Your goal in exploring resistance is to learn something, not to prove something. Kids can tell the difference; they won’t buy into a conversation if you are using a question to make an argument. (The experts call that the “Socratic method,” and it’s best left in the realm of college professors, not to the parents of kids and teenagers.)

In general, people (who aren’t being sarcastic or know-it-alls) ask questions because they don’t already know the answer, right? In that sense, the question asker is ignorant – and that is the frame of mind you should have when you ask a question of your child. You are not the expert – you are ignorant. Being ignorant of something doesn’t necessarily mean you are powerless, and your kid knows that. They know you still hold the power – and that it’s in their best interest to enlighten you on what you claim not to know; holding out on you won’t get them anywhere.

DON’T ask a question unless you are really prepared to listen to the answer and try to understand it.

DO honestly try to hear what your child is saying and understand them better.

TRY THIS: If, in a campaign to get you to allow them to game more at night, your child says, “That’s my time to be with my friends,” you can sympathise with that. You can say, “Wow, it must be really hard when 7 pm rolls around and I tell you that you cannot play anymore. It probably feels like you’re losing your connection to your friends.”

Your child will likely be confused by this turn of events – here you are sympathizing with them, clearly trying to understand them better. Keep rolling with this: “I can see that playing with your friends is really important for you. I am happy for you to do that as soon as your homework is done.”

Make no mistake: I more than understand that when we’re worried about our children, most of us talk a lot more than we listen. We tend to ask questions with the goal of proving a point. But what if we were to shift to asking questions with a goal of understanding instead?

Set aside time for regular discussions with your child that will not affect how much gaming they can engage in. Sometimes, you will need to separate boundary enforcement from conversation. If the boundary enforcement and conversation are part of the same discussion, your child will be disincentivised from even talking to you. Using the right language will help you establish a boundary but still encourage dialogue.

DO separate boundary enforcement from the sympathetic conversation.

DON’T include gaming restrictions in your regular discussions.

TRY THIS: Ask open-ended questions, practice reflective listening, and offer emotional validation to help your child feel understood. Here’s what that looks like in practice:

Open-ended question: If you ask, “What about gaming is really important to you?” they might respond with, “I really enjoy playing with my friends. It’s a lot of fun. We stay up very late.”

•Reflective listening: You can say, “It sounds like playing with your friends is really important to you. Everyone in your friend group likes to play games after a long day of school, and you guys stay up super late playing.”

• Emotional validation: You sympathise by saying, “That must be really hard. You probably felt like you were getting cut off from your friend group when I imposed restrictions on your gaming.”

• “Let’s talk about this on Thursday. If we can figure out some way to make sure you complete all the things you’re supposed to, then we can be more flexible when it comes to spending time with your friends online.

Notice that you haven’t budged an inch on letting your child join their friends online before the goal of homework completion has been met. But you have shown that you’re listening to them and care about their feelings.

The goal of exploring resistance is to discover what your child values. Here are some more open-ended questions and statements to get you started, some of which you might have used back in the beginning, when you were just starting to build an alliance with your child:

“Help me understand what makes playing video games so important to you.”

• “If I set a limit on your gaming, what bothers you about that?”

• “What do you like so much about video games?”

• “If I set a limit of two hours of homework before the video game, help me understand what feels so unfair about that.”

Their responses will lead to an understanding of what the value of the game is to them. It will help you understand their perspective, and you can integrate that new knowledge into future boundary-setting conversations.

Part of changing the dynamic between you and your child when it comes to gaming involves dealing with resistance in a healthy way. Sometimes when you are faced with a lot of resistance from your child, your interaction just turns into a power struggle. You restrict, they react. It’s an arms race – you make a spear, they build a shield, you find a sword, they come back wearing armour. At some point, someone throws a cannonball, and everything goes to hell.

An escalating arms race of discipline versus covert operations never ends well. If you use a “my way or the highway” strategy, your child will as well. “I’m a parent and I will do what I want.” So will they.

This is about power – they are very good at playing this game because that’s the game you’ve been teaching them for a long time. Even if you win, everyone loses. Rolling with resistance is an excellent opportunity to finally model the right behaviour to your child.

Excerpted with permission from How to Raise a Healthy Gamer: Break Bad Screen Habits, End Power Struggles, and Transform Your Relationship with Your Kids, Alok Kanojia, Rodale Books.