Being a present parent in a hyper-connected world isn’t easy. Everything is vying for our attention. Our time gets divided between phone calls, text messages, social media, emails, news, sports, and everything else that our smartphone has—which is practically everything nowadays.
But when do we actually stop to focus on our children, who are right in front of us?
Parenting is the easiest and the hardest way to stay present in your life. It’s easiest because when your children are in front of you, it’s always “On” time. It’s hardest because your children need all of your attention, not 90% of it, but all 100% of it.
I’m a big culprit of being present, but not present. Many times I’m sending one more email, checking one more ESPN score, or scrolling one last time through my Facebook feed, when my daughter is asking me a question or needs my help with something. I acknowledge her and may even look at her, but my focus is on the task in my hand, in the form of my smartphone. I am neither here or there. I am performing my balancing act of keeping the scale of my presence not tipping over to one side or the other.
Then my daughter will get agitated and eventually let me know she needs my full, undivided attention. I’ll put my smartphone down, close my computer, or turn off the TV to eventually look my daughter in her eyes, ask her what she needs, and wait for her response. The scale has tipped. I am here, and nowhere else…finally.
Being present is a choice. You need to be here or there. Just pick one.
As a Dad, when my kids are around me, for the most part, I’m there with them, present as a father. I don’t work, I don’t look at my smartphone incessantly, and I don’t let other things distract me. At least, I try to do this and I’m learning in the process.
Here’s my four-step approach to being a more present parent:
- Stop. Put your phone down. Turn off the TV. Cut off your distractions. Stop trying to do three things at once.
- Look. Focus on your kids in front of you. They need to be seen, just as much as they need to see you. Look at their faces and show them that they have your full attention.
- Listen. Your kids are trying to tell you something. They may say it directly or indirectly, but they want you to know about it. Hear what they have to say.
- Love. When you love, you show understanding, you are compassionate, and you are present. Give your attention, energy, and time to your kids. They need it more than your status, fame, or money.
When your kids are around you, turn off your phones, tablets, laptops, and TVs. Focus on your kids by looking at them and listening to what they have to say. Being present and being focused on them shows your kids that you love them just for who they are, and that’s all that really matters.