A dad, a son and a rubik’s cube

Like many parents, it is a constant battle with my teenage son’s addiction to his smartphone. When I was a teenager, my punishment was being grounded from playing outside and seeing my friends. My son would be content being grounded to his room all day...as long as he has had his smartphone. This addictive electronic device is both his source of happiness and his parent’s tool for punishment. An endless cycle that has played itself over again and again.

I don’t have the answer to break this cycle but wanted to share my story of what could happen when you did.

Although the circumstances that led to is are vague, my wife and I agreed that for his punishment he would lose his smartphone for one week, including his days at school. The arguments were relentless, the kicking and screaming constant but mom and dad stayed strong and by the third day, something magical happened.

I walked into his room and he was playing with his Rubik's Cube, a gift he received for Christmas years ago and had gathered dust sitting on his shelf. When I told him that I never solved it, you could immediately see his eyes focus with a new determination. For the next two days, that Rubik’s Cube was in his hands constantly, forever playing with it trying to figure out the puzzle. On the third day, he came running down the stairs having finally solving it. He explained his process, showing me his diagrams that led to his conclusion. Not being done, I challenged him to complete the cube under one minute. This led to us buying a speed cube, which allows faster turning for solving the puzzle. By the end of his one week punishment, he broke the one minute challenge and was extremely proud of his accomplishment. Mom and dad were proud also.

Like with any addiction, going cold turkey can be painful and it was important to have substitutes to ease the addiction withdrawals. He still talks today about his accomplishment, boasting he is still the only one in the family that can solve the Rubik's Cube. Mom and Dad learned that it is imperative to have strict boundaries around his usage and consistent consequences.