Our Kids Notice When We Don't Notice

July 27, 2022
Rich Donnellan

“Daaaaaaad, why isn’t your phone in the box??”

This is what I heard a few nights ago as I was standing in the kitchen just before dinner with my face buried in my phone. I was probably looking at emails or refreshing Aro’s social media accounts to check for followers and comments. Who knows? It obviously wasn’t important because I can’t remember. What I do remember is finally turning to see my four-year-old son, Luke, trying to get my attention, seeing he had one hand in the Aro box and a popsicle in the other, and hearing him tell me to put my phone in the box. I don’t know how long he had been trying to get my attention, but I could tell by the frustration on his face that it had been a bit. While this picture is a reminder for me that I need to be better at practicing what we preach at Aro, one thing I love about it is the timestamp on the clock next to him. My wife and I make a concerted effort to “Go Aro” around dinner time every day. This picture is evidence that Luke has become accustomed to that habit we’ve built.

5 o’clock comes around and he knows it’s time for phones to go away and for his parents to be present.  

This is just one example of how Luke has taken to Aro. The first day we got our Aro box, he saw mom and dad put their phones in the box, ran to the living room, and returned with his toy phone to do the same. Of course, I immediately grabbed my phone out of the box to take a picture and send it to the team. This continued to happen over the next couple of months, and we continued to celebrate and document it. I opened the Aro box this morning and found his toy phone in there, all alone, waiting for mom and dad to join him. No picture required now. It’s become such a habit for him now that we’ve stopped taking pictures and stopped announcing it to the team.

We talk a lot about Aro giving older kids a system to help manage their phone habits once they get a phone. I can tell you from experience that Aro may have an even bigger impact on younger kids without phones.

My sons, Luke and Grayson, notice my phone habits, they notice when I’m not totally present with them, and they will learn whatever phone habits I model for them.

Because of that, I choose to put my phone down and make the most of the time we have together. It’s easier said than done, and there are times I don’t get it perfect, but accepting progress over perfection has made all the difference for me. I’m sure this isn’t the last time Luke yells at me to put my phone down, but it makes me feel good that his “normal” is my phone in Aro and me totally present with him.

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