How To Get Your Teenager To Engage With You, Not Just Their SmartPhone
You Are The Engagement Specialist!
You are having dinner and you think your (pre)teen is very interested in what is on their plate; s/he is bend over and intend on looking down, occasionally taking a bite. Only to find out half-way through dinner that their head is bend down because they are secretly texting their friend with their Smartphone in their lap.
You are driving your (pre)teen to school every day and while you concentrate on the road and traffic, they have a Smartphone or DS console in their hand, playing and talking with their friends. Every time you do ask a question, about school or homework, you receive a grunt instead of an answer.
You are expecting visitors to your home and you are busy cleaning up, preparing food and just when the door bell rings you have your hands dirty. Yet no one gets up and answers the door. And when you yell ‘someone, please open the door’ no one does, yet you know there are several capable children in the house.
Sound familiar? Sound scary? This IS the life of a mom with teenagers, on an average day. Some of this goes on in my house, some of it in yours, maybe. However, it should not be the norm and there are ways to implement some changes to make sure every teenagers realizes there is a time for their phone (and thus their friends) and a time for their family.
But let me pose these questions to you first.
- How old was your (pre)teen when s/he got their first phone?
- Did they pay for it, or did you?
- Who pays the monthly bill?
- Did you set any rules about time limits?
- Did you have rules about what apps to download?
- Did you set times and places when their phone needed to be off?
If you did set rules and time limits from the start and have kept control of the device, kudos to you! If you have not, I am going to steer you towards some ways to get your (pre)teen to engage with you (again). Doing this will not only free up some time away from their phone to engage with you in real life, it will also teach your (pre)teen respect for their neighbor, responsibility for an expensive piece of equipment and accountability to you, their family.
Here are some examples of rules and expectations to set up with your (pre)teen.
- Set firm and clear phone usage rules. (‘Don’t text when we are having grandma over for tea’ ‘Don’t text when you are doing a chore’, etc.) Break Rules = No Phone
- Set firm and clear time limits. Break the limits = No Phone
- Set equipment expectations. You break it = No Phone
- Set phone-free times and phone-free zones in your home. Hold your (pre)teen accountable when the rules get broken. i.e. ‘No phone at the dinner table’ or ‘No texting after 11 PM’ or ‘Bad grade = Lost phone privileges’
- Want an upgrade? = Pay Up
- Text and Drive = No Phone and No Car
This is a good time to remember that if you pay the bill, it’s your phone…
Stay strong and hang in there. Your (pre)teen might not like you for what you will be doing, but take this as an awesome opportunity to get reacquainted! 😉
Whatever and whichever way you decide to set up rules, make sure to involve your (pre)teen in the process! At first they might balk at these new rules and restrictions, especially if they’ve had the run of the house with ‘their’ phone. Eventually they might come up with an even better punishment for texting and driving, or disobeying the no-texting-at-the-table rule. If you involve your teen in setting the rules and expectations, they most probably will follow them! If your (pre)teen does NOT have a phone yet, use these tips to start off on the right foot!
One more thing:
If all you ever do is talk and text on YOUR phone, then ignore all these ideas. Kids do as you do, not as you say! Be the example you want them to follow.
I wish you much joy and plenty of quality family time this coming year. Remember to silence those Smartphones during movies and school performances and tell your teen to do the same!
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