“Will you put that stupid phone away!”
An all too common complaint in American homes today. But does whining about it do any good?
The problem is undeniable. Common Sense Media actually took a survey asking both teens and parents if young people spend too much time on their devices. 66% of parents feel their teens spend too much time on their mobile devices, and 52% of teens actually agree! (Perhaps the other 48% of teens never looked up from their phones.)
The only dilemma is how parents can actually connect with over-connected kids… without having to say, “Will you put that stupid phone down!!!”
That’s a question I’ve been asked countless times in the last few months in radio and TV interviews about my new book on the subject…and here are the TOP FIVE WAYS I return to again and again:
1. Maximize No Tech Zones
So what have we learned?
It’s a little counterintuitive to think that any “boundaries” we impose would actually help us bond with our kids. Sounds crazy, right? What rule is going to make our kids want to be with us more?
I’m not advocating turning your house into military school. What I’m suggesting is a few helpful boundaries that free our kids from the enslavement of 24/7 connectivity.
I’m not alone in this. Most parenting experts recommend “no tech zones like “No Tech at the Table.” This reasonable boundary isn’t typically perceived as unfair or harsh. Most kids will actually find the uninterrupted conversation nice, especially when 73% of parents use the phone at least once during a meal! No tech at the table is for everyone—even Mom and Dad!
No tech zones help everyone connect with the people sitting right in front of them.
2. Join Them!
They always say, “If you can’t beat em, join em.” And that’s exactly what I recommend if you see your kids playing video games or binging on Netflix. Instead of always saying, “Put that away and do your homework!” Try sitting down and joining them every once in a while. Ask your daughter, “Whatcha watching?” And watch it with her. Ask your son, “Whatcha playing?” And play with him.
Some of the greatest conversations I ever had with my son were when I sat down and played video games with him. 2-Player mode created an arena of communication where my son always opened up and began talking.
This doesn’t mean you should never correct your kids if they are spending too much time in front of screens. Just ask yourself: when you walk in the room is your typical response to be the chaperone who always shuts them down… or the Sherpa who walks with them and guides them through life?
What are your kids’ favorite apps? Where is their favorite place to eat or favorite coffee house? What is their go-to song or artist when they’re feeling upset?
How are we going to know any of this if we don’t pause and take time to notice our kids and listen to what they have to say.
The number one complaint I hear from today’s kids about today’s parents is, “They don’t listen to me.” It sounds a little hypocritical to those of us who are parents. “They don’t listen to us either!” But the perception is there. Most kids feel that Mom and Dad don’t know them.
Next time you’re driving your kids and their friends home school, sports or church… trying something. Don’t say a word… just listen. You can learn so much about your kids in a 10-minute car ride—far more than they realize! (Teens aren’t half as sly as they think they are.) Listen to your kids’ likes and frustrations. Listen to their heart. Commit these elements to memory to help you connect with them. If they are arguing with their friends about the best French fries in the city, remember when they say Five Guys. Then when you want to connect with them, simply ask them, “You wanna go get some Five Guy’s fries?”
Most parents want to connect with their kids, but don’t know where to begin. It all starts with taking the time to notice.
4. Busy hands
In a world where parents are having a hard time getting kids to put down their mobile devices, take notice of the activities where they naturally have to put down their devices. If your son is excited to learn to drive, then take him driving as often as possible (you can’t drive with your phone in your hands). Conversation is the natural byproduct of these settings.
Think of all the settings where this occurs:
- Making cookie dough together
- Sitting in the hot tub
- Going on hikes
- Tucking them into bed at night
As you discover these settings with your kids, maximize them! These are the arenas where conversation takes place.
5. No Signal
One of the best ways to engage our kids without the distraction of technology is to go to places where it’s difficult to use technology. Where are the places you’ve discovered where WiFi is non-existent? Camping? Skiing? Hiking?
Find and frequent these natural settings that aren’t tech friendly. Kids will be forced to communicate the good ol’ fashioned way… and might even find it to be more pleasant.
The phone can be a great tool for connecting with people outside the room, when it doesn’t interfere with our connecting with people inside the room! Look for ways to help your kids experience pleasant communication with the people inside the room. You’ll find plenty of creative ways to do this without having to bark, “Put your stupid phone away!”
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