by: Topher Wiles
I felt like a heel when I realize my parenting hypocrisy. As my 3rd born son, six year old Micah is irresistibly adorable. His bright blue eyes that he inherited from me were perfectly framed by his freckled face and sandy blonde hair when he looked up and asked one of his many daily questions. This query was one of his easier ones. “Dad, will you play basketball with me?”
|Look at Micah's |
adorable blue eyes!
To my credit, ever since the tornado of March 3rd, storm damage of March 29th, and the shutting down of Central’s traditional church services in April, my time has been slammed, especially in the evenings with meetings and Bible studies on Zoom. Many of you parents are going through the exact same situations in the last few months. Our time is stretched to the max right now as demands increase!
At the time Micah asked his question at 7pm in the evening, I was sitting on the living room couch staring at my phone. I was involved in a text message thread with the elders from our church, Godly men that are a high priority in my life, but not as high as my children. So what was my answer to adorable Micah’s question? “Not now Micah, I’m responding to messages.”
To his credit, he didn’t backtalk, throw a fit, or even complain. Yet his downcast gaze, slumped shoulders, and slow pace walking away let me know how disappointed he was and I immediately realized I made a mistake. It was time to repent. That’s right, that “churchy” word fits perfectly in this situation. It was time for me to apologize, turn my actions around, and do my best to make it right. By God’s grace, I sat the elder’s message thread down along with my cell phone, hugged Micah, and had a raucous basketball game with him on our 8’ goal. Smiles and sweat abounded for the next 20 minutes, a time well invested in my children’s lives.
The next day I received an e-mail from “All Pro Dad” which is a marvelous digital content provider that I subscribe to. To tell you how good it is, Tony Dungee (former coach of Peyton Manning with the Indianapolis Colts) is one of the primary contributors. Their daily email described the “5 Dangers of Distracted Parenting.” Since author Matt Haviland does a masterful job of describing the dangers of parents like me who are often distracted from higher priorities, here is a direct quote of the dangers from his article by his permission.
“1. Distracted parenting stunts your child’s emotional growth. When parents are distracted and unengaged with their children, those children miss out on a crucial buffer to help them express emotions through healthy outlets. This void can potentially create behavioral issues. Dad, get in the game, literally. An actively engaged father helps relieve his children of stored-up energy in a positive way and helps set boundaries when physical play becomes too aggressive.
2. Your child feels insignificant. Think of the silent message distracted parenting sends to your kids. For a child whose dad is constantly on his phone, it’s easy to believe that “something else is more important than me.” Failure to fully engage in your children’s lives robs them of any experiences that prove they are worth somebody’s undivided attention, thus reducing self-esteem and confidence. And it robs you of invaluable opportunities to be fully present in moments that only happen once.
3. It delays your child’s brain growth. I will not deny we all have important obligations. What I will refute is the use of devices as a form of babysitting, which can seriously inhibit brain development. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under 18 months and only two hours a day for children over the age of five, including teenagers. Are your children on screens for beneficial reasons, or just so you can do your own thing? Also be wise to the behavior you model to your child through continual personal screen time.
4. Your child does not develop communication skills. It is not possible for a distracted parent to hold authentic dialogue with a child. A parent is a child’s first teacher, and conversational skills children will need to function as adults are drastically hindered when families are not actively communicating. Around the dinner table is one of the top examples of where dialogue can occur, but do not underestimate car rides, before and after school, and even at parks, libraries, and social gatherings.
5. Your child doesn’t develop empathy. I once saw a toddler tip over backward in her
chair at the library. Coming to her mom crying and looking for comfort, she was
met with resistance. The reason? Mom was too busy on Facebook. Whether two or
twelve, when our children continually receive the message that their problems
are not ours, they struggle to develop empathy because they rarely received it
themselves. That spilled cup, lost item, or botched school project may not seem
like a big deal to us—but it is for them.”
(Read the full article here.)
Friends, I have a little bit of experience with youth. I was a 6 year youth minister, a 3 year public school teacher, a coach of at least 18 youth sports teams, and I have 4 children with one as a teenager. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that youth need your attention for good development. I’m more important to my kids than I am to this world. If I died today, some of the world would miss me yet would largely be unchanged. However, my absence would change my children’s lives forever. Dads, be there in the moment with your kids and not on your cellphone. The Maria Edgeworth quote is true, “If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.”
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” – Ephesians 6:4