A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

12 Ways to Ensure Your Kid is More Important Than Your Phone

Parents don’t need more guilt. That’s not what this article is about.


We know we shouldn’t spend too much time on our smartphones in front of our kids. We’ve read articles like “For The Children’s Sake, Put Down That Smartphone,” and “Children reveal ‘hidden sadness’ of parents spending too much time on mobile phones.”

But you probably already feel a tinge of guilt when you think of this topic. I know I do.

We parents are beginning to admit that we’re as concerned about our screen time as we’re concerned about our kids’ screen time.

Unlike our kids, however, we actually have reasons for looking at screens all day.

We have email, schedules, research, updates, shopping, messaging, mapping, planning – sometimes even calling.

Let’s admit it – again, without guilt or judgment – we also look at our screens for entertainment and distraction. Those are parental needs too.

Our phone dependence is a symptom of busy lives, busy work, restless minds. But the devices themselves are rigged against us. Intentionally or not, their design can trigger addiction-like behaviors in many people. As noted on Quartz,

“Still, there’s plenty of research out there describing the dopamine effect—a neurotransmitter that sends pulses to your brain’s reward and pleasure centers with every new text or tweet—and the widespread addiction to that momentary pleasure, which has been compared to cravings for nicotine, cocaine, and gambling.”

Indeed, according to this recent Gallup poll, “about half of U.S. smartphone owners check their devices several times an hour or more frequently.”

The attention we devote to our phones has a measurable impact on our health, wellbeing, and social and family relationships.

Psychology professor Larry Rosen has shown that “if there’s a phone around—even if it’s someone else’s phone—its presence tends to make people anxious and perform more poorly on tasks.”

Staring at our phones gives us tech neck, it can spike stress, it can disrupt sleep patterns, it can lead to distractedness and irritability, and it may even trigger depressive symptoms in some people.

The intense attention we devote to our smartphones has a major, measurable impact on our health, wellbeing, and social and family relationships.

But in a family situation, the greatest problem might be “technoference” with our relationships with our spouse and kids.

Kids can feel that we’re more interested in our phones than we are interested in them.

The good news is that this is a fixable problem. For most people, it’s simply a matter of admitting to the issue, and making a simple plan with the rest of the family.

Help Your Kids Develop Healthy Habits by Improving Your Tech Habits

David Hill of the American Academy of Pediatrics said that positive parenting practices around technology include role-modeling.

“Demonstrate your own mindfulness in front of your children by putting down your phone during meals or whenever they need your attention.” – David Hill

Here are some ideas to help you create healthy phone boundaries. Boundaries that your kid might inherit and follow outside of your home, and may even pass down to their own kids someday.

An ad reminding parents to put the phone down during family time from Ogilvy & Mather China

 1 ) Take Stock of Your Actual Phone Needs 

Tim Harford writes that “smartphones are habit-forming, so think about the habits you want to form.”

Every parent has unique technology-related needs. Many of us legitimately need to get on our phones. But most of us get on the phone in front of our kids more than we need to.

It’s useful to write a list of your important everyday phone activities. This list will be slightly different for every parent. What activities are critical for your job vs those that are fun and refreshing?

Use this list to make time to check your phone without interrupting family moments. Account for work and play on your phone – you need both.

Reassert control over your phone by figuring out how you actually use it. Don’t let it use you.

 2) Involve the Kids in a Family Discussion About Appropriate Smartphone Use 

Even young kids can contribute to a discussion about phone use around the house. This will help them understand why you occasionally need to get on the phone. It will also help them understand why you set rules on their technology usage.

David Hill of the American Academy of Pediatrics also suggests involving kids in making rules around media.

Ask them what they think appropriate electronic media use looks like and what sorts of consequences might be warranted for breaking the agreed-upon rules. You may have to help guide them in these discussions, but often you’ll find that they have expectations that are not that different from your own.

 3) Write and Post Smartphone Rules Where Everyone Can See Them 

This can be a rambling manifesto, but it’s better if it’s a simple, short list posted on the fridge. Again, they’ll be different for every family, but examples might include:

  • No phones out for the first hour after coming home
  • No phones out until the kids are in bed
  • No phones out during meals
  • No phones out during a family movie (the hardest one for me – kids’ movies are terrible).

 4) Give Kids Ten Minutes of Undivided Positive Attention 

One of my favorite family tips of all time comes from my friend Sarah Woodard, who learned about it from  Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions.

It’s simple: give your kids 10 minutes of pure, undivided attention twice a day. This means you go into their world talking with them or playing with them with no interruptions. This supports positive attention and emotional connection, and it’s very doable. 10 minutes. Try it for a couple of weeks.

To make an effort to spend a mere 10 minutes of undivided time with your kid seems ridiculous. But for many (maybe most) parents, intentional time spent together can be surprisingly rare.

 5) Understand, Admit, & Overcome FOMO 

FOMO (fear of missing out) can cause real anxiety. It can make people use their phone to check up with their connections much more than is healthy, or necessary.

You’re best equipped to deal with FOMO by being honest about it. Here are some tips for dealing with FOMO.

 6) Consider Your Habit Triggers 

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg wrote  “Most of the choices we make every day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not.”

We automatically reach for our phones in certain situations. Try to pay attention to these cues or triggers. When do you automatically reach for your phone? What can you do differently during those times, besides look at your phone?  Or how can you change the way you’re using your phone in those moments to include your kids?

Charles Duhigg also wrote “The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”

If might not be a bad thing of you read the news on your phone at breakfast in front of your kids – if you occasionally share something of interest with them. Kind of like the old days with the newspaper.

“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” – Charles Duhigg

 7) Designate a Box or Drawer Where You’ll Stash Your Phone During Phone-Free Time 

 8) Put the Phone On Silent During Set Times 

 9) Turn off Notifications 

 10) Use “Do Not Disturb” on Your Phone During Family Time 

It’s easy to silence calls, alerts, and notifications on many iOS and Android phones while the device is locked. You can also schedule a time or choose who you’ll allow calls from.

 11) Make your device faster and more efficient to use 

You can spend less time on your phone simply by better organizing your apps.

  • Use a service like Unroll.me to unsubscribe to some of the email subscriptions you have to wade through just to check your important mail.
  • Rearrange your apps for greater efficiency.
  • Delete apps that waste your time. Easier said than done, but I’m glad I recently did this every time I use my phone.

 12) Use An App To Monitor Usage 

CHECKY is a simple app that tells you how many times a day do you check your phone. You’ll be surprised.

Moment is an iOS app that automatically tracks how much you use your iPhone and iPad each day. If you’re using your phone too much, you can set daily limits on yourself and be notified when you go over. You can even force yourself off your device when you’re over your limit.

Next Level, For True Addicts
  • Take a hard detox for a couple weeks. You might need to reset your experience of interacting with the world.
  • Lock Your Phone with a Long, Difficult Password – this will make it annoyingly difficult to access your phone.
  • Sell your smartphone and use a feature phone instead. The internet and all those apps will be gone, and all you’ll be back, interacting with the world.
  • Attend a Digital Detox Camp.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

I had big plans to be a "good mom" this summer. There were going to be chore charts, reading goals, daily letter writing practice, and cursive classes. There would be no screen time until the beds were made, and planned activities for each day of the week.

Today was the first day of summer vacation and our scheduled beach day. But here's what we did instead: Lounged in our pj's until 11 am, baked the girl's pick, chocolate chip cookie brownies, started an art project we never finished, then moved to the pool.

It's so easy to be pressured by things we see on social. Ways to challenge our kids and enrich their summer. But let's be real—we're all tired. Tired of chores, tired of schedules and places to be, tired of pressure, and tired of unrealistic expectations.

So instead of a schedule, we're doing nothing this summer. Literally NOTHING.

No camps. No classes, and no curriculums.

Instead, we're going to see where each day takes us. I've dubbed this the "Summer of Me," so workouts and clean eating are a priority for me. And also giving our girls the freedom to pick what they want to do.

We may go to a local pool and check out the swimming programs. And we join the local YMCA. But whatever we do—it will be low key.

It will include family time, too much TV, a few trips, lots of sunshine, some new roller skates, water balloons, plenty of boredom, rest, relaxation, and reading. (Because mama likes to read!)

So if you haven't figured out what you're doing this summer, you're not alone. And guess what? It's OKAY! Your kids will be fine and so will you.

Originally posted on Kristen Hewitt's blog. Check out her post on 30 ways to have fun doing almost nothing this summer.

You might also like:

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

You might also like:

When we consider all the skills our kids will need to succeed in the future, what comes to mind? Perhaps creativity, tech skills, or an excellent understanding of math might be at the top of many parents' lists. Social-emotional skills, like empathy, compassion, or the ability to understand another person's viewpoint may not be the ones you thought of right away, but deep down you know they matter.

We've all had those co-workers who didn't know how to listen to our ideas or friends who couldn't compromise with others. We know that in the work world and in our personal life, emotional skills are key to developing and maintaining healthy relationships.

If you are the parent of a toddler, you know that young children are inherently self-centered. It's not some faulty aspect of their character or a misstep of parenting skills. Young children simply do not have the brain maturity to consider another person's perspective or needs just yet—their brain physically is not ready to handle that kind of mental work.

However, child development research shows us that we can do a few things along the developmental path to help foster social-emotional skills in our kids. With a little help from us, our kids' brains can develop with meaningful connections that tune them into the feelings of others.

Here's how:

1. Treat others how you want your kids to treat others.

How we talk to our kids becomes their internal dialogue. We know from research that this goes for emotional skills as well. A recent study showed that when parents talk to their kids more about how other people might be feeling, the kids had better perspective-taking abilities—the ability to see a situation from another person's point of view.

This, of course, is the basis of many emotional skills, especially empathy. Just by talking about another person's feelings, kids begin to develop those crucial brain connections that help them develop empathy.

It's worth pointing out that very young children under ages 3-4 do not have the brain maturity to really understand another person's perspective. They lack a crucial skill that psychologists call Theory of Mind, meaning they can't understand the mind of another person.

However, our urgings and thoughtful phrasing to point out how another person might be feeling can only help them down this developmental path. Then, once their little brain matures, they will be in the habit of hearing and understanding the feelings of others.

2. Model positive emotional behavior in daily life.

It's probably not surprising to learn that how we react to our kids' feelings influences their emotional development. When your child gets upset, do you get angry or ruffled by their big emotions? We are all human, of course, so sometimes our kids' emotions are the exact triggers that fuel our big feelings, too. However, if we can remain the calm in the emotional storm for our kids, their development will benefit. Through modeling emotional regulation, over time our kids will learn how to self-regulate as well.

One study, in fact, showed that toddlers whose parents exhibited anger or over-reacted to tantrums were likely to have more tantrums and negative emotionality by the end of the study. However, the opposite dynamic can happen, too. Parents who model firm, but calm emotional regulation help their kids learn these skills as well.

3. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions.

Many times, we feel that one of our main jobs as a parent is to protect our children from the big, often overwhelming emotions of adults. For instance, we try not to break down crying or become red-faced with anger in front of our kids. It just feels too big for them to handle and perhaps not developmentally appropriate.

As they mature, however, older kids are able to handle a bit more discussion and expression of honest emotions. Have you noticed that kids usually pick up on the fact that you are upset even if you try to hide it? Kids are naturally curious and, many times, very sensitive to the emotional tenor at home. If they are developmentally ready, this can be a good time to have more discussions about emotions and how to handle them.

For example, my 9-year-old is playing a lot of baseball this summer and always wants me to pitch to him so he can practice batting. Now, I am not a very skilled player so my pitches often go off course or are too weak. He had gotten in the habit of correcting my pitching or (more likely) complaining about it every time we played.

After repeated experiences with this, I was not only annoyed but it also sort of hurt my feelings—so I finally told him how I felt. Guess what? His behavior at practice time changed dramatically! The mere fact of him realizing that his mom has feelings too really made him think about his words more carefully.

These types of interaction can become part of your "emotion coaching." It may sound silly but it can make a big impact for kids, especially as they grow older and are more able to really understand the emotional lesson. On some level, it's nice that our kids think we are superheroes, but it's also crucial that they understand that we are still human, with real feelings.

The magic of helping our kids develop empathy doesn't happen in well-planned lessons or elaborate activities. The real magic happens in the small, simple interactions and discussions we have with our kids each day.

You might also like:

Sometimes it can feel like you never get a minute to even finish a thought—let alone a to-do list. When your day is packed with caretaking, your own needs get pushed back. So when you finally get to lie down at the end of the day, all those thoughts are waiting for you. While we haven't figured out the secret to keeping you from over-analyzing every.single.thing. (sorry, mama!), we do believe you must carve out time for you. Because that rest is just as important—and you've certainly earned it.

XO,

#TeamMotherly

PS: We spoke to Jessica Alba and she gave us the lowdown on why she stopped breastfeeding, and Nordstrom is having their anniversary sale until August 5th. Here's everything we want!

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.