The first Sunday of each month Chad holds one-on-one father’s interviews with the kids. They talk about school and friends and family relationships. They discuss goals and worries. Chad gives compliments and he gives advice. At the end of each interview, Chad asks the kids, “As your dad, what can I do to help you?”
In this month’s interview Elle wanted him to remind her to read her scriptures. Croft asked him to protect our home. But I am not sure Chad was prepared to hear Crew’s response .
When Chad asked, “What can I do to help you?” Crew replied, “Get off your phone, more.”
Out of the mouth of babes…
In Crew’s defense, Chad is on his phone … a lot.
But in Chad’s defense, times have changed.
When I was a kid, I might come home and find my mom paying bills with checks spread out all over the kitchen table. I might see her in her bedroom reading a magazine. I might see her looking up a recipe in a cook book. I might see her filling out a registration form and then mailing it in. Or I might see her watching the news. I only saw her on the phone if she were talking to a friend. I didn’t see my dad on the phone because he was at work.
But now days we could be doing any one of the parenting tasks mentioned above including work … on our phones. Our world is on our phone.
And this is a problem because Crew doesn’t know any better. When he sees a phone, he thinks games and apps and Facebook. He doesn’t think “maybe dad is doing his church calling” or maybe “dad is paying a bill” or maybe “dad is working so I can eat”. He just sees a phone and thinks dad is wasting time, playing around, and not available to him.
I know Chad is not dinking around on his phone, but Crew doesn’t and his answer still needs to be heard.
So we had an
intervention Family Meeting and we discussed Crew’s request for dad to “get off the phone more.”
First, I explained what life was like when I was a kid and how the phone has changed. I wanted all the children to understand that dad is often doing good when he is on the phone. (Just yesterday he was on a 30 minute conversation with a family whose 96 year old grandma was in bad shape. They wanted comfort, advice, and a blessing. He took time to listen.)
But we all agreed there should still be some phone ground rules. The kids participated and dad agreed on these phone rules:
No phone when you walk in the door from work. We want to greet you and hug you and talk to you and we can’t if you are on the phone. Stay in your car in the garage until your call is finished if you have to, but enter the house available to us.
No phone at dinner. People can call back or leave a message. Few things are more important than our family dinner.
No checking phone or texting while driving. This is a no brainer. Phone use in the car is not safe. And how are we supposed to expect Elle and Crew not to text and drive if they see dad checking his phone at red lights? Parents have to walk far away from the edge so their children can see a clear path.
No phones on dates with mom. I am old school. Put away your phone, look me in the eye, and have a conversation with me just like we did back before we had cell phones.
(We may add to this list as time goes on.)
Now Chad is not the only parent guilty of a little too much screen time. I have my weaknesses too. So I try to keep myself in check. I have no games on my phone. No Facebook. And maybe 4 apps. I don’t need further temptation to disengage from my kids.
I try to put my phone away during the day so I am not tempted to check texts or emails or my blog.
And I am working to only be on my computer during designated times – before the kids get up, after the kids go to bed, or in the afternoon when everyone is at school. I have room to improve in this area, but I am aware and doing much better.
Technology is great and has made our lives easier on many accounts. But technology has also given us many ways to disengage and detach from our children and our families — to be there in the room with them, but not really be there, if you know what I mean.
So parents everywhere, take Crew’s advice and “get off your phone more”. Your children will thank you.