This post isn’t about how to stop looking at your phone all the time and pay attention to your kids. It’s about how looking at your phone can be a good parenting strategy.

But with purpose.


In Defense of Staring at Your Smart Phone (While Your Kids are Present)


Thank you to Dr. C., a professor who taught her students well (me being one) in the areas of Early Childhood development at the education college at my university.

She knew teachers (kind of like parents), get all busy and busier and worked up and hurrying to and from and not pausing to take a step back and observe the children we are tasked with caring for. She taught my classmates and me well to listen to our students’ conversations, watch their faces, notice their gestures during play and free time in the classroom.

What can be learned from such (in)activity?

  • How the students responded to each other in the classroom
  • Whether or not the procedures laid out by the teacher were clear to the students? Did they understand the expectations for centers and other work/activity within the classroom?
  • What the boys and girls enjoyed the most in the classroom.
  • How they solved problems and resolved conflict.
  • Whether they were doing their own work, or relying on others’ work.

Dr. C taught us to sit in a chair with some sort of “stop” symbol around our neck so the Kindergartners would know that Ms. ________ wasn’t to be bothered. At all.

For 10 to 15 minutes or so.

You know what? When I did that in my classroom, it worked. My students would be about their tasks during centers. If they came up to me, I would silently point to my “stop” symbol. They learned.

This is one of those times when my teacher education comes in quite handy as a mom.


But if I stop and put a stop sign on a lanyard around my neck and watch my children, they’re going to notice and call me out. Or stop their play and upset the natural state of things.

Cue: the mobile phone. For right or wrong, it’s not unusual for them to see me looking at my phone.

Only now, I’m doing it and not tweeting or commenting or breezing past headlines about the newest celebrity on The Voice or the latest duo to consciously uncouple.


Stop and Listen


I’m listening. I’m staying quiet and still. I’m peering from the mobile screen to see their facial expressions and gestures. I learn so, so much.

  • My boys have great imaginations.
  • One brother antagonizes lots.
  • One brother tries to ignore more often than I give him credit for
  • One brother uses his words more often than I give him credit for
  • Staying quiet is hard for this momma
  • Staying still, ditto.
  • Nobody is picking up their mess.
  • Oh, boy. When they’re frustrated, they talk like me when I’m frustrated.
  • They are cute when they solve play problems together

Today’s mobile technology is quite the quandary. Use the phone stare well.