Here are some examples that you might identify with:
1) You are at the playground and instead of participating with your child (or let’s say even watching your child), you are on your phone. Your child asks you to come on the monkey bars and you are on Facebook.
2) Your are eating dinner and you are responding to email instead of interacting with the people around you.
3) You are at your child’s sporting event and instead of watching the game, you are shopping on Amazon.
These 3 scenarios are examples of distracted parenting. Distracted parenting is the overuse of electronic devices, primarily phones, in the presence of your children.
We often think that these types of situations don’t matter, but they do. You will see a child look over at their parents, only to see that their face is buried in their phone.
In previous days before phones this would have been reading a newspaper at the breakfast table or while your child is in the same room and wanting to play a game.
Sure we don’t have to be their entertainment 24/7, but they do deserve having us interact with them.
We can’t always be their entertainment as they need to learn to entertain themselves.
We often justify the distraction because it’s work or something we deem as “really important”. The truth is that we make the decision that the screen interaction is more important than the interaction with the child or watching the child.
We need to set the example for our kids in that the device is not a priority. It certainly is not more important than the relationship with your child. So if there are good opportunities to watch your child or even better participate, take them.
So what are some ways you can stop being a distracted parent:
1) First and foremost you have to want to stop. If you don’t want to, you can’t go to the next item on the list.
2) Become aware of your use. Are you using it in place on interacting with your child?
3) Turn off notifications. If the phone doesn’t beep or vibrate, you will be less inclined to pick it up.
4) Don’t bring it. Leave it in the car so you can be present.
5) At night when you come home from work, put your phone in “phone jail”. You can’t get it from jail until your kids go to bed.
6) If you “have to use it” maybe setup boundaries with the child. For example, I need to make this call for 10 minutes and then will put my phone away. Be sure to do what you say as your child learns that your word means something.
You don’t have to be focused on your child 100% of the time, but showing your child how important they are goes a long way.