Is your spouse's mobile device interfering with his parenting? Is yours? Help is here!
I love my children. I also love my smart phone. I appreciate the immediacy of both parenting and cell services, like texting. I also enjoy that my phone offers me a distraction, not to mention a sense of control, in those moments when parenting feels unwieldy and decidedly out of control.
Yet I worry about the quality of my parenting when my phone is close at hand (so to speak) and wonder:
How is my mobile device impacting my children and my experience with them?
I wonder far less about how my parenting is impacting my phone, though I recently discovered major errors in texts and emails sent in the midst of trying to tend to my kids, which has inspired me to stop responding to work issues when I’m with them.
All of which leads me to a new study released in the journal, Pediatrics, about interactions between caregivers and children in the Boston Area. The study discovered:
(1) 73% of the parents observed were more absorbed in their cell phones than their kids;
(2) While some children entertained themselves, others went to great lengths to try to get their parents’ attention; and
(3) If their kids’ misbehaved, parents who were focused on their mobile devices responded more harshly than those less absorbed or not absorbed at all.
Duh! This research confirms what parents already know: The less present we are to what’s going on around us, the less present we are to our kids and the constant, if sometimes unwelcome, and other times thoroughly delightful, aspects of parenting.
What this research also offers is an opportunity to reassess our relationship with our mobile devices, not to break up with them, but to intentionally decide what kind of relationship we want with them.
Better yet, the research inspired me to look at my children and ask:
What kind of relationship do I want with my kids? How does my mobile device interfere with that relationship?
My responses prompted me to make the following commitments to my kids. As you’ll see, I decided not to make promises in absolute terms, i.e., 100%. I’ve found that absolutes—whether applied to me or my kids—rarely deliver the results I want.
Commitment #1 I will do my best to keep my cell phone across the room, or worst-case scenario in my pocket, for 90% of the time I’m with you.
Commitment #2 If/when I plan to use my cell, I will try to let you know before I shift my attention away from you, and will apologize when I don’t have the time or opportunity to give you advance notice.
Commitment #3 I will do my best to only take calls or respond to texts that are, or I genuinely believe might be, urgent. [Click NEXT to keep reading...]
Commitment #4 If/when I do take a call or write a text, I will do my best to be as quick as possible so that I can get back to being with you.
Commitment #5 I will share these commitments with you, and my partner, and ask all of you to help me stay true to them.
As a Relationship Coach, I'd be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge the importance of these same commitments to the wellbeing of my relationship, so I will also make these commitments to my wife.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about, or recognized the parenting and relationship impact, of mobile devices. I wrote a post a few years ago about the cell phone behaviors I observed in two families at a Pediatric Urgent Care unit.
At the time, I’d just ditched my "dumb" phone for a sparkling new smart phone. I naively thought that after watching parents bicker with each other and ignore their son while obsessed with their respective phones, I’d curb my own phone-use around my kids and my wife. That was before I’d fallen in love with my mobile device, before I succumbed to the seductive allure of texting, Googling and emailing from the palm of my hand.
I know better now, which I why I opted to not only make these commitments to my kids and my wife, but to post them here. We all need to be held accountable.
Please use the Comment section below to post your tips for managing cell phone use when you're with your kids or pretty much anyone else you care about.
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