The most consistent piece of advice that experts give kids when they’ve experienced bullying behavior is tell a trusted adult. Actually, it’s our biggest piece of hope in this complicated issue that kids will survive and thrive if they get help.
Problem: If we’re consistently texting or talking on our cells, it’s impossible. We’re not available.
Solution: Choose a day to monitor your personal cell use. Either make a mental note or even better, write down how many times and when you look at or use your hand held device (or check to see if your phone has a time tracker to do this all for you). Brace yourself. Since they’re used for everything now, it will be a lot. And maybe that’s ok for a good part of the day (up to you!) but there are times that it’s a serious barrier to effective parenting.
If it’s during the times of the day that kids need us to focus – such as getting ready for school or coming out of school (or since it’s the summer, when they wake up or come home from their day at camp) or when we get home from work — make a conscious effort to break that habit. It helps to put the mobile phone away. Not just down, but away. It signals to kids that they are the priority.
This is when the new features for your phone, such as Apple’s Screen Time and Google’s Digital Well Being may help. The fact that they’re available on many newer phones is also an indication that you’re not the only who needs a little help placing boundaries. It allows you to plan when you want to turn the phone off. Additionally, you can set limits for your kids which helps them build good habits, too.
Soon kids can trust that there are predictable times of the day or night that they will have our undivided attention.
And sometimes, they won’t want to talk. Supporting them will depend on us observing changes in their body language and behavior and initiating the conversation. Again, impossible if we’re on the phone.
Swap Out a Bad Habit with a (Really) Good One
The first time that you see your kids in the morning and after school or after work, intentionally light up with your eyes when they come in the room. I can almost hear your eyeballs rolling out there but think about it. A big problem with screens is that kids don’t give or get as much eye contact, the signal that they are being seen and valued.
I’m not sure what kind of parent you had, but you felt it whether they were the type to brighten when you walked into a room or they reserved that type of warmth. It’s a simple technique that bolsters self-esteem. It’s free and doesn’t even depend on words. When it’s given, it’s the greatest gift. When it’s not, it creates a hole in the heart and a real challenge to feeling valued.
Feeling valued is at the heart of happiness, resilience, and success.
When the Mobile Phone is Your Parenting Friend
The age that children get their own cell phone is almost as controversial as nursing in public was twenty-five years ago. But if they have a phone, you can always send them a daily text of encouragement. Everyone needs a smile a day. If a good emoji does the trick, go for it.
A Final Note
Why is all of the above even more important than we think? We are teaching our children how to be good friends, good citizens and perhaps someday, good parents.