Quick question: what’s the biggest danger of being on your phone around your kid?
Is it that you’re teaching them how to be addicted to technology?
Is it that they’ll become socially awkward and not know how to interact without a device?
Is it that you’re not modeling presence, and he’ll perceive you as a distracted parent?
Would you believe that the answer is none of the above?
Being on the phone around your child is not problematic in itself.
Being 100% available to your child isn’t what makes you a good parent. We all have things to do.
Where parents get into sketchy territory is in how they interact with their child regarding the phone.
Specifically, it’s all too easy to make your child feel unimportant because of what you say, not because of what you’re doing.
Here’s what I mean.
You’re a young child who has just painted a fabulous picture. You run up to your mom, shouting:
“Mommy, mommy, look what I did, look what I drew!”
Okay, now imagine mommy says to you:
“Not now, can’t you see I’m on the phone?”
I have some important questions for you:
If you were this child, how would you feel if your mom said that to you? And what would you conclude about yourself?
Would you feel as if you mattered? Or would you wonder whether there’s anything really special about you?
Would you feel loved and wanted? Or would you feel as if you were a bother to your mom?
Would you still feel excited about your drawing, or would you feel the wind was knocked out of your sails?
Would you be inclined to paint more pictures, or would you think to yourself, “Nah, why bother?”
In only a few seconds, you’d swing from feeling great about yourself to feeling completely unimportant. And now consider that this doesn’t just happen once—but many times over the course of your childhood. How would you feel?
When you’re an adult, you can learn not to take people’s behavior personally (and some of us still have a very hard time with this!).
I’m sure you can remember at least a few times in the past few years when you felt slighted or dismissed because of the way someone talked to you.
Maybe you talk through the incident with your spouse or a friend, and you feel better. Or maybe you later learn that the person who brushed you off was having a bad day, and then everything makes sense.
But when you’re a child, you’re much too little to understand that just because mommy doesn’t have time for you right now, it doesn’t mean you’re not important. Your parents are your world, and it doesn’t occur to you that they have a bunch of other responsibilities to take care of.
Likewise, you’re much too young to comprehend that mommy might not know exactly the right words to say to you to help you feel important. Maybe she never read a single article about parenting, or (most likely) she took her parenting cues from her own upbringing, which was less than stellar.
As a kid, you can’t possibly know any of this. And so you conclude that if mom doesn’t have time for you right now, it must be your fault—you’re just not worthy of her time. In other words, “I guess I’m not important.”
Your children look to you as their compass. They form beliefs about themselves based on the interactions they have with you. That means that everything you tell your children today shapes their futures.
We may worry about getting our kids into the best schools, or about making sure they’re scheduled in enough activities, and we may be very strict about how much technology time they get in a day.
But the reality is that none of these concerns are as important as the way we interact with our children. Even the smallest interactions—such as the moment your child needs your attention while you’re busy—can greatly impact how they grow up to feel about themselves.
Now, you may have felt some sad feelings come up as you read the scenario above about the phone.
You may be thinking of things you’ve said to your child, and now you regret them. You may also be remembering how your parents responded to you, and how this has affected you as an adult.
But here’s the very uplifting news: it’s never too late to change beliefs, and it’s easy to do with just a few small changes!
To illustrate what I mean, imagine if the interaction above had gone completely differently…
There you are again, little you running up to your mom all excited about your painting.
Now imagine mommy puts her call on hold and says:
“Honey, what you have to say to me is very important and as soon as I get off the phone, you will have my undivided attention.”
Sure, you might still walk away upset, but you’re not concluding that you’re not important or that what you have to say is not important.
Also, notice that this response took no more than 11 seconds. In other words, it doesn’t take much effort or time to completely change the way your child sees himself.
There’s nothing wrong with saying to your child that you’re in the middle of something, and that they have to wait. But if you just ignore them or make believe that you are listening, they will not be fooled.
Kids are smarter than you give them credit for!
Did you ever notice that the minute you get busy—the moment you get on the phone or start a project or go to pay your bills—bam!
Your child wants your attention right then and there.
He or she could be completely engrossed in a toy, and you think, “Yes! This is my chance to get something done.”
But without fail, your child seems to have a special kind of built-in radar for gauging exactly when you need to do something important.
Now, obviously you can’t be expected to drop everything all the time. And you can’t expect to not have friends, have your own chores, or have a life of your own.
So, what can we do?
Believe me, I understand that you need to get your life done. I was a mom to two kids (now grown), and I get it. I want to support you in being able to get your life done in a way that supports you AND your children.
And my program, Parenting That Empowers: How To Ensure Your Child Becomes A Happy, Confident, Capable Adult, is the best way I can help you.
Through 8 hours of audio and an accompanying workbook, you’ll learn how to help your child develop positive beliefs—by using the interactions you already have with them every day.
I want to open your eyes to the many different opportunities you have throughout the day to catch yourself before you inadvertently cause your child to develop negative beliefs.
You’re going to be surprised when you see the many ways parents innocently harm their children’s self-esteem—such as when it’s time to get homework done, get into bed, and do chores.
I’ll also teach you how simple changes in your responses can make dramatic and lasting impact on your child’s self esteem. And you’ll also learn how to apply the advice no matter your child’s age.
For instance, you can talk with older children ahead of time about how to handle interruptions so that both you and your children can feel respected.
You’ll also learn what to say and what not to say to your children when you need them to do (or stop doing) something when you need their attention.
This isn’t to say that your child will never be disappointed. Sometimes, your child will feel dismissed by their peers or by their teachers. They might not make the cut for the soccer team, or they might have a challenging time with geometry.
But these events do not have to define your child if he has learned to cultivate his own sense of worth. That’s why I’ll also teach you how to re-frame setbacks, rejections, and disappointments so that they don’t turn painful memories into debilitating beliefs about themselves.What Every Child Needs
You can get your life done AND help your kids feel worthy. It just takes a few hours of your time now to learn the key parenting skills that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
P.S. If you’re feeling guilty about having possibly caused your child to feel unimportant, please remember this:
You were never given a manual on how to be an effective parent!
That’s why my dream is for every new parent to learn the tools in my program Parenting That Empowers—so they can start nurturing self-esteem right from infancy.
The good news is that it’s never too late to instill positive beliefs in your child that will serve them for a lifetime:What I Wish My Parents Knew