I’ve noticed a pattern recently among the stroller crowd in my neighborhood. Night or day, it seems that the people pushing prams are more engaged with their phones than they are with the babies or toddlers they’re responsible for. And not just when they’re walking down the street. They can be phone-preoccupied stopped in front of a shop, seated at a park bench, or in a check-out line at the grocery store.
Okay, I know that all of us who have smart phones check them. But (cue Preachy Mom) young or old, kids need more attention than phones do and even more nurturing, a phone’s equivalent of charging. And both attention and nurturing require that adults be present and connected.
Giving a toddler your phone while you’re on your iPad isn’t the answer either. (Yes, how cute that your 3-year-old son favors the Oprah app over games.) And handing out tablets to your three kids in a restaurant booth while you and your partner are texting or checking phone email shouldn’t be the new normal for a family dinner out together.
And it’s not just the little kids that get the message they come second.
Crossing the street recently I approached a middle school-aged boy standing in front of his dad who was busy thumbing on his phone. As I walked past them, I heard the boy say, “Patrick’s mom said he could have a sleepover and he wants… Dad? Are you listening to me?” I turned my head expecting to see the father look up from the phone and into his son’s eyes. But instead, with no acknowledgement to his child, he put the phone to his ear and started talking.
As surely as kids grow up, phone habits are hard to break. Demonstrate to your kids early on that they can trust you to be listening and connected when they’re troubled or when they have something really important to say or when they just need a smile from you.
And when you need some time away from your kids, they probably need time away from you, too. That’s what relatives and babysitters are for. Just remember to ask that they leave their phones in a pocket. End of sermon.