A little while ago, I bumped into a LifeHack column discussing 15 things or so that children wish their parents would do more of. I’ve searched online but can’t seem to find that post anywhere so I’ve put together my own version based on some of the few items on the list that I remember and that stuck out in my head and resonated with me as a modern, tech-savvy and addicted parent.
Here, remixed, are Four things that modern parents need to stop doing now in order to show their children complete love and attention:
Stay glued to your smartphone – We adults (this one included) cannot stay off of our smartphones and tablets. We stay glued to them even while picking up the kids from school, greeting them at the bus stop, making them dinner and pretty much engaging in any aspect of life. A recent University of Washington study published this year found that 44% of parents struggle to turn off their phone at the playground. Make a pledge to yourself now if you are one of those iPhone or Droid phone addicts. Put away the phone at least for the first 30 minutes to hour when the children get home from school. Even if someone calls (even the office) let it go to voicemail. Better yet turn off the ringer also so you don’t even get tempted. Heck, the notifications alone can get us all excited so just go ahead and turn it all the way off. Cut off all temptations.
Use your Smartphone or Watch TV during mealtimes.
During mealtimes is when parents should be engaging their children and asking about their day, but many struggle. I know I do as well. A Boston University study observing 55 different groups of parents and young children eating at fast food restaurants uncovered that 45 of the parents used a mobile device during the meal, and many were more absorbed in the device than in the kids. Most of the caregivers pulled out a mobile device right away, the chief researcher noted, adding “they looked at it, scrolled on it and typed for most of the meal, only putting it down intermittently.” Dinner and other mealtimes should be used to share each other’s company (and this goes for spouses, friends or whomever else you’re having a meal with). A smartphone free meal allows the parent can make sure her kid isn’t eating too quickly and over stuffing himself. Also, for older kids, mealtimes are when parents can find out about what they’re doing in school or looking forward to in the week or weekend. It’s hard enough getting a teen to open up so while forced to eat dinner together, take the opportunity to get all up in their business. It’s your job. Try this trick to make it work: have everyone put the phones in the middle of the table face down during dinner as a reminder that they are off limits.
Not Listen to their kids’ stories. I am quite guilty of just nodding along and saying ‘mmmhmmm’ in response to an ongoing tale one of my kids is telling me. I get so engrossed in my phone or whatever I am working on at the time that I can barely take even a slight breather to listen to a story. That’s no bueno. They will remember these moments as they grow up and even in adulthood. We have to show attentiveness and this goes for when our child wants to show us some artwork they did at school or at camp, read something interesting she found in a nature book or just share something that happened at school. Try to be mindful and conscious of the next time you find yourself ignoring your kid while she is talking to you. Then stop. Pause and try to listen.
Don’t spend quality downtime with their child. It’s easy to shoo a child who proclaims he is bored away and direct them to read a book, go outside or go play with a sibling. A different approach that would nurture your parent child bond would be to actually play with them. My family has a stack of board games and medium sized puzzles. It could take up to an hour or more of time, but honestly, we spend more time than that watching a Game of Thrones marathon or the last few Housewives show we’ve missed. The kid we brought into the world should be able to compete with strangers on the TV. Right? Overscheduled children also complain about having downtime to just chill and hang with their parents. Your together time shouldn’t be limited to you chauffeuring your children from activity to activity and sport-to-sport. Get in the water with them while at the pool in the Summer. Play some hoops at the court. Laugh, Live, Connect.
There we have our challenge. Let’s try to make some small changes so we don’t contribute to our children’s future therapy session bills. (smile)