Would you like to create smoother transitions with your child? I’m talking about everything from meals to activities to playtime, bedtime and everything in between. Hello… getting your child off a screen!  

Contributed by Leda Rawlins, a certified parent coach

Because moving to the next thing can be a universal place of STRUGGLE. But it doesn’t have to be. You might be thinking… ok, what does that look like in real life? 

Let’s say you’re cleaning up after dinner and you yell from the kitchen to your child who’s watching TV, “It’s time to get ready for bed.”  

Radio silence. No action. No response. NOTHING from your child.

Does this sound familiar?

What’s the first thing you do?

  • Yell again, this time a little louder?
  • Start banging pots and pans together for attention?
  • Turn off the power to the entire house? 😂

While these are understandable inclinations in moments of frustration, they’re not what most of us want to resort to. What’s the alternative? (What I’m about to say may strike you as too simple to be effective but stay with me.)

What you should do…

First, start by noticing how YOU feel when you aren’t being listened to. Do you feel mad? Annoyed? Frustrated? All the above? 

If you’re feeling any of those feelings, try this: 


Take a couple of slow, deep breaths. Then decide what you want to do next. And while you might be thinking, “Are you seriously suggesting that I BREATHE? How is that going to help?”

 Well, it’s both the pause and the way that you breathe. Use slow, long belly breaths. Try exhaling a bit longer than you inhale. Together, pausing and focusing on your breathing give you just enough time to relax your body, calm your brain AND decide what to do next (there’s science behind it, but we won’t get into that now)!

Simply notice how you feel in your body and notice how you respond when you just give yourself a minute (or 5!) first.

Ok, so you’ve taken a moment to connect with your feelings…frustration, anger etc. Then, instead of reacting immediately, you PAUSE and BREATHE. 

Your metamorphosis has begun! Now, in your new state of more serenity, go to your child. 

Either sit down next to them or squat down so you can get to eye level with them. Gently put your hand on their shoulder and wait to get eye contact. Once you’ve got eye contact, in a gentle voice say something like: “Honey (or their name), it’s going to be time to get ready for bed in 5 minutes. Did you hear what I said?” 

Have them repeat back to you what you said to make sure they really took it in. Then validate that with something to the effect of “Yes. You’ve got it.” The exact words aren’t as important as the intent you’re using.  Your intent is to be helpful and teach them how to make this transition. 

Come back to your child 5 minutes later and reestablish eye contact. Put your hand on their shoulder once again and let them know it’s time to turn off the TV.  

Then give THEM a choice: “Do you want to turn off the TV or do you want me to do it? You get to choose.” This part is key. Because it gives them a say in what’s happening which can be the ultimate antidote to the power struggles that often happen in these very moments. 

Your child will choose to turn the TV off or you will need to do it.

 If they choose to turn off the TV say something like “You did it. It’s really hard to turn off the TV, and especially when it’s time to get ready for bed . . . way to go!

If they start begging for more TV time, or start getting really upset, saying it’s not fair, etc., PAUSE again and take a few of your deep breaths and say something like:

I get it. You really want to watch TV a little longer AND it’s time for bed. Do you want to turn off the TV or do you want me to do it?”  


 Your child might get even more upset now.

You could say something like “I can see tonight is a night where I will do it for you. You really wanted to watch TV a bit longer and I know it’s hard when you can’t do what you want to do.”  

Then go ahead and turn the TV off. Allow your child to have whatever feelings they have. And yes, that includes being frustrated and upset and expressing that in ways you may not like. 

The difference here is that you don’t join in the emotional whirlwind like most of us would automatically do. You simply stay as calm as you can (at least on the outside to begin with, the internal peace comes with practice, I promise). 

It’s the attempt to stop our children from having their feelings that can often lead to struggles during these transition times. This doesn’t mean there aren’t boundaries, of course there are. The reality is this process is just the very start. Some of us need help to even hit that PAUSE Button at all. If this is you, you are definitely NOT ALONE. We all have histories, feelings and other factors that make our situations unique. 

If transitions have been a struggle, keep these tips in mind. The next time you’re in the midst of a transition, give this process a try. Remember, you’re not looking to be perfect. And, at the same time, doing things differently can bring about change that feels good to everyone.


Leda Rawlins is a wife, mom to a 9-year-old boy, and a certified parent coach who supports perfectly imperfect parents in finding more ease in their parenting. She has her B.S. in Child and Family Studies from UW – Madison and has called the Madison area home for the past 25 years. When she’s not helping families, she enjoys doing just about anything with her family, regularly googling new recipes to try, taking walks with her dog and spending time at her cottage. Her business is called Bloom Parent where she offers parent coaching via zoom. Sign up for her weekly newsletter where she gives bite sized parenting tips. (The first 3 emails you receive will look familiar as they are this article broken into 3 emails. After that, you’ll start receiving her weekly content).

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