The Trouble with Distracted Parenting

And an invitation to practice the kindness of listening.

The Trouble with (and solution to) distracted parenting.

We try to listen to others. We do. But inadvertently our thoughts scan a mental to-do list or queue up something interesting to say.

Or all too often, we covertly scan our cell phones. For many of us, fiddling with our phonesor ipads or laptops has become so ubiquitous it is almost invisible.

Here’s the problem:

While we are knee deep in our digital feed, life is happening without us.

We are addicted to our phones.

(Incidentally, have you followed us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? Ha!)

As parents, we’re not only modeling distracted – and yes, rude – behavior. We’re missing the reality of our days, the soul, so to speak, of those around us.

I’m not lecturing here. I’m confessing.

I wasn't fully aware of how distracted I've been until I took notice of my three-year-old son's latest game. He grabs his little alphabet computer, types frantically, and tells me, "We can play in a minute, I just have to do one more thing."

How may times have I done that too him?

It’s embarrassing to admit that pit-in-my-stomach moment! I’m not alone. Recent news reports demonstrate just how much we parents are addicted to our phones.

What’s the Trouble with Distracted Parenting?

  1. It’s Dangerous!
    According to the Wall Street Journal article “The Perils of Texting While Parenting,” excessive texting may be landing our kids in the emergency room for injuries that, before 2007, had been decreasingly common.

  2. It’s Demoralizing!
    Our kids care how we respond to them, and they are noticing our distraction. Who among us (digital addicts like me, I mean) hasn’t heard a kid comment along the lines of, “Mom, put your phone down and talk to me!” Or “If you have tech time, why can’t I?” In this great piece from a New York Times blog, “Parents, Wired to Distraction” Dr. Steiner-Adair reminds us:

    We as parents have to be much more mindful about how our own wiring is interacting with technology in those moments when our children need us.

  3. It Isn't What We Want!
    Even as we fiddle with our phones, we know we should put them away. There is something about our brain’s wiring that ranks the urgency of responding to an email above the urgency of the small voice next to us asking for a walk in the park.

    As a result, we’re compelled to chase the next tidbit worth sharing on social media or type the next witty text/tweet/update. We “share” moments when we aren’t fully experiencing them. According to Seth Horowitz, author of a piece in the New York Times entitled “The Science and Art of Listening,”

    "You never listen’ is not just the complaint of a problematic relationship, it has also become an epidemic in a world that is exchanging convenience for content, speed for meaning. The richness of life doesn’t lie in the loudness and the beat, but in the timbres and the variations that you can discern if you simply pay attention."

Here’s the good news: we can practice listening.

We can beat this particular lapse in kindness, at least in our own homes, more easily than we can tackle most other issues.

Try this project, and see what a difference listening makes.

Create a Phone Dock Pay attention, share kindness.

Invite family members and visitors alike to leave their phones just out of reach. Create an attractive resting place, charger adjacent, in a quiet room. Remind yourself and visitors that you can dash in there to check your phone as often as you like, but you must leave the company of others to do so.

No more covert glances at your phone while others are talking!

Maybe this becomes a family time ritual for you. Or maybe you just make this request during specific times of day or even certain holidays.

We've used the Phone Dock off and on for a year. It's easy enough to tell when we're more committed to putting the phones away. Our children are less apt to repeat "Mom. Mom. MOM. MOOOM!" Our free time is more free.

And somehow, it seems like there is more free time available!

Give it a try!