Attention, so cheap and should-be-easy to give. A choice for quality of life really. But still I’m sure we all are sometimes Parenting while distracted. After reading the article you may want to recheck your focus…
What do you think and were do you draw the line?
Well I think this is a thoughtful article.
On the one hand, he does say that parents today are probably more engaged than previous generations. This thing where parents actually stay home full time to raise the kids (even for a little bit) is quite new – often it was the Grandparents or the Governess or the kids were at work with the parents (and not the centre of attention at all) or something like that. Sometimes for families down the bottom of the economic scale the kids had to pretty much take care of themselves.
Even today, in many parts of the world it’s considered normal for parents to be absent altogether for weeks or even years at a time while Grandparents or other relatives have sole charge of the kids. (One of P’s good school friends families is like this – the Grandparents raised one son by themselves in Malaysia while the parents worked overseas.) So we have to keep it all in perspective.
The author also said we have to be careful making too many judgements from a single incident – I can imagine some people think it’s a cute party trick to teach their 2yo to “ask Siri” and this might not reflect the child’s overall home environment. He also mentioned that some parents might be doing urgent things when they’re on their devices.
I’ll add, too, that I don’t think my child has the right to just interrupt me because I happen to be interacting via my phone. I need to be able to finish typing an sms just as much as I need to complete a sentence with another adult in conversation via telephone or face to face. I think it’s entirely appropriate for them to learn to respect that and wait their turn.
That said, it’s good to recheck our focus and ensure the right balance. Those devices are real attention-seekers (at least as bad as kids that way!) and it’s easy to start by “quickly” checking something that’s actually important and get sucked in to something else that’s really not.
There’s also an expectation for some nowadays that because everyone has their phone all the time that means messages will receive prompt replies. Sorry – but most of the time when my phone buzzes it’s hours before I read that. In fact I tend to keep the volume off and put it up on the shelf most of the day or I really will spend all my time on twitter :).
So where do I draw the line? Well, I do have a binge most afternoons when the kids are watching TV or playing computer games (i.e. we all have screen time). But we all have to put the screens down at the end of screen time. I do sometimes use it when the kids are having one of those rare moments of being absorbed in play together – that’s a really recent thing, though, I could never do that up until a month or so ago, and it’s probably happened less times than I can count on one hand. I do use my phone for “errand” type activity (for example, I use it at the bus stop so I can warn them how long they have to wait for the bus; I usually send a few sms back and forth to people if we’re meeting up that day, etc).
We use our devices together sometimes – for example, I might sit down to do some online shopping and have the kids looking over my shoulder and helping me choose out breakfast cereals or whatever; or I might be looking for information to answer one of their questions and they’re sitting beside me; or I might show them a blog post I think they’d be interested in; or videoing them, or whatever. Æ has also started playing computer games with P sometimes on the weekend (during screen time, which is his reward for homework). I don’t tend to count that sort of thing, though, because we are interacting together, even though the device is there, too.
I would say other than that, though, I don’t tend to use devices when the kids are around. To be honest one of them would probably be dead by now if I routinely tried to check facebook during their playtime! So my social media time is usually during their (our) screen time and my blog time is after bed time or during the couple of times a week when they’re both at school, or when it’s quiet at work, or when Æ takes them out on the weekend. I find P often says, “Oh mum! You just got a message!” and I’ll say, “I’ll check it when I get around to it,” and then I make a big point of adding, “You don’t have to check everything straight away just because your phone beeps at you.”
It needs conscious thought, though, and I do find myself wavering. As you know I’ve got my lists to tell me the maximum time to spend on twitter per day and I’ve been tweaking my notifications (the infamous “like” decision 🙂 ) as well to try and streamline it. (I just finished cutting down my Facebook notifications before reading this, and a couple of weeks ago I told google+ not to call me quite so often, too.)
My goodness this was a long comment.
I think he was raising a lot of good points to become aware of and to make a conscious choice. I am sure there are extremes at the both ends and the most people are somewhere in the middle but I think this was more of a thing to make you (me) re-evaluate how I want things to be in my home.
Personally I feel guilty of having done that “I’ll just check quickly” thing and then later realised that it really wasn’t that quick. Nowadays I choose very much, what I do when they children are present and I try not to take calls or organise anything on the phone/ online after work and before their bedtime. It is such a short time, and I end up missing my kiddos too. Of course, sometimes I need to, and I agree with children having to learn to wait too, but then I think the result is better for everyone if the wait comes in moderate amounts 😉 Also, it may be quite a good thing for the kids to learn that the world does spin around even despite of them.
Yes, “moderate” is a good word. When I’m out at work all day it’s a bit different to hanging out with them all day and them expecting me to just put everything aside for either a) nap time (that golden 20 minutes they used to take but not since they turned two) or the weekend. That’s just not reasonable, or practical, given all the companies that only answer phones 9-5 on weekdays.
When I’m at work I can make phone calls during the lunch hour or break times most days – when I’m at home I need my kids to let me have some phone call/break times!
But you can get to “just checking quickly” and then quite some time flies past if you’re not careful.
Anyway – it was a good article. A lot of articles I’ve seen on the theme seem to be coming from a standpoint that kids are entitled to 100% of our attention all the time at the drop of a hat regardless of anything otherwise we’re bad parents. It makes it hard for me to take articles seriously when what they’re saying is so unbalanced, to the point of not being either practical or necessarily even good.
Oh yes, it makes a huge difference whether you spend the whole day with kids or just the two-three hours after work! But I liked the way the article made me once again stop and re-evaluate how I am doing it and how I want to do it. I guess I don’t want to just “slip” into something I actually don’t even want. But I want to give my kids a *moment* of 100% attention every day if possible. They like it, I enjoy it, and we get clearly better along when I manage that. But 100% attention on kids all day long, oh my, that would really not be great for the kids nor my quality of life!
Great article, definitely food for thought. We try not to be distracted and be in the moment but it doesn’t always happen!
I’m sure nobody always does but the article got me thinking that I really want my kids to ask me as well, not just google, so aiming for that 😉
Sometimes it makes me sad that society is where it is 😦
It wouldn’t let me view the article, but I’ve been working hard to be in the moment and not distracted when interacting with Mr. T 🙂
Darn, there was a mistake in the link but I’ve fixed it now. Thanks for letting me know it didn’t work!
Kate, I am sure you are in the moment with mr T. You wouldn’t be able to have the relationship you have if you’d be distracted most times, I am certain of that!
Still, the article is thought provoking, at least to me 🙂