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Turn Off the Damn Phone When…

May 19, 2017

In recent years I have been on a tear to bring to parents’ attention the consequences of parental distraction.

There is a lot of concern about video games and kids with smart phones. Lost in the discussion is the parent who caught between the cry of the child and the ring or vibration of the smart phone, opts for the quick view to the smart phone first.

Imagine your are feeding your infant. Phone is in hand. The alert comes in. Instead of the infant seeing the loving adoring face of the parent, the parent is distracted and looks at the phone.  The infant is then confronted by the look of consternation or at the very least, no look at all, as the parent is taken away -if only momentarily, by a challenging message. What is the infant’s experience of this… time and time again.

Imagine your toddler sitting trying to get accustomed to the potty and at the moment of pooping, the parent looks way to view a tweet. In a contest between poop and tweet, tweet wins. What is the toddler’s experience of this… time and time again.

Imagine cajoling your preschooler to eat their peas and concentrate on dinner when you yourself are busy checking messages. What is the preschooler’s experience of this… time and time again.

Imagine arguing with your school-age child about their screen time or video games when you yourself in knee-jerk reaction keep glancing at your phone with every beep. What is the school-aged child’s experience of this… time and time again.

No wonder fidget toy’s have taken off in popularity. We are training a whole generation of kids to think we the adults are unavailable, that they matter less than an incoming alert, that they are left to their own devices to idle their time, that they have no one to rely upon when in distress. I would need to fidget too!

We all want what’s best for our kids. What is best is our undivided attention, particularity at those moments where our lives are meant to intersect.

  • Turn the damn phone right off when feeding the infant.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when toilet training.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when sharing a meal together.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when helping your child with homework.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when attending their extra-curricular activity.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when attending a special event.
  • Turn the damn phone right off when getting ready for bed.

As for your intimate relationship, turn the damn phone right off when seeking to talk with each other; sharing a meal together; making love – yes, turn the damn phone off when making love.  You can let your intimate partner feel they are more your priority too. Imagine that on your relationship.

Forget vibrate mode. Vibrate mode is for phone addicts who can’t live without the fix of receiving the notification. Deal with your own anxiety of missing a notification and prioritize your relationship be it with your child or partner, over the incoming alert.

Oh, I hear you… You need to leave it on just in case….

However, if you want to raise mentally healthy kids, start by being present.

Be present with your eyes, your ears, your heart, your soul and your spirit – your entire self. Nothing screams I Love You more than your undivided attention. Lose the distraction. Be present.

Childhood anxiety and behavioral concerns are rising rapidly in children and until parent begin to see the connection between their availability at critical moments those issues will continue to rise.

The best inoculation and prescription for child development is parental presence.

Cut the distraction. Turn off the damn phone.

Turn on to your child.

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I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

  1. Liked reading your blog re turning off phones. Makes sense except we are an addicted society where phones, texts etc interfere with many daily activities. Not funny on occasion when my wife and I eat it’s like quiet time to finally check the phone. My cousins wife swears she bury her husband with his cell when the time comes.

  2. Maureen permalink

    Well written and I whole heartedly agree. In fact I’ve had conversations with my children about how concerned I am if THEY have children about how present they have to be and much they might miss out on and impact their child’s life if they don’t turn of the @#$*&^$ phone. Too many times I witness young mothers on their phones pushing their babies in strollers completely oblivious to the world and their child and all the wondrous things they are missing. I feel very saddened by this.
    All the best in your work and I hope people realize how much their phones are impacting their relationships.

  3. Sabrina permalink

    Yes I love your inference. We are too connected to technology and not with what really matters, Our Families…Thanks

  4. Patricia permalink

    Many thanks for this eye-opening article. We tend to forget that little things like paying undivided attention to our family members is key in building wholesome and deep relationships. I am now more aware and self-conscious about when and where I use my phone.

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