I used to multi-task with the best of them until
1. Studies started showing that multi-tasking reduces productivity;
2. We had a kid.
You have a kid and you don’t multi-task? “Impossible!” I hear you exclaim.
Let me clarify… I still multi-task in terms of feeding, bathing, cooking, cleaning, etc (unfortunately I don’t think it would be physically possible to get everything done if I didn’t), but one area where I really try not to ‘multi-task’ is when I’m playing with bubs. Here I try to make sure I stay engaged and give him my full attention. It drives me a bit nuts when parents/ caregivers are with their kids and don’t pay them any attention, and just play with their phones/ check emails, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with leaving the kid to amuse himself (properly supervised of course!), and of course there are times when you have to respond to an email or take a call, but if you’re physically with him, he expects (and deserves) your attention. If you think I’m just babbling, studies have shown that quality of time (how much you engage your child) can be more important than quantity of time (how much time you spend with your kid).
A recent study in Pediatrics found that caregivers frequently use their mobile devices when eating out with children and often become absorbed in the devices. The level of evidence is not what we would call high, but it involved researchers sitting in fast food restaurants and observing 55 anonymous caregivers with children (who appeared to be aged 0 to 10 years). During the course of the meal, 40 caregivers used a mobile device, 16 of whom used it almost continuously.
While the adults were absorbed in their devices, children often engaged in limit-testing behaviour. Adults who were paying attention to their devices often responded by first ignoring the behaviour and then scolding the child, giving robotic instructions without looking at the child, not addressing the child’s needs, or responding physically.
Sound familiar? We see it all the time.
I’m not going to go into attachment theories here, or parenting styles and child outcomes, but needless to say, regardless of the time you’re spending with your kid, try and make sure it’s quality time. So put the phone down and give kiddo your full attention 🙂