Remember when you could take the phone off the receiver when you didn’t want to be reached? Back in the day when phones had cords it was easy to disconnect. You had to deal with that annoying sound and the recording from the operator repeating "If you would like to make a call..." but it was a simple way to make sure you would not be disturbed.
Now that we have smart phones it just isn’t as simple. We use our phones for so many purposes and so for most of us- the idea of shutting down the phone is anxiety-producing. Over the summer, my three year old grabbed my face and told me, “Look at me Mommy not your phone! I'm talking to you!” OUCH! I have to admit her words made me stop instantly. My daughter was trying to engage me in conversation, yet instead of actively listening, I was glued to my phone and my social media feed.
That moment with my three year old reminded me of another situation years ago when my older daughter shared a similar sentiment. She had decided to give ME a report card to illustrate how well I was doing as a Mom. Although I got As in most areas, she gave me a D- for phone use. I’m not sure why she didn’t just give me an F but it was clear; I was on my phone too much.
Needless to say I realized that day that it was time for me to take a break and disconnect from my phone. Like most of us- I use my phone constantly throughout the day. My iPhone is my camera and calculator. I check emails, do banking, post and check social media, scan documents and yes- take calls. Turning my phone off did not seem like a reasonable solution, but I knew I needed to disconnect from my device and connect more with my children. I spend so much time teaching my clients and students how to be "good listeners" but I was not practicing that skill in my own experiences. Think about it- how many times have you had a conversation with someone and you were talking to a lowered head? Or you had to repeat yourself because they were more engrossed in their device than the topic of conversation? And as the speaker, it is unpleasant to realize that your listener is not actually listening to you. There is little to no eye contact and the responses may be dismissive, like "uh-huh" or "oh ok." Imagine how that feels to a child.
Just like the students I see in therapy, I want my children to know that I am interested in what they have to say and enjoy communicating with them. I want to model being a good listener and communication partner so that they will imitate the same skills in their own conversations.
So if you notice fewer posts, know that I am disconnected from my phone, but I am tuned in and present with the kids! For more tips on how to be an active listener click here.