:43:04    Ash

Sure. So I think that modeling with our own right, like behavior is extremely powerful. I mean, we know this, because it's like our kids walk like us, they talk like us, they do things like that. So, like, there was a day where I was, I think I was sad, I think. And I like literally said, like, I'm feeling sad. I maybe said why? I don't know. I'm gonna play some Zelda now, because I think it might feel good to distract myself. And I did that for a bit. And I did that for like, I don't know, probably half an hour, like an amount of time to feel kind of appropriate in front of my kid. And then said, you know, that did help it distracted me a bit. I still think I feel a little sad, but I also feel just really tight in my body. So this helped a little bit, but I think I need to try something else. I'm going to stop. And I think I'm going to go get the mail. Like, do you want to come with me? I'm gonna go for a walk. I'm just naming like why I did it, if it helped or not, how I recognize that maybe it might be time to do something else. 


00:44:14    Alyssa



00:44:14    Ash

I do the same thing with, because this comes up a lot with how difficult it can be to stop screens, so I do the same thing with modeling how I'm going to stop. 


00:44:24    Alyssa

I love that. 


00:44:25    Ash

And I'm sure, from the outside view, I sound like I've planned it. But most of the time, it's like genuine. 


00:44:35    Alyssa



00:44:35    Ash

I am like genuinely in the moment, like, wow, I just realized we have like three minutes left. And I am really trying to beat this boss. And it is not going to happen. Like I, there's no way I can do that with three minutes left. So there I'm modeling you know, some executive functioning, some time management. Like, oh, we have three minutes. I don't have enough time for what I wanna do. So I think I'm gonna go to this, (I'm playing a lot of Zelda) I think I'm gonna go to this stable so that when I start tomorrow, I can buy some more arrows so I can go try this again. So I've made myself a plan. I'm modeling how I know what the plan is. I'm like, okay, I think that's the last thing I'm gonna do. It's really annoying because I really think I could have done it if I just had five more minutes, but first thing tomorrow, I can try this again. 


00:45:23    Alyssa

I love that. 


00:45:24    Ash

And it's just I'm naming like, yeah, I don't like this either. Right. But if all my kids saw was, oh, my parent pressed a button. Stop. Stop the game. Put it away. They're fine. 


00:45:37    Alyssa



00:45:37    Ash

They're not actually seeing the skill that I am working on. And just naming it can, I think, do a lot. Because then I can, if my kid is struggling with the same thing, then they have a model, and I then have a model. But if my kid is not able to do that regulation on their own, then I also have a model for me. I have a script all of a sudden. Now I can say, oh, so that's what I'm going to do when I come back tomorrow. What are you going to do when you come back tomorrow? Like, what is it you're wrapping up right now? Oh, OK. Well, we're going to pause here for now. And then tomorrow, the first thing you're going to do is whatever they're working on. 


00:46:17    Alyssa



00:46:18    Ash

And then actively modeling and practicing that skill I think is huge, because so much of it is invisible to them. 


00:46:26    Alyssa

Yes. I love this so much because I think you hit the nail on the head that we do it when kids are really young to teach them how to talk, to whatever. And then we're like and check, I think in toddlerhood, even just like modeling frustration tolerance or as you were naming here, like cognitive flexibility of here is my plan A. I'm now making a plan A was like, I don't know anything about Zelda but like I do whatever you were trying to do and then plan B is like no I'm going to this stable and I'm going to start again tomorrow right but like being able to name that really you're providing this cognitive flexibility for them uh as a model.


00:47:04    Ash

Along with the emotion part, too, like there's whether whether it's you know like sometimes we're driving and I'm in traffic and I am like ugh like I'm just so annoyed like we're late there's not traffic here usually, it's just so frustrating, and I'm gonna like I think I'm just gonna like grip my steering wheel a couple times take some breaths just remind myself like we're gonna get there when we get there, we're here and we're safe, you know and just modeling that and naming that and I think people will be shocked at how quickly kids pick up on that and then start doing that because my sometimes if I like, kind of go, ughh you know, my kiddo will be like, are you frustrated? And I'm like, well, the only way they know that is because I bothered to name that that's the sound I make when I'm frustrated. And there's now they're making those connections. Or, you know, one day we were walking into the street, I think it's when we were on vacation, actually. And I looked down, and we're like walking, I think I'm like, you know, carting my child through like a Tokyo train station, there's like tens of thousands of people. And I look down and I'm like, they're like, doing this with their fingers, counting with their fingers. I'm like, what do you what are you doing? And they're like, Oh, you know, I was just feeling a little upset. So I'm doing some box breathing. And I was like, Oh my god. 


00:48:31    Alyssa

It's working! 


00:48:34    Ash

Parent jackpot moment. 


00:48:36    Alyssa



00:48:36    Ash

But outside I'm like, don't show it on your face. 


00:48:39    Alyssa

Yeah, no. Wow. Great.


00:48:40    Ash

Don't let them know. 


00:48:42    Alyssa

The elation that I'm feeling inside. 


00:48:45    Ash

Yeah. Let me know if you need anything else. You're like, hey, did that help? Did that work? Oh, wow. Okay. I'm so glad. Now you know that that really helps you. But that just the active modeling of that and whatever activity we feel like they're missing it in. Right. Sometimes it's really helpful to do it if we're like, well, they never do it when they're watching shows or whatever, then we can do it. You know, we can model it when we're watching something or we're on our phone or whatever to help give them that idea of what they can do too. 


00:49:17    Alyssa

I love this. Ash, I feel like I could chat with you for a very long time. This is very easy to do. But I love that so much. I think it's a great way to wrap up. Can you share with folks where they can continue to learn from you, connect with you, all that jazz. 


00:49:36    Ash

Yeah, so mostly I live on the internet @thegamereducator on Instagram. I do have a website, I don't do a ton with it, but most of my stuff's all on Instagram, talking all these things, screens, tech, management, feelings, behavior, all of that. So yeah, come check me out over there. It's a lovely corner of the internet. 


00:49:58    Alyssa

It's a lovely corner of the internet, a fantastic follow. And if you're tuning in right now, take a screenshot and come on over, tag @thegamereducator and and let us know what follow -up questions you have and what your thoughts are, like what challenges come up for you. I love continuing these conversations in DMs and getting to dive deeper, so let us know. Thank you for hanging out with me, Ash. 


00:50:23    Ash

Oh, thank you so much. 


00:50:25    Alyssa

Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at, S -E -W. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.


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