Parenting In The Age Of Distraction

Spending quality time with my children has always been at the center of my parenting approach. So one sunny school day, I found myself settling into a booth at a cafe with my son after a particularly grueling dentist’s appointment. Feeling slightly self-congratulatory for allowing him to take off from school to spend this time with me, I took a few minutes to scan my e-mail as we waited for the waiter to take our order. ‘Mom’, my son said firmly. I heard his voice piercing through the fog of my intense concentration. ‘Hmmmm’ was my lukewarm response to him. ‘Mom’, he said, sounding strangely familiar. ‘Can you hand me your phone? I don’t think this quite qualifies as special time.’ Feeling deeply ashamed, I sheepishly tucked the phone into my bag where it lay for the duration of the meal. Not coincidentally, this turned out to be a fabulous bonding experience for me and my son.

If you identify with the mom in the paragraph above, you are not alone! Many parents today wage battle against their children’s technological devices in an attempt to bring up confident and well-adjusted children. By the same token, however, most of us face the same battle within ourselves. A large majority of parents today can relate to this phenomenon and agree that it has been detrimental to them and their children at times. The result of this type of parenting is a so-called “pseudo parenting”, in which parents go through the motions of parenting, yet are not fully present. In this manner, parental guidance takes on a non-genuine ring. This distracted parenting often leads to resentful and impatient parents as the technology takes precedence over our children’s needs at the moment. Here are some relatable scenarios: Homework hour, during which the phone beckons as your child asks for your complete focus on a tedious math problem, or picture the bewilderingly late bedtime hour, where you wonder where the time has gone after spending just a “few” minutes lost in the world of Facebook despite the chaos around you.

As we often point out to our clients, the best form of parenting is by example. Consequently, the first step to guiding your children through the paradox of technology and its impact on their lives is to practice what you preach. No media or technology during homework hour means no media or technology for the entire family (a la The Bernstein Bears in Too Much TV). The same holds true for dinner time, bedtime and whatever other restrictions you put in place for your family. In this way, you will model for your children the meaning of balance and the “time and place” aspect of learning how to handle technology in a positive and rewarding manner.

-As with most things in life, the first step to making a lifestyle change is acknowledging that you have a problem. Be honest with yourself as to how often technology gets in the way of your best attempts at parenting.
Decide what your family’s rules are. Each family will have different priorities due to its values and principles. For some, it may mean a complete “cold turkey” approach where technology is banned from the home. For others, technology is acceptable only during certain days and hours. There are many options. Regardless of the approach, make sure to include yourself.
Commit to change: make a conscious decision every morning to stick to your family rules regarding technology.
Be consistent. No parenting technique will “take” without consistency. Inconsistency sends mixed messages to your children, throwing them off balance and benefiting no one.
Be forewarned: You will probably face a small revolution from a kiddie army, but remember that you are instituting this change for their own well-being and that of your entire family.

Written by: muffins- N- moms

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