Unplugged Parenting

Last week I saw a blog post being linked to all over the place. It was a post written by Phil Cooke encouraging dads to “disconnect to reconnect.” It was encouraging to see how many dads saw the value of giving the gift of their presence to their children. Here’s some of what Cooke said:

Remember – your kids watch your behavior more than they listen to your words. And when they see you unable to disconnect from email, text messages and Twitter?  You’re telling them that what’s on your phone is more important to you than they are.

One of the hardest parts of working with so many middle and high school students is the lack of love and care many receive in their own homes. Earlier this week I was on a run in a park where a dad was playing with his daughter. Actually playing is too kind, he was in the same area as his daughter, but I watched him for over 20 minutes talk on the phone while his daughter continued to try to get his attention. Somehow we live in a world where this is normal and accepted. So sad.

Recently the New York Times ran a great piece on the affect plugged-in parents are having on their children. Here’s a quote based on a study Dr. Sherry Turckle administered:

“Over and over, kids raised the same three examples of feeling hurt and not wanting to show it when their mom or dad would be on their devices instead of paying attention to them: at meals, during pickup after either school or an extracurricular activity, and during sports events…There’s something that’s so engrossing about the kind of interactions people do with screens that they wall out the world. I’ve talked to children who try to get their parents to stop texting while driving and they get resistance, ‘Oh, just one, just one more quick one, honey.’ It’s like ‘one more drink.’”

My issue with this Father’s Day “disconnect to reconnect” focus is that it isn’t enough. Sure, one day of reconnection with a family is better than nothing at all, but what children and families need are dads and parents willing to consistently invest in them as people. Not a once a year investment on Father’s Day.

If disconnecting for one whole day is worth it, I sure hope making it a consistent practice is also a valuable thing to do.

After all which is more important, the information on our phones/computers or our children?

The actions of many provide an answer to this question which is truly scary.