A recent news item that gained national attention caught my eye. It told of a second-grade boy who was tasked with responding to the following: “Tell me about an invention that you don’t like. Why?” Now, I’m not sure what kinds of answers this teacher typically received. Perhaps little boys don’t like vacuum cleaners or lawn mowers or shots from the doctor or even guns or bombs. But the little boy in question provided what I believe to be a wake-up call for parents:
“I don’t like the phone because my parents are on the phone every day.” He went on to observe that “a phone is sometimes a really bad habit” and that he “hates” his mom’s phone. I think we need to listen to this little guy.
My kids are grown, and now I’m enjoying my three grandchildren. Whenever I am around my grandchildren, they command my attention. And when my kids were small, we didn’t have smartphones. But I have certainly noticed what I think concerns our second-grade social commentator. Everywhere I go, I see children competing for the attention of their parents who are focused intently on their portable devices. Whether they are playing, performing, or simply talking, kids seem to be increasingly ignored by parents otherwise occupied.
Dads, let’s think about this for a moment. I don’t know a dad anywhere who believes his phone (email, social media, whatever) is more important than his kids. But when we ignore our little ones while we focus on our screens, what are we communicating to them? When they see more interest devoted to talking or texting with someone far away while they have to wait to be heard while standing in front of us, what are we telling them?
I’m not trying to come down on anyone. It’s easy to get distracted–especially with all the alerts our phones give us with the purpose of convincing us what is most urgent. Nor am I suggesting you get rid of your smartphones. What I would like to do is give you some suggestions to help let our kids know that they matter more than our phones.
Question 1: Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and they pulled their phone out? What does that tell you about them?
Question 2: Does your attention span get used up by the phone, or more important things like your wife, kids, and Bible?
1. Have a “no electronics at the dinner table” rule. When you sit down to eat (whether at home or in public), everyone has to put their phones away. This should be time for family.
2. When your kids want to talk, unless you are dealing with a real emergency, set your phone down until the conversation is over. That text message can wait.
3. Spend some time every single day engaging your children while your phone is in another room. Read to them, talk to them, play with them. Do whatever is most important to them. And let them know you are putting your phone away because they are more important. You can return emails and voicemails later.
Author: Mike Miller. Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Jacksonville, TX.
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