Ahh, the evening. When we slip into our sacred family rituals.
Most nights for us, that means dinner, a walk around the neighborhood with the dog, bath time for the kids, and then my favorite part of the day: We all curl up on the couch and watch a TV show together as a family.
How sweet, right?! (Unless you’re anti-screen time… which, if you are, hang with me! You’ll like where this is headed…)
In preparation for our TV time, we grab our snacks and bundle up in our favorite blankets. We let the dog out because we do not want any distractions during our favorite summer reality show, Big Brother.
As the show begins and recaps the drama from the past few episodes, my husband and I instinctively pick up our phones and—you guessed it—start scrolling. Not because there are any notifications or urgent news we are anticipating… just because our phones are within reach.
When the intro ends, our 6-year-old says, “Okay, guys, it’s starting!” Thank God our child is around to tell us when to get off of our phones—whew!
During the show, my husband gets a work email, which he opens and reads. I ask him to put the phone down. He assures me he is not going to respond until the show ends.
On a commercial break, I check Twitter to see what the viewers around the world think about the episode. They all think Michie is a jerk, too! YAS! #GirlPower
Hey, Parents! It’s Time to Put the Phone Down.
At the end of the show, my husband says to the kids, “Okay, it’s time for bed!” He gets up with the kids, goes with them to the bathroom, and starts assisting with teeth brushing. I assure them I am on the way with their fresh bedtime waters… right after I get a few more scrolls in! Oh, sounds like they’re wrapping up in the bathroom… better grab those waters and get down the hall quickly!
It’s then I hear her yell, in that sweet 5-year-old voice, “Ma, get off your phone and come tuck me in!”
My heart shattered into a million pieces.
What I thought was precious family time—our sacred evening ritual—was just the opposite.
My husband and I were there, but we were not present. We thought we were present, but the kids could tell we were not. We couldn’t even be bothered to watch one TV show with them uninterrupted… a show we love!
As an older-millennial (born in 1990, yes, almost 30—eek!), I remember my childhood phone-free. Our parents were present. They were not distracted when they spent time with us. They let us run around the neighborhood with our friends, with whom we were also present in the moment!
I grew up outdoors, and I want my kids to as well. Whenever I wonder why they don’t want to play outside, I always just assume the issue is unavoidable. I think, “Kids these days…” *eye roll*
The issue is not “this generation of kids”… the issue is US. We are enabling this behavior, whether or not we want to admit it, because we are modeling it.
What’s Your Why?
My stepdaughters asking me to get off of my phone (during bedtime, in the car when they want something and I’m in the passenger seat, or while I’m just sitting on the couch and they want a drink… the list goes on) is my why.
If you need more inspiration (which you probably shouldn’t), here are 3 more reasons why you need to put your phone down, after you’re done reading this article on it, of course…
Children are our greatest imitators.
When they see you on your phone, they want to get on their phones (or tablets, or Xbox…). When they ask you for help with something, and you say, “Sure, right after I finish this comment on Susan’s ‘Show me your pet!’ Facebook status,” they think giving you a delayed response is appropriate, as well.
If you think their addiction to technology is bad now, wait until they hit their teen years. You’ll be ahead of the game if you set the “phone-free time” home expectations now.
Even if you feel present, you’re not. They perceive your phone as an extension of your hand, and their perception is their reality.
You need to be in the moment, no matter how small.
Kids grow up quickly, and you’re missing something every minute you are on your phone instead of being fully present with them. When you are distracted on your phone, you are missing their backseat conversations, their witty banter, and their quirky habits.
You may even miss a red flag that you needed to see, such as signs your children are being bullied at school. Wouldn’t you hate for something to happen to your child which could have been prevented had you just been a little bit more present?
Nothing is more important than your child.
Okay, so there may be a truly urgent phone call that you have to take, but otherwise, nothing is more precious than time with your child. This is twice as important for parents whose work from their phones seems harmless, such as running business social media accounts.
If you are one of those parents, you have to work twice as hard to manage your time throughout the day so you can be present with your child where it counts.
This is even more important in a blended family when you share custody and already do not have the kids in your home 24/7/365.
I was convinced I was not addicted to my cell phone until I realized how often my kids or my husband had to ask me to put it down.
In our home, we’ve gotten intentional about phone time during our evening rituals. With the exception of taking pictures, we work hard every day to not be on our phones from the time we have dinner to the time the kids go to sleep. Further, we have always had a “no phones during meals” rule.
Another thing we do—my favorite thing we do—is have phone-free family vacations! All you need is your phone on airplane mode and access to the camera and clock anyway, right?!
Talk to your partner and get on the same page today about phone time. You really don’t have a minute to waste.
P.S. They say that parenting adult children is the hardest stage of parenting, so let’s set our kids up for success now!