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Episode 101

How to intentionally connect with our kids in a world full of technological distractions

April 1, 2024
In Episode 101, Kyle and Sara, LPCs have a discussion with Joey Odom, father of 2 teenagers and founder of Aro. He shares his transformational journey from being a distracted dad to an intentional one. We talk with him about how challenging it can be to really be present with our children. We also dive into how our kids need and want us to model what a healthy relationship with technology even looks like. This episode will equip parents with the tools to create a family that is able to be present with one another.

How to intentionally connect with our kids in a world full of technological distractions (Ep 101)

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Episode 101 Transcript:

If you're a parent in the 21st century, you are facing a daily decision with your devices and how you manage them and how you show your kids how to manage them. And you're wrestling with questions we never had to wrestle before when it comes to parenting, which is how do we connect when all of these distractions are around us? How do we use technology in a way that's positive and helpful to our families without it also destroying the very thing that makes us a family, which is our deep intentional connection to each other. So I know everybody listening to this podcast has wrestled with these decisions, that it's hard to even as a parent manage it ourselves, much less show our kids how to do it. And I know many of us have failed at it miserably and it's hurting our relationships in our marriage and with our kids. So today, Sara and I are so excited to bring a dad to the podcast, a dad who has made it his mission to help families be more deeply connected and intentional with their time and with their relationship with all the technology that continues to dominate our daily lives.

So I think you are gonna be blessed to hear what he's gotta say. It's gonna encourage you. It's going to empower you to say, I want a different relationship with these devices because I want my kids to know how to be healthy humans that manage devices in a healthy way. So I look forward to you hearing the conversation.

Welcome to the Art of Raising Humans. The Art of Raising Humans podcast is designed to support, equip and encourage parents to have long lasting, deeply connected relationships with their kids that are free from fear and shame. Come join us on this parenting journey. Hello and welcome to the Art of Raising Humans. I'm Kyle.

And I'm Sara. And today we have a guest that we've been excited to have on for some time now. And his name is Joey Odom. And the reason why we brought him on is because he's a dad. He's got some kids, but he's a dad who has decided to purposely start with the change being in him  we get questions all the time about Joey, which is, what are the things that we can do with phones and screens and iPads? And, oh my gosh, like we did not have this as a kid, you know? I mean, first I want to say welcome, Joey.

Thanks for coming on. Hey, it's so good to see the two of you. You can, I was just thinking of the intro. I was like, I need to be and maybe start the Kyle and Sara fan club. You guys are just so good at what you do. You speak so clearly, you speak so truthfully. And I just, you know, I'm a beneficiary of your work and I'm really, really excited to talk today with both of you. Well, you know, Joey, I was wondering when's the first time, like I was just thinking as I was doing the intro with you, like I don't remember even having a computer until college.

You know, when did you have one? I know you're younger than me, but when did you? Yeah, when did that start for you?

Well, no, I agree. It was probably, I remember, I specifically remember in college knowing who had computers. And so it's like, you had to know who had a computer, specifically those who had a printer. So that was really clutch, is you had to get somebody in your group who had a printer so you could print off the thing together. So I didn't have it, but it was definitely, you definitely knew the people that did. And so if you had on, you know, count on one hand those who had a computer or a printer, that was pretty clutch. You had to really align with those people. So it was, and you know, I say it, this is a long time ago, really, you know, this is 20 some years ago.

But yeah, things have shifted very, very quickly for all of us. Well, you know, we're interested, we always like when we have somebody on to, we'd love to hear your parenting journey. Like what really grew this passion in you to say, man, I really want to be more intentional about my relationship with technology and with my family. Yeah, the moment I always go back to is about, it was about 11 years ago when my son Harrison, Harrison is almost 16. But when he was five years old, Harrison was playing his first season of soccer. And Harrison is, remains the greatest kid in the world. He's so sweet, he's such a great kid. And at five years old, this being his first soccer season, he was not the best player on the soccer team. But so, you know, and everybody can relate to this. You lug out the lawn chairs, you take them on the sidelines, another typical Saturday. But this particular Saturday was a magical moment.

Something arose that was absolutely magical that still, I still talk about 11 years later. And I kind of remember the moment almost like it was in slow motion. So Harrison hadn't scored a goal on the team. He was the last kid on the kid to have not scored a goal. And so he's standing there midfield, he rears back his leg, he kicks the ball. And again, it's like the dramatic slow motion, you know, the dramatic music, the slow motion, the ball rolls into the back of the net. So Harrison scores his very first soccer goal and everybody went nuts. Everybody knows what it's like when the kid who's not scored a goal scores his first soccer goal. So the crowd goes nuts.

His coach kicks the ball. Yes, we've been there.

We've been there, Joey. We've been there.

You can relate. But amid the celebration, it was like there was this little window right after it happened, before everything went nuts, when Harrison did what all five-year-old boys do is he turned to the sidelines to share this moment with me. So for our eyes to lock, him to see the smile on my face, the pride on my face, and truly it was magical.

Except I missed the entire scene. See, when Harrison looked over at the sidelines, all he saw was the top of my head because I was looking down at my phone, engulfed in something. I have no idea what it was, but I do know that when he looked over to me, he saw the top of my head and he missed all that pride on my face. He missed the smile on my face and I missed that moment of him scoring his soccer goal. So my wife, Kristen, she told me at the time, I think I still have rib bruises from her elbow telling me that I missed it. But it was a moment there, Kyle and Sara, where I just thought, something's wrong here.

Like something is wrong. This little relationship with this device in my pocket is all the cool things it can do. I've developed a relationship with it that's getting in the way of the most important relationships in my life. So and I would love to say that that was the last time, that that was the moment. Everything had changed then, but it didn't. It was this kind of this erosion every single day, this kind of lure in of that thing that was just stealing away those little moments. And again, I'm not demonizing my phone, but I was allowing it to steal away these moments from me, getting in the way of the things that were most important to me, or at least the things I would say were most important to me.

I'm curious, what were you looking at? That's such a good question. I mean, that's what's amazing. There's a lot of bad stuff you get onto. It was probably a group text. It was probably something like that.

But you're right. It doesn't always have to be the real nefarious stuff that can get in the way of those moments. Well, and just like when you compare the group text compared to that moment for your son. I mean, to him, he's like, I remember those moments as a soccer player as a kid. When you made those goals, almost every one of them were monumental. It was almost like they should be on SportsCenter that night on the top 10 list. Yeah. The parents just looking at some email or something. Well, you know what's interesting about it is, I happened to be poignantly aware that he looked at me in that moment. But the thing is, we don't know how often that happens. I heard a story the other day where a guy on our podcast was telling the story of a friend of his who went to his daughter's gymnastics lesson and he happened to forget his phone in his car.

And so he said, there he goes, I'll just watch. He said his daughter had to have looked over at him 20 times and he noticed that it happened 20 times. So in our minds, we don't even, it's like we're missing moments. We don't even know what we're missing. And what's happening, you all know this better than anybody, is it's hardwiring our children's brains.

They're just becoming accustomed to it. Like, of course, dad and mom aren't looking at me. It just becomes over time, it's this literal erosion and the real message they're getting, and this is where it kind of starts, you know, is when they start to believe I'm not worth being looked at. That's a real gut punch and we're subtly doing that and it's not one big moment that happens. It's a little drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, and it's happening over time. By the time they reach teenage years, gosh, where is that foundational sense of value? Yeah, man, that's a huge statement for a kid to believe. I'm not worth noticing. This other thing is much more important to my parents. And I think you see them over time, they no longer look over. That's like, they don't even expect it or almost, I'd say, almost don't care, you know?

And it almost flip-flops now, they're looking at their device and not looking to you. Yeah. Well, I'm even thinking how that happens, I'm sure a lot of listeners, that happens in marriage, too. You know? How we just expect, I remember there's a time, Joey, where maybe we were still learning how to have this relationship with the phone, and we were really busy with the kids being super small, we weren't getting much sleep, so it was really easy back then to even be more in the habit of being like, I'll just hold the baby while I look at the phone. I'll just like, and it was like, you just use the phone constantly to kind of keep yourself awake, to get through these moments, and what that led to, I remember, even in our relationship as a married couple, was there was times where I would get kind of jealous with Sara being on the phone, and I'd have these stories start to get in my mind. Like, I'd see her on the phone, and I'd be like, what's she doing?

Like, why is that more important than me? Like, we hardly get to see each other at all, Sara, why don't you get the phone? But the interesting thing was, when I would ask Sara what she was doing on the phone, she was like, buying clothes for the kids. She was grocery shopping, I'm like, in my mind. Doing selfish things like that, right, yeah, true. Exactly, in my mind, she was doing what I was doing, which was reading sports articles, or watching the latest Highlight, you know? So, it was funny how I put that on her, when she was typically like, I'm thinking, is she playing some game? Is she doing, you know, all these kind of, but really, she's like, Kyle, I'm buying new baby clothes, I'm ordering diapers, you know? But I noticed how the technology was causing this distance, and it really, it made Sara and I, at that time, Joey, be really intentional about the relationship we wanted, because we believe that change has to start with us. That before we ever faced this with our kids, you know, at that time, they were little, they were all elementary age. Before we started handing them a device, we as a couple needed to decide what healthy looked like.

Like, what does it look like to have a healthy relationship with our device? And that was a lot of conversations we had to have, and a lot of feedback, and really, those conversations deepened our intimacy with each other, because it was a continued conversation of saying, I don't want you to ever believe I value this over you.

Nothing on this device is more important, yeah. Which is so cool, too, because you, you know, it's the whole kind of the obstacle is the way concept, is that you were able to look at that and say, okay, this is going to require more intentionality from us, because this is, let's recognize that this is a potential issue, and so then you can actually use that as a moment to grow together and grow in intimacy, and so it kind of can become the way into intimacy by looking at it as something that we're gonna work on together. And I think there's something that's really interesting, and we've spent a lot of time thinking about this as we've been on our journey kind of working on this issue, is, and we, the three of us have said it a few different times here, very casually, we just kind of say, like, our relationship with our phone, our relationship with our phone, and society says that a bunch, and what's interesting about that is it's freaking weird that we have a relationship with this inanimate object, but we take it for granted that we have, oh, my relationship with my phone, what are you talking about? I say it all the time, I don't have a relationship with my lawnmower, I see it about once a week for nine months out of the year, but I don't go sneak in a quick mow when a conversation gets boring, right? I don't go, like, have a little chat with it on the side. It's something, it's something that is designed to help me do something else. It is just a means to an end, and as adults, I believe this is about the only relationship that we have with the device, with an object, but, and I was stuck on this idea, like, oh, no, humans don't have a relationship with objects. No, no, that's actually not true.

Children have a relationship with objects. They're called transitional objects. They're teddy bears, and they're blankets, and they're things that give them the sense of security when they're away from their ultimate source of security, which is their parents, right? And so, we have, in a way, in forming this relationship with the device as adults, there's a certain reversion back to childhood where we're clinging to this thing that we believe gives us security when security is around us in our relationships, but we're kind of, we're pushing that. Now, again, children have those things when they're away from their parents. We're almost doing it now, these transitional objects using as our phone. We're almost doing it in the presence of security, which is a little bit of an added dimension, but. So, the interesting thing is, so we thought, okay, well, why do we have a relationship with our phone? What are the defining characteristics of a relationship? And there are probably more, but we've come down to there are three defining characteristics of a relationship. There's, and this is not just with an object.

This is with anything. A relationship is defined by levels of proximity, levels of interaction, and levels of dependence. So, as it comes, so think about any relationship you have. The two of you have a very close relationship because you're proximate to each other.

You're around each other a lot. Second, because of that, you're interacting with each other all the time. Thirdly, you have a level of dependence, of interdependence on each other, right? So, when it comes to our devices, we have a relationship because there are high levels of all three of those things. So, when it comes, so let's begin with proximity. Proximity, 91% of us who have smartphones, 91% of us don't have to move our feet to reach our phones 24 hours a day. So, we've developed in a very short amount of time, like we said at the beginning, about 15, 16 years, we've developed a relationship with our devices that says we cannot be away from them. So, we have to be, we're with them all the time. And when we're with them, we're always interacting with them. And a lot of people will tell you like, oh, we'll just silence your notifications.

Great idea, big supporter of that. However, our smartphone usage is 89% self-initiated. So, we're the ones who are initiating the thing. It's not our phones calling out to us through notifications, but it's us initiating with them. Now, there is the presence of your phone, whether you're using or not, equals usage of your phone, interaction with your phone.

This is from Dr. Maxi Heitmeyer at the London School of Economics. And there are other studies that are confirming this. Because you're anticipating something from your phone when you see it. So, the only way, and this solves the proximity and the interaction, the only way to reduce your screen timers for it to be physically distant from you and out of your visual field of sight. So, the third level, the third defining characteristic of a relationship- Real quick, Joey, I wanna say, I wanna say, Joey, that's how I changed my relationship with M&M's, too. I just moved them out of sight so I couldn't be near them anymore. Bro, I mean, it is, that's actually, it's funny you say that. I mean, that is the, it's almost like we're carrying around a bag of M&M's. Now, for me, I'd go the peanut route, like for which I have no resistance.

No, there's no way I can say no to that. But if I have them in my pocket, at some point, as much willpower as I can kind of muster up, it's going to fail because my environment is not conducive. Environment eats willpower's lunch every single day of the week. So, if your environment is not conducive to your intentions, you're relying on your willpower, it's going to give out over time. You're gonna have a weak moment. Someone's gonna cut you off in traffic and you're gonna pop a peanut M&M in your mouth, right? Yeah, well, and I remember when we first were married, we had a bowl of M&M's that sat on the coffee table and we thought that would be fun to do.

And the bowl would last like three days. They were like, we are eating way too many M&M's. Or friends would come over and just down these things. They'd just be like, eating them. And we're like, this is getting expensive. And so, I realized when we put the bag of M&M's in the closet, when we put it away, like that bag of M&M's lasted. It lasted a month, you know, or more, because I forgot it was even there, you know?

It is amazing. The only person who I can say, my wife is the only person that I know who can literally, she has this box of Reese's Pieces that she got on her birthday on February 4th. It is, we're a month later, I think she's had about three or four of them. She will literally eat one Reese's Piece and that's it, and she's good.

That curbs the, I don't even understand how she does it. When we were dating, she would leave like a bite of dinner left on her plate. And I thought she was like David Copperfield. I was like, that is, how did you do that? You left a bite of food, you're not in the clean plate club? I didn't know you could do that.

But it's for most of us. Dude, she's in the, Sara is the same way. Sara is the same way. She does it all the time. I feel if it's there, just eat the last bite.

I don't understand it. But yeah, this is level of self-control. It's amazing.

Sara, you are, you are superhuman. And it's, but for most of us mere mortals, we have to, that willpower is going to give out and it's always going to be environment. So the third piece of a relationship, the defining piece of relationship, and this is where it gets murky with our phones. And this is why we're preaching a different message than may, than you may hear from others is we have a level of dependence on our phones. And before you say like, oh, that's wrong, we can't, hold on one second, gives it, it gets us from point A to point B with ways. It gets us Jimmy John subs when we're hungry, it teach, I learned French when I'm, you know, in the bathroom, you know, that kind of stuff. Like it's, you know, there's, there's a lot of cool things that it does for us now. And so as a result of that, it is impractical with the world we're in. And in fact, this is a much easier message to say, your phones are bad.

Go back to flip phone, throw out your smartphone. That's a much, that's a much easier, more clear message to say versus approaching the folks associated with this and saying, no, not only are we going to use phones, not only do we need phones, but our kids, as much as we not may not like it, they're going to need to get phones at some point. They're going to need to know how to interact with interact with in society.

And so what can we do? You said it. What can we do to model a good relationship with our phones? Because and I'm a firm believer in this. When you change your relationship with your phone, you change your relationship with everyone around you. But we have to recognize it is a relationship. Then we have to recognize that it's getting in the way of our other relationships. And then we have to take the necessary steps to change that relationship. Because when we do not for the sake of just changing our relationship, our phone, there's nothing inspirational about that. But for the sake of changing our our most important relationships around us. Well, yeah, I was I was going to say what comes to my mind is I think even in when we were trying to figure things out, you know, like he said, I would be on there getting diapers or and that's true.

But it really did way race. I need this.

I'm doing important things. I know even sometimes Kyle's on it. You know, he's he's working, you know, and but your kids are seeing that and you're looking at a screen and you're distracted and maybe you're doing even good things, but it kind of challenges thing about how can I be intentional about that? Maybe I do need I do need to get groceries and things, but what's that going to look like? Yeah, exactly. It's and that's that's where it anytime we start talking about this, Sara, it starts getting into we have to be really careful to not associate guilt and shame with it. We all know what happens with guilt and shame.

All of a sudden, you know, all of a sudden nothing productive happens. But to recognize, OK, this is not a complete abstinence pitch. It's in no way it is. It is saying I need this. This is the a lot of good things happen here. My hope, my home, especially and I don't want to be too stereotypical, but, you know, moms run the home and all of the stuff happens through that phone now. In fact, we you know, we say one thing we've learned that's been really interesting is dads very often will put down the phone to connect. Very often moms pick up the phone to connect. They're using it as a connection tool. And so now but you have to then and so this goes back.

Everybody's on a little bit of a different continuum. What are your intentions?

What are you in? And this is where what we believe is that we're subverting our own intentions. Very often is if you say I want to be really with the kids, I want a family dinner. This is this has the highest potential to subvert those intentions of anything. And so if you can just begin to be an investigator of your intentions and say, OK, what is out of alignment with my OK, I intend to do this and this. And I think I don't think anybody would argue this. This is the thing that will most quickly and most prominently get in the way of whatever intentions we may have, particularly when it comes to presence. Yeah. Well, you almost start getting on it unconsciously.

It becomes this unconscious habit. And there's so many kids that we've been able to help, Joey, especially the teenagers. When we ask them what's something they would like their parents to change. Many times it is this that actually the kid feels like. And it's kind of funny because I relate it to when I was a kid that my dad was a typical dad in the 80s who would come home after a hard day's work and he would turn on the TV and watch the news and he would do this whole typical thing. And I would try to talk with him and I would have to repeat the story three or four times before he actually heard it, you know, and I'm hearing a similar complaint from the kids these days.

But it's not about TV. It's not about what they're watching. It's about being on the phone. And typically the parent feels like it's justified because, like Sara was saying, it's doing important things.

I'm not just wasting time. I'm not I'm not I'm not playing a dumb game on my phone. I'm trying to do some work. I'm trying to get in. And it's almost like there's a justification for it. But to the kid, it feels the exact same, you know, to the kid. It feels like either way, you don't really want to hear what I have to say. And I know for me as a kid, Joey, I just stopped sharing that at that time with my dad. I just said, I'm not going to talk to him anymore because I'm tired of repeating that story. And I feel like that's what the kids are doing, too. And then but then now the kids have this added thing of they're getting mad because the parents are getting upset at them for not listening to them when they talk.

And they're saying like, but you don't listen to me when I talk like we're all on this phone. So we're all distracted. So, well, it is good, Sara, sorry, I was just going to say just jumping on that so that I'm just curious, how did you how did you do that? How did you make space or change what you were doing or how have you seen other families doing it? Yeah, I mean, it's it's it's a here's a great thing. Here's a great thing for for everybody to to to recognize is this is a lifelong commitment. It's the same like eating well and exercise. It is a it's a daily discipline. It's something that you can and so there's that's one that that could feel discouraging that it's always going to be something that you're that you're working working towards. But the other thing is, it also gets very a lot easier over time. And there are a bunch of different things we can do environmentally that will begin to change that.

So I would love to say that having a great big why, like, why do I want to do this? Well, I don't want to I don't want to miss another soccer goal.

It didn't change. Right. Nothing. Nothing changed. It would it was I had a few more days of willpower. But before long, it kind of kind of went, you know, kind of went to the wayside. So for us, and I don't think everybody has to do this. I had to quit my career and start a new company to address it. But I don't think everybody has to do that.

So you can. But it was, you know, I remember, I remember, and it's something that builds. I remember my daughter. We were about a year or so into this, this new business. My business partner and I were working on called RO that where I watched a movie with my daughter, Gianna. She's probably nine years old at the time. And at the end of the movie, she said, she turned over, she said, Daddy, did you know that's the first time we've ever watched a movie and you haven't had your phone? Which in a way was a gut punch, but in a way it felt really good because I could not wait till the next time we could watch a movie.

I'm gonna do it again. I'm gonna be the hero again. Yeah. And what's cool about that is, and I believe I was the chief of centers. I don't believe that anybody was worse than me in terms of phone distraction. Truly. And this is, you know, call it five years ago. I told my daughter, Gianna, a few weeks ago, I said, oh, I told that story about, you know, when we watched the movie and you said that it's the first time and she kind of laughed and she said, she goes, Dad, I cannot imagine you having your phone during a movie now. So what was, what was so common is absolutely unthinkable now for her. And it was, and it was, it's become a very normal thing. So when I say this lifelong commitment, it's pretty darn easy right now.

It's really not. And there are other times that my home is set up with a very conducive environment for that. But I took my daughter to an ear appointment this morning and then as she's getting out of the car, I found myself kind of looking at my phone as she's getting out. I thought, what am I doing? So again, it requires that physical removal, that awareness to say, when this thing is with me, I'm going to look at it. When the peanut M&Ms are with me, I'm going to eat them. When those things are with them versus just this subtle thing of dropping it in the glove box is a game changer. It's an absolute game changer. So that, that's a long winded way to say that the, one of the very first steps that we can get into, we have four, we have four steps on how we believe the best way to change your relationship with your phone. But the very first step, I think even like the prequel to the four steps, the one thing is two things. One, recognize what, what the stakes that stakes are so high that there is so much riding on this.

But then the other thing is acknowledge that it's hard. And I think one of the reasons why we as a society have not quite cracked the code on this yet is it feels like it should be easy and it's just not, it's just not easy. This is, this is difficult and of course I can put away my phone. Of course, you know, the premise of our business is, is a smart box where you put your phone and it quantifies the amount of time you're away from your phone. But one of the main object, people will say, well, why don't you just put it in a shoe box? And our answer is always saying, well, have you, do you own a shoe box? Yes. Do you put it in a shoe box? No. Okay, I got it.

Like it's just, there's no plan. There's system. There's, there's nothing around it, you know, that, that helps you, that helps drive you towards that. So acknowledging that it's difficult is a really good thing because when we recognize something is difficult, then we go seek out ways to, to, you know, solve the problem. So it's a very similar to exercise where exercise, all of us, and a lot of people may not know this.

You can burn calories for free. All you gotta do is run around your neighborhood for a while. All you can burn, you can build, you can build muscle. You just got to do pushups.

That's totally free. However, most of us have gym memberships because one, we recognize the stakes are high. This is important. Two, we, we acknowledge that it's difficult and then three, we seek help to remove the And so that's why we belong to gyms. And it's the same thing here. When we recognize this is difficult, this is valuable.

I need some help. Then we'll take whatever steps we need to, to go prioritize the relationships over the relationship with our phone. Well enjoy what I thought about that too. When you said recognizing it as difficult, I was thinking, recognizing that no one discipled us with this. You know, no one, no one has shown us a different way, you know, like, like even, even I think when Sara and I were very intentional about moving away from any fear-based or shame-based techniques with parenting, we realized we don't know anybody else not doing that. We know everybody else is using fear to control their kids. We're going to try to do something where we teach kids how to control themselves. That's new. We've never seen that. Is this going to screw up our lives? Right? So anytime I think we haven't, we haven't seen that model.

We haven't seen somebody do it successfully, it going back to your workout thing, it would be like having this dream of being fit and being healthy, but I don't know anybody else who's doing that. Right? Right. So, so a big part of making that change is I think we, especially like Sara and I are 47. I know Joey, you're, you're right around that age too. You're, you're in your early forties, I believe somewhere in there. And so, so like this generation of parents that are having to wrestle and grapple with these questions about technology, it's just, we got to be honest with ourselves that nobody has discipled us. So we have got to choose how we are going to be discipled, how we're going to have these healthy relationships, how we're, because our, our kids need it. You know, our, our kid, I mean, Joey, I really believe the kids are begging us to know how to do it. Like, like I, I, I'm thinking of a kid I had who was in the student council, Joey, he was very successful. He's in my office crying because he can't go to sleep without his phone next to his head.

It's got to be there all the time. Like I said, do you think you could put it in the other room? Could you put it in the living room? He didn't believe he had the freedom to do that. Wow. Because I don't think anybody had ever shown him how to do that. You know, and so, so I think that's a big piece of why it's so hard. I couldn't agree more. That is, that is absolutely heartbreaking. And when, when you say our kids are, when you say our kids are begging for it, I couldn't agree more. And they're not only begging for it, I actually think they're, they're pretty mad about it and they may not know why.

I think they're pretty mad about it because you think, you think about a child when they're young, when a child says like, we've all heard mommy, daddy, watch me, mommy, watch me, daddy, watch me, watch me do it again, daddy, watch me, mommy, and it's, it's a nonstop stream of that, right? So you have the debt and then it's, I think a lot of us have heard this and if you have, I'll tell you why this is, why you should love this is when our kids have said, mommy, put down your phone, daddy, put down your phone or grabbing your face and turning your face towards them.

So that's them. That is, they are literally begging us for that. And again, they're starting to get like pretty upset about it. They start demanding it. They get, they get louder and louder about it. So the reason why you should love that, if you've heard that, if you're listening and you've heard your child say, mommy, put it on your phone, daddy, put it on your phone, you should be absolutely joyous about that. And here's why one, it's because your child likes you because your child, your child wants you to look at them.

Your child really loves it. Those days are, you know, it's not, that's not guaranteed for forever that your child's going to like you. That's one that they really like you, that they want you to watch them because they respect you and they love you. That's one. Your child loves you. The other one is they believe that they are worth being looked at. They believe that they have enough value inside of them that's worthwhile for somebody to stop what they're doing and look what they're doing.

Holy crap, that's great. They have such a foundational sense of value and where we have to really get concerned, where we should really start getting scared is when they stop saying, mommy, put down your phone, daddy, put down your phone because we're going to slip. That's fine. But when they stop asking for it or they stop saying, mommy watched me, daddy watched me pretty soon instead of mommy, daddy watched me, it's, Hey mom, look at this. Hey dad, look at this. And then before long, it's a little bit less and less and less. And so if we can prolong those days where they really want to prolong. And when I say prolong, I think it can be forever where they like us. They may not always love what, you know, how we're parents of them, how we're discipling them, but where they like us and two, where they believe they're worth being looked at.

So it is a, what an amazing opportunity. And you talk about the kid in student council. If we can get this right one, this is the most hopeful opportunity any of us have as parents. In fact, this is the, this is the greatest parenting lever we have. A lever is something that quite requires minimum input, but provides maximum output. So you don't have to put in as much, but you get a lot out of it. So this is the greatest lever in parenting, in my opinion, and by the way, I'm highly biased. So, but this is, this is the greatest lever. Yes. Yes. But if we can get this right, oh my gosh, this is amazing things.

And the stakes will always be high. The stakes are high, no matter the age your child is. But when they're young, the pain is low. When they're, when they're, when they're in middle school or in high school school or the stakes are high, but the pain becomes even higher if we've not gotten it right earlier and earlier and earlier. And it's never too late. However, if you're listening to this one, you need to begin now, no matter the age your child's at. But if you can do it, catch it earlier, earlier, earlier by yourself, this is yourself modeling it well and teaching them well, discipling them well, if you can get this done, this is done early. The stakes are high, but the pain will be so low that you won't have to take the painkiller later. The vitamin now versus the painkiller later. That's so good. Yeah. Have you, what's your thoughts?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on screen fast. You know, I know when we've encouraged families to do that, to take three weeks and just, you know, everybody let's get off the screens every time, Joey, what we've heard is really great feedback. You know, the kids emotions are more easily regulated.

The kid is less impulsive. The kids and the siblings are playing board games together and there's less conflict among them. You know, the kids in general are more cooperative because they now feel more connected and closer to the parent. You know, so I'm curious about your thoughts on that, which you've heard, studied, or just your own personal experience. But it's always been really positive to see the surprising results. Based on what you, based on the results of what you just said, I think it's a terrible idea.

No, I'm just kidding. Of course, like, like, like what you just described is like a magic pill. Like, of course, I love that.

Like, what a great thing. What a great thing to do. And, and I think that's probably in the healthy. And if you put it in, you know, if you put it in, like, for people who may like come from a position of faith, if you put it in faith terms, this is, that's, that's one piece of spiritual disciplines that's really beneficial. It's not like you should, you know, you're growing up, you go to church camp. And so you'd have, you couldn't go to a week of church camp and then expect that, like, you can sustain that throughout the rest of the year. Of course, you need to have the daily disciplines that go along with that.

And then you have another great church camp experience. It's not one or the other. Like, if you can complement it with a great experience like that, like having just a full break, full fast, we're seeing in society, all the benefits of fasting in general.

What an amazing thing we can do. And unfortunately, if you can, and if you can have the foresight to, to look at that through, I'm going to do this now in a preventative way versus in a gosh, you know, the house is on fire. I need to do it now. If you can do it preventatively, what a great thing. There's Dr. Darren Whitehead, who's a pastor in Nashville, just wrote a book called The Digital Fast, which is a 40 day digital fast.

And it's a great book. If someone needs some practical steps, I'm sure you all have resources for that as well. Practical steps on how to implement that in a way. Of course, it won't be totally painless, but it, you know, you can be relatively seamless in the way you approach it. And if you were to tell me, here's the results at the end of three weeks, sign me up for that. Yeah. Yeah. I was just going to, I was just curious, you had kind of told your before story. And so now that you've, you're, you've been down the road now for a while with changing your practices, what, as a parent, how has that, you know, what are you feeling?

What are you noticing? What's different now? I was, I'll speak specifically to the behavior I've seen in my kids and they are, they're 14 and 16, just about for both of them. And so the fortunate thing I had is we implemented a lot of this. We brought in again, RO that I mentioned, we, we brought that into our home before our kids had phones with this recognition that, Hey, we got to, you know, we got to model this well, we need to do a good job for our kids. And then we need to initiate that good behavior in them when they get, when they get phones. So I would, I would say in our kids that again, they're far from faultless, of course. But I believe that their core relationship with their phone is very, very healthy. I think that, so, you know, there hasn't been a night since either of them had phones that they've ever slept in their phone with their phone in the room, which in addition to, I mean, if I were a 15 year old boy, 14 year old boy with the internet overnight, I would have never slept. Right. There's, there's no way I would have ever slept.

So, and that's, that's not to mention just the, the absolute sleep crisis with our teenagers right now. I mean, just an absolute sleep crisis.

And you all know this so well. I mean, the, the, the most effective form of torture in society, and this is thousands of years of humans coming up of new ways to, to torture people. The most effective form of torture is still sleep deprivation. And we're allowing that to happen under our roofs. So I mean, if you can just turn off the podcast now and just say, okay, no more phones in rooms at night.

Let's just start there. What, what an amazing thing you can do for your child. But so never slept in their phones in their rooms. That's a great thing. Family dinner. It's a very normal thing. They walk in the home, walk in the house. The first thing they do is drop it. They, they distance themselves physically from their phone for a period of time. Now, of course, and we even, and, and Kyle, you, you said this when you were on our podcast, which I just loved this idea of co-creating with your child. I've actually implemented a lot of that since then.

And just talking about instead of, and this is a risk too, instead of placing time restrictions on their phones, we're now having conversations around, Hey, let's talk about Harrison. He loves it.

There's a game he loves called brawl stars. Okay. So we're going to take off the time restriction on brawl stars, but let's talk about what that means when you're on the tennis, but he plays tennis for his high school on the tennis bus driving a couple hours, you know, are you going to be on that? Are you going to be talking with your friends?

Cause what a cool experience. And so we have those open conversations where he kind of sees that, you know, the impact of that relationship. So I, it's still, you know, the great thing is like you said, Sara, we're, we're still kind of figuring this out as we go, but we have seen, we have seen really great fruit from them. They recognize the value of in-person conversation. Their core relations to their phone is I believe is very, very healthy. And that's, that's super gratifying for, for me to see.

And it's encouraged. It puts the onus back on me, the target on me in a good way to say, I got to keep, I got to keep doing a good job with this. I got to have to keep reinforcing this good behavior that I'm seeing in them. Well, Joey, I want to share one more story that I think sums this up. And then I'd like you to help our audience. If, if I'm sure everybody listening is saying, I know this is a problem. I want to change it. What steps would you advise me to start taking? But, but there's, there was one client I was helping many years ago and this client, there was a lot of fighting going on in the home. And almost all of the arguments were starting because the, the, this kid was supposed to turn in their phone at nine o'clock at 9 PM. And every night the kid wasn't giving it till nine oh five or nine 10.

The parent will be texting them at nine o'clock. Where are you? Bring the phone. The kid would even tell me sometimes they would start taking a shower like right at eight 59 because it'd be very hard to give the phone. And I mean, this was turning into blowout fights every night. And I would ask this kid, I would say to the kid, why don't you just blow their mind? And one night just bring them the phone, even say to them, I don't think this helps. I don't think you should do this, but I'm going to give it to you. And this client said, I did this for a couple nights, but I just, I couldn't do it any more than that.

It was just infuriating me. I hated giving them his phone. Right. But then when we started talking about why the parents wanted the phone, she was telling me she knew why they wanted the phone because they were afraid she was going to stay up too late and she was going to fail school the next day. And that was very important. And she would say, you don't think I'm scared too. I think I will do that as well. She said, I'm scared that I'm going to go to college and I'm going to flunk out of college because then they won't be able to take my phone from me.

And so she had the insight. She was saying to me, I need to learn how to control this device because if I do not learn it, if I, if I just every night give them the phone, I'm never going to learn how to do it in college. And I'm so afraid that I'll destroy my own happiness, my own success because my parents never taught me how to do it, you know? And it was just heartbreaking. She was a really smart kid, really smart kid. And yet she, she knew it. Her resistance wasn't the fact that she didn't want her parents to control her. It was, she already felt controlled by the phone.

She didn't want to be a slave to it anymore. She wanted to be free, but she knew that just giving it every night to her parents didn't lead to that freedom. It still was just another form of control. I mean, you think about, you think about the story of Sleeping Beauty that we all watched when we were young. The story of Sleeping Beauty basically goes that the prophecy was given over the young when she was a baby that one day she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel. So what did her parents do? They got rid of every spinning wheel in the entire kingdom. For some reason, they didn't check the basement. There was one that was still down there, but they, they, they forgot one. And so as a result, the first time she encountered a spinning wheel, she pricked her finger and went into a coma, right? So, so this, the prophecy came true and it became self-fulfilling because, and I bet you, and it's not, wouldn't have been as long of a, of a movie, but the 15 minute movie would have been like, oh, hey, let me show you how to work, how to do a spinning wheel.

She'd been like the greatest spinning wheel stress in the entire kingdom that had ever lived. But then she would know how to handle that properly. And so we can graduate our kids absolutely just like we do with anything else from, you know, from breast milk to solid food. We can, we can teach our kids all along the way how to handle more and more responsibility with the understanding. Hey, Harrison, my son, there are things that are absolutely off limits for me on this phone. So there's a point where this, it just becomes, it just becomes not good for you. But let me show you how to manage this thing and handle a good relationship with this. It's where it's them voluntarily doing it as they get older. Yeah. Yeah. So if you, if you wrapped it up and just said, here's some real simple steps for them to take today, something they could get off listening to podcasts, what would your advice be, Joey? Yeah. The, you know, we have four steps that we say there are four steps we believe to change your relationship with your phone.

The first one is, is as a parent, this is specific to parents, is understand the power and agency and authority you have over that. The, the, the power you have over that, that begins with you. So the traditional model, and Sara, you kind of, you kind of tease this out a little bit. The traditional model is what we call the three Ms. So we, as parents, we model a bad relationship with our phone. Someday we give our kid a phone, they mimic what we've modeled to them. And then something absolutely crazy happens after that is we get mad at our kids for mimicking what we modeled. And so we just, that, that, that cycle perpetuates versus, Hey, what if we modeled a good relationship? They'll mimic that good relationship. And then we'll make memories or make magic, whatever, you know, whatever cool M you want to put in there. So a lot of good things happen, but it begins with you that you have to model a relationship with your phone that you want your kids to mimic.

That's number one, understand your power, your agency, and model a good relationship. You want your kids to mimic. Second one is for you to start daily and small. And when I say that, I mean daily and small with physical distance away from your phone. So a little bit of time every single day, and it needs to be every day is established practice because when you do going back to the 91% stat, when you spend some amount of reframing your relationship with your phone that says you don't have to be with me all the time. So it starts daily and it can start very, very small.

I would encourage people start. If you've never done this, start with five minutes. Once you, once you've gotten that down, make progress it up toward until you get to about 23 minutes. And here's why 23 minutes is important.

Studies shows from Dr. Gloria Mark at UC Irvine. She says that it takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds to refocus after you've been distracted. So we're living in kind of a constant state of distraction. So hit that 23 minute 15, then, then hit it up to, can you progressively work towards an hour of physical distance from your phone every single day that does a really, really powerful things for you and kind of rewiring that relationship with your phone. So that's number two. Number three is I want you to establish sacred times and sacred places without your phone. So in the home, we believe sacred times could be something like 30, 30 minutes after you wake up every morning. That could be a great device, free time, family dinner, great time, sacred places could be the kitchen table could be your children's bedrooms could be one that you never take your phone in.

It could be the family couch. This is a really interesting one. And we're not all screens are damaging. If you go watch a family movie and you don't have your phone, like what a cool thing that is. We find that most people haven't watched a family movie without a second screen in a long time. So set those established those places because then you're sharing a single experience. So that third one established sacred times and sacred places without your phone. And then the fourth one is my favorite. The fourth one is look for cues for connection. And so the Gottman's would probably call these these these bids.

But I think you're looking for kind of cues. And so a cue would be a time that your partner, your kids, when they're kind of and again, they're accused different from a request.

Request is an overt. Mommy, watch me.

Daddy, watch me. I think a cue is more of like a like a scream for connection that's often commuted, very often communicated very, very subtly. So it could be something like my daughter saying, you won't believe what happened in social studies today. Yeah, hold, hold on one second.

She's opening up in a story to me. I know what I need to do. I found the cue and you cut her off real quick. Say, oh, I got to hear about this. Let me go put my phone away. That that sentence alone, because what that's done or my or my wife said my wife says, you know, this this maybe gets in the request zone, but it's still like a cue for her saying like, I just feel like I'm really needy right now.

That could be OK. Let's talk about that or or this one's not as fun. Her saying like, I've been so frustrated with you right now. What she's saying is I want to resolve this so we can be connected again. Right? Yes. So any of those little cues and it happens very, very subtly in the in the end. It's we got to be real careful as guys to pat ourselves in the back too hard because I'll have the tendency to be like, oh, I'm going to be so present right now. Let me put away my phone so I can be fully focusing. Then don't be an idiot.

Just say it very subtly. Just say, oh, I got to hear this.

Let me put my phone up. Physically put it away.

What you're telling that person in that moment, the message you're saying, and this is so huge for relationships, you're saying on this phone, eight billion people can theoretically reach me. You are more important than every single one of them. So what's that going to do for intimacy? What's that going to do for connection? What's that going to do for relationships?

So that is my favorite. And if you can look at it for for the fellas, probably a little bit like competitively, like, oh, I'm going to be the best Q finder in the world. I'm going to go find him and I'm going to look for him every day and I'm going to do that. It's an amazing thing. The alternative is not as good. The alternative is an erosion to intimacy that if my daughter opens up to me, it can take one glance at a phone for her to feel completely shut down and not only shut down in that moment that kills the moment that kills the intimacy in that moment. What it really does is it kills her likelihood of opening up to me in the future that kills the potential future intimacy that I have with my children that I have with my spouse. But again, the amazing opportunity is the inverse is totally true. Just by putting it down, you're building connection, you're building intimacy, you're building trust. So they're going to continue to open up to you, open up to you, open up to you. So those are the four.

So to summarize, understand your role, understand your power. So think of those three M's to start daily, start small physical distance from your phone. Third one, establish sacred times and sacred places.

Then for look for cues for connection. Joey, that's awesome. So I hope every listener who's listening right now has not only been inspired to make change, but you've written down those four steps that Joey just talked about, because it's going to change everything. We really have got to get a handle on this as a society, because like you said, I think our kids are mad because they want that better connection, but they're also mad because they really want to be discipled. They're actually saying, teach me how to be free. It does not feel good to be a slave to sugar, to devices, to anything. They really want to be free. And I know every parent listening wants their kid to be free too. I hope their love for their kid and the freedom they want from them inspires them to say, I want that for me too. And so if I'm able to do that for myself, then I can now guide my kid hand in hand to co-create how we are going to relate to these devices in our family.

I really appreciate you taking the time, Joe. What's a way they could reach out? If they want to know more about what you're doing at RO, how could they reach out to you? Yeah, yeah. I encourage people to go to,

And again, RO is a platform and system. We, everything I just said, RO makes that a lot easier.

That's our goal. We have the most effective tool out there to help you implement these things in your lives to actually make it, believe it or not, fun and enjoyable to be away from your phone.

And that's the goal. That's what we're here for is not necessarily help you put down your phone, but help you flourish on the other side of putting down your phone. So RO is, again, this is, this is the most effective tool in the world, in our opinion, to help you go put down that phone, put down that device, take the next step for you to be fully present in the relationships that are most important to you. And they will, I will put the link to that down in the show notes along with to the podcast, the RO podcast as well.

So thank you. Thank you.

Kyle Wester on that. You got to go check it out. Kyle Wester on the RO podcast.

He's a killer. He brought the pain.

Yes, so, so, man, so, so thankful for your, just your encouragement, your knowledge about how to do this stuff. Thank you. Stuff better, you know, because we all want to get better at this. So thank you for hearing about it. Yeah. The Art of Raising Humans podcast should not be considered or used as counseling, but for educational purposes only.

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