When I was a new mom, and even a kind of new mom, I was full on with organic food. I knew the dirty dozen of the foods that you must buy organic. I knew what ingredients were taboo and which brands had the best reputation. While all of that was fine, I messed up on something way more important—giving my kids the benefits of my full attention.
When I took my children to the playground near our house I determined that it was the perfect time to call my friends and talk on my phone. Sure, I checked in with my kids intermittently, “Andrew! Go down the slide, not up!” “Clara, yes, sweetheart, I see you.”
Boy, did I mess up. All of the benefits of my organic food-serving were nothing compared to the benefits I could have given my children by focusing on my screen less and them more. Here are the 4 benefits of our non-distracted attention our kids are missing out on when we shoo them away or fail to make eye contact because we are on our phones.
Harvard’s director of its Developing Child Center says that children’s brains develop best when they engage in lots of “serve and return” conversations with their parents. Cell phones interrupt this. In the few seconds it takes for a mom to look down at her phone, she could miss her child’s non-verbal bid for attention. When that opportunity is missed, so is the chance for a back and forth conversation with her child. The fewer conversations a mom has with her child, the less developed the child’s vocabulary.
Phone-free moms also help their children develop conversation skills. Here are 99 conversation starters you can use with your children.
I have been guilty of grabbing my phone when my kids are with me for just a “quick” call, to check for an “important” text, or to check the weather. All of those things can wait. It is better to talk with my children when they are with me and put off those other things until later.
A patient mom.
Studies show that parents get irritated when their child interrupts them when they’re on the phone. Even if what the child needs is “unimportant,” it is important to put down our phones when our child wants our attention. Better yet, when your child is with you, put your phone out of sight, in a drawer, in another room, under the seat of your car. Distracted attention is almost as harmful as no attention.
When I am on my phone I am not connecting with my child. Relationships grow through interaction. I know I have a past history of guilt in this area, but it makes me sad when I see parents focused on their phone instead of their children. I see parents sitting with their children at a restaurant and the mom or dad is on their phone while their child looks around bored and neglected. And I see moms doing what I did, pushing their child in a stroller while they talk on the phone. My children missed out on hearing me say, “Oh! Look at that bird over there in the tree! His feathers are blue. Can you see that?”
No matter our child’s age, he needs our undistracted attention to connect with us to learn about the world around him and his value. How can we grow closer to our children when we are on our phones?
No matter our child’s age, he needs our undistracted attention to connect with us to learn about the world around him and his value.
It’s difficult to hug our children or hold their hands when we’re holding a phone. We show our children our love through eye contact, smiles, and touches. When we are on our phone, we are not conveying love to our children. At that moment, we are choosing our phones over our children. We are missing out on the opportunity to show them that we love them, not with grand gestures, but with the little things that let them know we choose them because we love them.
I hope I haven’t offended you, because I am talking to myself here too. Let’s challenge ourselves to put away our phones when we are with our children.
Tell us! What do you think?