No Devices at the Table
Here is one simple step that I have found to maximize our family time.
No Devices at the Table!
In my house, we are connected. Everyone has at least one device, including my 5 year old. One of the first rules we implemented was no devices at the table. You see, in my house we have rooms for kids and rooms for adults, but the only true common ground is the dinner table. In our dining room, we have a HUGE table. It has benches on both sides and chairs at both ends and we can seat 10 people at it with room to spare, we squeeze in 12-14 for large family gatherings, so yes, it is BIG. It is the one place that adults can go, sit down and be with the kids. The kids can go and sit down and expect adult interaction. It is where homework is done, games are played, meals are eaten, meetings happen and the family does its business. All of these things truly benefit from the “No Devices” rule. Homework is not done with music playing from someones iPhone. No one is watching a video during a meal, and no one is checking an instant message when something important is being discussed. Is this rule tested and bent at times? Absolutely. Will we ever give in and do away with it? Absolutely NOT!
It would be easy to assume that since this blog is all about the parenting of children that not letting the kids have toys at the table would be where this is going. It would be simple to conclude that the kids are more focused, benefit from the interaction and have a stronger connection to the family because they are not absorbed by their devices of Mass Distraction. This would only be partly correct and only a portion of the reason we have the rule. You see, they do benefit from the together time and they are more focused and the family does grow together this way, but not as much because the kids are distraction free as because we, the parents are… It is very apparent to my wife and I that we have so many intrusions into our family time that this rule is harder for us than for the kids. We run two businesses, have busy social lives and many things weighing on our time, and almost all of those things connect to us and communicate with us through our smartphones, so when it is time to go to the table, WE are the ones that have to be reminded to leave the phones in the other room. In the same way my sons have been taught to respectfully hold my arm when they need my attention instead of interrupting me, they also have learned that the table is the place for all of us to be together and they are more than happy to remind us and help enforce the “no devices at the table” rule. It even seems to empower them a little to have a rule that we have to follow too and they never let us forget it.
We the parents are the ones that need to focus our attention on our kids. We talk about their day, help them with homework, play boardgames with them all without the distraction of our outside lives weighing in and stealing our attention away from them. The hardest lesson for a business owner to learn in my opinion is to unplug, to disconnect from it and to live in the now with their families at least for some small sacred times every day. I have often mentioned in these articles the importance of talking to your family, your children, your parents, and then listening to what they have to say, to give them attention and validation and to treat them like they are an important part of your lives. This is much easier to do if you don’t have your head stuck in a phone. The most important lesson my father taught me about being a father was that the work will always be there, the family may not. Every day, there will be more work, more emails, more facebook, more news, more distractions and drains on your time, however, your children will grow up and move on. Every day that you have to spend with your child is a blessing and is a day that you can NEVER GET BACK. So are the days you DON’T spend with them. After your son or daughter moves to another state for college or for a career, those intrusions on your time will still be there. My father took the time to go play with me. He wasn’t perfect, he still isn’t, but he taught me to smile, to live in the moment and to relish the time I have here with these little people I helped make. The last thing I want is one more thing, like a tiny computer that I purchased to put in my pocket, using its bottomless scroll and endless new feed to separate me from them.
So that is it. Maybe meal time isn't right for your family, but pick a time and a place. Make it your sacred ‘ no device’ point in your lives and stick to it. Your family will gain, you're life will be blessed by the uninterrupted time together, and when you are older and the kids are gone you will thank me for it.