Sitting in a Café I noticed a Mum feeding her baby while looking intently at her phone. I soon realised she was not alone. Other Mums and Dads were there with their kids. Some toddlers had their own devices to stare at, while Mum and Dad played Candy Crush, shopped online and were twits on Twitter and what ever else they thought was more important than the child they made. Well my friends this seems to be a parenting trend. I hear it from colleagues all the time, that this is what they are observing in family homes. I have see this in my own work and personal life, with family and friends.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but if this is your parenting technique, your robbing your kid of important social and emotional skills.
When your kid gets to school and cant emotionally regulate, and your getting calls everyday, that’s on you. When your kid is the kid with no friends, because the other kids think your kids a bully, that’s on you too!
Kids need you to look at them and talk to them, for their development and growth. This starts at birth and lasts until adulthood. Yep, that’s right, you never stop being a parent, that often gets left out of parenting books. I’m sure I have pissed a few of you off already. But I tell you out of love for you and your child, that this needs to change. I will now explain how this works.
Babies come into this world as a relatively clean slate. Yes, genetics are there as well as basic biology, but a majority of who they will become is learnt in early years by watching and imitating their parents. If you are staring at your baby and smile, there is a good chance the baby will smile back. If you cry, they will cry. They basically follow your lead, this will be the template they use in life to guide them as to what is sad, what is a happy thing, what should make me mad, etc. If you are face first in your phone, your child misses out on this important lesson. Therefore, you will now have a baby who is unsure of the world and has no idea what to expect. This can be seen as anxiety later in childhood and last into adulthood and beyond.
If your child has not been stimulated by you talking to them and gazing at them by now, your child may have speech delays and show signs of anxiety. They may have poor behaviour, as they don’t know what is socially acceptable. Their poor behaviour may also come from not having the verbal skills to express what they are feeling, so their behaviour is their only form of expression. By now they probably hear you voice more often as your screaming at the to stop running away at the shops, hitting other kids, not sharing etc.
Some of you may by now be trying to get a paediatrician to diagnose your child with ADHD or Autism because you cant control your kid, their behaviour is making it difficult for the to attend school, your friend might avoid you because your kid is destroying their house and assaulting their kid. Your probably at your wits end by now. Nothing is working, even the ADHD medication you begged your paediatrician for. Your child might also be having trouble sleeping, so you will probably begging your paediatrician for sleeping tablets as well. This would also be due to your child’s lack of ability to self regulate. Despite your child not remembering how you responded to them as a baby, their neural pathways have not been pruned in a manner that lets them know the world is a safe place, they don’t know what to expect, and they don’t know how, or why they feel this way.
Teenagers and beyond:
Your teenager is probably showing signs of antisocial behaviour by now. You know those kids hanging at shopping centres shoplifting, getting into fights, standing around the doors smoking. That could be your kid. Your teen will clash with you at every turn, and trust me a healthy attachment with a teen has enough clashes for any one person to bear, let alone an unhealthy attachment. Think about how you feel when your talking to someone and the seem distracted, maybe they are looking at their phone? Do you feel important? Do you feel like you matter? Do you feel like they care about you and what your trying to tell them?
THIS IS SERIOUS BUSINESS!!!!!!!
SPENDING QUALITY ONE ON ONE TIME WITH YOUR BABY/TODDLER HAS CRITICAL AND SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THEIR DEVELOPMENT.
What can you do?
- Look into your child’s eyes when talking to them
- Spend more time with them than your devices. Use devices in moderation, after all you are their role model.
- Talk to them. Teach them language skills
- Pull faces at them. Teach them emotion
You will reap what you sow. Sow into them when they are young and you will have a healthy, happy and productive member of society as an adult. Plus you will have a best friend (in 25 yrs)….. sorry its a long process. But worth it in the end.
- Dadds, M. R., Jambrak, J., Pasalich, D., Hawes, D. J., & Brennan, J. (2011). Impaired attention to the eyes of attachment figures and the developmental origins of psychopathy. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 52(3), 238-245.
- McDaniel, B. T., & Radesky, J. S. (2018). Technoference: Parent distraction with technology and associations with child behavior problems. Child development, 89(1), 100-109.