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THE DAD GAME

The Dad Game: What multitaskers can't tell you about family time

Saturday, October 26, 2013 - 12:01 am

Let's do an experiment this week.

Get out a piece of paper and something to write with. Got it? Cool.

I want you to focus for a few minutes and read this article straight through, beginning to end. Every time you get interrupted or distracted by anything -- phone call, email, people, TV show, smartphone notification, or an overwhelming urge to check some web site -- make a quick note of it. Really.

Now, on to today's main points...

Multitasking doesn't work. Forgive me for being blunt, but it's true. And it fails in a particularly spectacular way if you try applying it to family time with your kids.

Think about the last time you talked to someone who was watching TV, doing something on a computer, or splitting their attention between you and some other task.

How did that conversation go for you? Did you feel like the person was really interested in what you were saying? Did they give you the best of their time? Did they make you feel like you mattered?

Probably not.

But what if the person had completely stopped what they were doing, turned to you, and gave you their full attention -- looking at you, focused on you, leaning forward slightly, and listening attentively? How would you feel then?

Yep, big difference.

That's precisely what you do to your kids when you read a magazine, watch TV, or obsessively check your smart phone during time with them. Except now it's you -- the most important adult in their lives -- doing it to them instead of a co-worker doing it to you.

Ouch.

Focusing during family time doesn't take a lot of work. In fact, it's pretty simple.

First, either silence your phone or leave it in another room. Or, best of all, turn it off and put it away. That single step makes a tangible statement that you're focusing on them right now. That's powerful stuff.

Next, turn off the TV or go to a room that doesn't have a TV. That's an unnecessary distraction. Yes, turning the volume down on a football or basketball game counts as a distraction, too. Don't do it. Just hit 'off'.

Turning on some background music is fine if you want to, but keep the volume low. Make it easy to talk over the soundtrack.

Congratulations! You just set the stage for some truly connected family time.

Now, let's turn back to that experiment and your piece of paper. Did you get interrupted or distracted while reading this?

If you didn't, that's great! But the odds are that some bright shiny object object captured your attention and drew you away from this for a moment. Or two moments. Or even more.

Creating the best possible connection with your kids takes some focused time. Fifteen minutes of focused time is better than an hour where your attention wanders all over God's green Earth.

So turn off the technology, ignore the phone, and focus completely on your kids for a while. The difference it makes will astound you.

Fort Wayne resident John Kaufeld is a best-selling author, speaker and dad. He enjoys playing games with his family and letting others know about them. You can email him at john@johnkaufeld.com and read more of his work at www.johnkaufeld.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.