One Tuesday afternoon, when I had finished a long day of teaching, my daughter asked me to play Barbies with her. I responded with “I will be there in a few minutes!” And then proceeded to continue scrolling my Facebook feed. She yelled from the front room a few minutes later “Mom! You’re missing it!”
She was right. I was missing so much.
Psychologists tell us the primary source of love is attention and compassionate listening. There is something deeply moving when someone stops and looks you in the eyes – when they actually pay attention.
The little moments that feel ridiculously mundane are the moments that are the most impactful.
Our kids learn a lot about God in the simple daily rhythms of snuggling before bed and eating dinner as a family. They are learning that God is consistent and reliable.
Our kids look to us as their parents to be stewards of healthy habits. If we’re overusing technology, we are setting them up for the same struggle. A survey conducted in 2019 showed that adults spend an average of 50 days a year on smartphones.
The research being done about the effects of technology on our kids is staggering. It says that children ages eight-to-10 spend an average of six hours per day in front of a screen, and kids ages 11-to-14 spend an average of nine hours per day in front of a screen.
Childhood mental illnesses are at an all-time high.
We, as parents, are doing equal amounts of damage to our kids when all they see is the glow of the phone screen reflecting on the face of their mom.
We have to set healthy boundaries for ourselves and our children. Our family started using what we call the “be present box.” Our girls know they are able to respectfully ask us to put our screens into the “be present box” if they feel we are spending too much time on our phones.
Our children will be under our roof for 18 years. There are 940 Saturdays in those 18 years.
If I’m not intentional with my time it just floats away. It disappears into wasted minutes on my phone, or mindlessly watching Stranger Things while working on my laptop.
What I do with my time is what I am doing with my life. I’m learning to exchange online distractions for real live interactions. My children shouldn’t have to compete with a screen for my attention.
Additionally, I see a direct correlation to my kids’ attitude with the amount of screen time they have. Our daughters will create the most amazing games, play dress up, and build friendships when the TV is off – a stark contrast to their mindless zombie stares and silence when the TV is on.
I pray daily that my kids will grow into a deep friendship with each other and with us. My job is to foster that friendship, and a simple first step is to limit the amount of time they have in front of a screen and encourage more face-to-face interactions.
Disciple Your Kids
When asked which is the greatest commandment, Jesus tells his listeners to “love the Lord,” referencing Deuteronomy 6. But, right next to this famous verse is another which admonishes parents to diligently teach their children the law of God.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
– Deuteronomy 6:4-7
We don’t control our sons’ and daughters’ faith journeys. But we absolutely have a role in them. We must disciple them face to face. We can’t leave it to children’s ministry volunteers once a week at church. It takes diligence and intention and it’s my God given role as their mother.
And I believe it starts with me putting down my phone and looking them in the eyes.
Here’s the thing, I want my kids to remember my eyes – my eyes watching them grow, my eyes reading with them, my eyes as I tell them I’m proud of them and that I love them, my eyes as I discipline them and disciple them, and my eyes looking towards Jesus.
I don’t want them to remember my eyes constantly occupied with a screen.
When I put down my phone, it’s easier to look up and live the life that’s right in front of me.
I don’t want to miss it.