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For Parents Practicing What You Preach is Key

Hello, fellow parents! I want to address a concern that has occurred recently in my family.

Here is a situation that may sound familiar: It's dinner time at the Hron home and as my family sits down to eat I become frustrated when my two teenage boys at the table are on their phones playing games, texting, or surfing the latest social media app. When I begin to tell them to put their phone down and tell me about their day, I become frustrated when they say, “My day was fine," then back they go back to their phones. Oddly enough, when I continue to address their cell phone use at the dinner table, my boys react with a negative tone stating, “What’s the big deal? You’re on your phone all the time, so why can’t I?”

Family interactions are an important part of any parent-child relationship. In the age of smart phones, tablets, or any other electronic hand-held devices, it’s easy to become distracted with text messages, emails, social media, or the latest apps readily available on our phones. Meaningful family interactions have become more difficult than ever with the explosion of advances with these recent technologies.

As a parent, I often don’t realize that my kids are observing everything I do even when I think they are not paying attention. Also, sometimes as a parent, my approach to these types of situations can be with an attitude of “What I say goes” or “I would never have talked to my parents like that." Despite what my own personal attitude is or how I was brought up, as an adult I have to answer two questions:
1.) “What am I willing to change to improve my relationship with my kids?” and
2.) “How do I do that?”

First things first, I want to be a role model. I cannot expect my kids to behave a certain way if I do not show up demonstrating that expected behavior. In other words, practice what you preach as my grandmother would say. Secondly, I decided to set realistic rules and limits. I made a family rule that involved input from my kids of when it’s appropriate for phone use and made a commitment that I will be following the same rule. I tried to focus the conversation on the positives of family that include how much I care about my kids and that I want to know what’s happening in their lives.

As with any behavioral change, remember that it takes time to adjust, so don’t expect overnight results. It was hard to be patient, but I decided to create opportunities for additional family interactions that my family had input into what those look like. At the end of the day I learned that meaningful family interactions take effort and practice as well as learning to trust my “parenting gut.”

CHI Health Behavioral Care Team
CHI Health Behavioral Care Team

These blogs were written by members of the CHI Health Behavioral Care team.

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