We’ve all had it happen.
Your child literally screams your name to get your attention. Why? Your focus was completely on your phone. Oops!
While our phones can be powerful tools, they can also wreak havoc on our family life and relationships.When you are always on your phone, it teaches your children that your phone is more important than they are. As such, it is vitally important that we break our bad habits and be more present with our children. How do we do that? Make some changes. Here are 10 ways you can ditch your phone and be present with your children.
1. Leave the phone in the other room
You won’t be distracted by your phone if you don’t have it in your pocket or your hand. When you get home from work, or the kids are home from school, go plug in your phone in the bedroom and leave it there. The physical distance between you and your phone will keep you from constantly checking your email.
2. Turn off the phone
If you can’t physically part with your phone, you can put some hurdles between you and its distractive power. When it is family time, turn off your phone. If you really need it, you can pull it out and power it on. However, the time it takes to do that will help you rethink the urgency of your task and help you refocus on your family.
Alternatively, you can put your phone in “do not disturb” mode. This will prevent you from getting notifications that will distract you from your children. However, this mode is easily bypassed and thus won’t stop your compulsive checking of social media.
3. Put phones in a basket for family dinner time
We love having dinner together as a family. Unfortunately, phones can distract from this face-to-face time. Before you enter the kitchen to eat dinner, drop your phone off in a basket. Make this a family rule that all phones have to be in the basket for dinner. When there are no phones at the table, you’ll see more meaningful conversations between family members.
Inevitably, a question will come up during dinner that will require you to look up the answer. You’ll instinctively reach for your phone but it won’t be there. If you don’t have a Google Home and can’t ask Alexa, it is perfectly fine to say “I don’t know” and get the answer after dinner.
4. Go for a walk outside
You’ve likely seen those viral videos of people walking while looking at their phones and then, BOOM!, they crash into a pole. Well, don’t do that! Go for a walk with your kids. Hold their hands. Use your hands to point out the beauties of nature all around you. Walks can include a stop at the neighborhood playground. You’ll need your hands to push your children in the swings or to play tag.
If you pull out your phone to take a selfie with your kids, be sure to put it right back in your pocket afterward.
5. Play games with your kids
Do your kids like board or card games? Group and family games help foster family dialog, negotiation skills, and build relationships. Keep your hands off your phone and on your game pieces. Use your focus to enjoy the banter of game play. Think clearly about your strategy or your children just might defeat you easily.
6. Play a sport with your children
It is really hard to mess around on your phone when you’re playing basketball with your kids. If your kids are like mine, they will want to double or triple team you on the basketball court. Leave your phone inside and you can focus on the fun of the game.
7. Do chores together
Every home has chores to be done. Working along side your children will help them see how things should be done properly. As a bonus, it is hard to run the vacuum or scrub the tub with a phone in your hands.
Yes, much work these days is done on a phone or laptop. However, there are still plenty of tasks that must be done in the non-digital world. There isn’t an app yet that will clean your toilet or wash the dishes. Use your former screen time to help teach these valuable skills to your children.
8. Put it down immediately
One technique to show your children respectful attention is to immediately put down your phone when they come up to ask you something. Alternatively, if you are mid-text, you can verbally acknowledge your child and say, “just a moment, I need to finish this message.”
But here’s the trick: you have to actually follow through. Finish that text and put the phone down. Don’t jump over to Instagram to check your comments or bounce over to email to see what has come in. Focus on your child. Your device can wait.
9. Plan ahead so you don’t need your phone
Many of us use our phones for work or are awaiting news from others via text. The truth is that most of these things can wait. Wrap up your work before you sit down with your kids. Set expectations with your coworkers, boss, and friends that you will be slow to respond to calls or texts when you are home with the children.
10. Be Careful: Kids will follow your example
Just as your twins will mimic each other, they will also mimic you. Be careful because monkey see, monkey do. When your children see you on your phone all the time, they will view that as normal behavior. Don’t be surprised when they eventually get their own device and completely ignore you too.
The good habits you form today will benefit your family for years to come. Remember, put down your phone and enjoy your family time!
Joe Rawlinson is the father of four children, two boys and identical twin girls. He is the author of two books for fathers of twins, “Dad’s Guide to Twins: How to Survive the Twin Pregnancy and Prepare for Your Twins” and “Dad’s Guide to Raising Twins: How to Thrive as a Father of Twins.” Joe also makes unique t-shirts for parents of twins at the Twin T-Shirt Company. You can find more tips and tricks for preparing for and raising your twins at dadsguidetotwins.com.