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Present Parenting

While screen time has its positives and negatives, quality time is important. Four moms talk about being present and what to do instead of screen time.


Present Parenting

Bernie Rosquites: Technology is all around us. The world is so fast-paced and ever-changing. We rely on the internet, our phones, tablets, [and] social media for all the latest news and to keep up with our friends and family. But how do we stay present as parents? How do we spend quality time with our children, and not allow the screen to take over our lives? I’m Bernie Rosquites.

Jewell Buenavista: And I’m Jewell Buenavista, and you’re listening to the Faith and Family Podcast, a Christian family community that aims to promote Christian values for every phase of your family life.

Bernie: Well, these past two years, the pandemic has been, let’s just say just a little bit rough. We’ve been isolated in the house. We’ve been working from home, trying to homeschool our children all the while trying not to catch COVID. We’ve all become so accustomed to relying on our screens, but how do we pivot from our devices to spend quality time with our kids?

Jewell:  Oh, Bernie, that’s such a good question. A lot of us get so busy with meetings or tasks, that it’s so easy just to stick our kids on our iPads or any electronic device.

Bernie: Absolutely. Right. So, let’s have a discussion. We brought on some fellow moms to talk about their ideas of I’m doing air quotes with my fingers—present parenting.

Jewell: Oh, I love this topic. So,  let’s welcome Felicia Nofuente. She’s a school counselor and mother of three boys. We also have Tracy Nguyen she works from home with two toddlers and finds fun ways to keep them occupied. Welcome, ladies.

Bernie: Hello, ladies.

Felicia: Hi, Thanks for having us.

Bernie: So, you know,  it’s obvious. We’re all busy moms, right? And I gotta admit, I’m guilty of sometimes sticking my son—not so much in front of the TV, he’s 9-about-to-be-10—so for him, it’s not so much the TV, it’s the Nintendo Switch and the iPad because he’s into Roblox right now. You know, when I got something to do, and sometimes it’s not even something to do when I just need that—let me give an hour of peace and quiet just to collect my thoughts. I know I’m not the only one right? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

Jewell: So I’m guilty. I’m guilty of everything you just said, Bernie.  So how about you ladies, what’s going on in your lives when it comes to dealing with electronics, especially right now?

Tracy: Well, for me, I work from home. So there will be times that you know, PBS or Disney is going to be babysitting my children. But you know, everything comes good in moderation, right? I like to try and justify that, you know, it helps my children develop in grammar and language and speaking and singing a whole lot of singing. But um, yes, it just having it in under, you know, a time limit is what we’re aiming for. Learning curves, every day, learning curves. But yes, we’re working on this, for sure.

Felicia: I have three kids at different ages, so they all like different things. So my oldest is 12. And then I have a seven-year-old and then a three-year-old. So each is into their own thing. For us, I kind of tried to let go of that guilt because that pandemic time was rough. And I’m an educator, I know what I’m doing, and I still struggled. So even if you are equipped or not equipped, it was still a struggle. So if Nintendo Switch was it or PS4 or whatever it is, that was where they’re gonna go. And I had to let go of that mom guilt like “Oh my gosh, I’m not there.” But, I think what the pandemic gave me was some perspective and time to see, okay, what do my kids like to do and how can I tap into that? So that’s kind of where I took it. It was kind of like the gift of time where I got to spend time with them and see what they’re searching. So I found my oldest son looking up lyrics got into music got into some 90s hip hop, and I kind of got to see what was he interested in looking at his searches, because as a parent, you have to look up what they’re searching.

Bernie: Absolutely.

Felicia:  Because they’re things that he looked up and I want him to ask me those questions. Like, if you have a question, just ask me and I can give you the best answer I can. But don’t rely on Google.

Bernie: I’m gonna be your Google first. Okay? Mom and Dad are gonna be Google first before you ask anybody else, right. And one thing I got from the pandemic was this bald spot on the back of my head, but we’ll talk about that another day.

What to do instead of screen time

Bernie: So, what are some things we can do instead? Tracy, I’ve been told you started a no-TV challenge with your kids. I’m curious! How was that?

Tracy: Okay. So let’s be honest, it started off as a repercussion for bad behavior. That’s how it started. So I have a four-year-old and about-to-be-three-year-old and attitudes were flying one day, and I was like, “That’s it. No more TV.” And then, after the first two days, it was nothing but fussy. Fussiness, tantrums, of course, the works, right? But once we hit day three, I tell you, it was like a flip of the switch. They were quiet, they were more independent. The pretend play started getting really elaborate. I’ll go hours without hearing a peep. It was weird. So I was like, Okay, let’s see how long we can go with this. My husband has the trophy right now where he went five days without TV. Yes. My longest has been four days. So we’re working on it.

Bernie: That’s that’s great, though, because at a young age, they are able to just be without the TV.

Tracy: I kid you not—okay, so when I started this challenge, my husband was like, “Are you sure though, because it’s getting really hard. I got things to do.” I was like, just stick it out. I’m telling you, it’ll make the difference. And once he started seeing the benefit, because I had to go away for a week of work. He saw the difference that it made in their attitudes, the way they talk to each other the way they played. He was like, oh, okay, we can do this. Okay, I’m totally on board. So it also comes down to my husband and I getting on board and then making it a whole lot easier. So once we’re not talking about it or questioning it, neither are the kids.

Bernie: Teamwork makes the dream work.

Jewell: So Tracy, can I ask, what did you do to keep the kids busy?

Tracy: In the beginning, it became apparent that I really needed to be more disciplined in routines, building a routine that kept them busy.

Jewell: So what I like about that is that you’re being intentional, instead of taking the easy route of like, okay, just do whatever, you are putting a routine and that takes conscious parenting, you know what I mean? Like being present, and making sure that they stay on top of whatever, you know the routine you’re putting.

Ever since my 13-year-old was in kindergarten, we would do dates, like intentional once-a-week lunch dates, one on ones. And now what we added to our dates is we have to learn one new thing about each other. So it’s nice, because it’s a great way that as busy as our lives get, they get our full attention. And it’s been a great way for us to stay connected with our kids.

So Felicia, I hear you have quite an artistic son and even take drawing requests from friends and family to keep him busy.

Felicia: So for their Children’s Worship Service, they went virtual. And they would do these arts and crafts projects or workouts. And he gravitated towards this like David and Goliath drawing video that they played. And he really took to it. So then he would draw pictures. And he would say, can you give this to like my sister or my brother, (like my own [siblings] so his uncle hers or his aunt] and at the time, you know, I would just take a picture of it and then text it to them. And it got to the point where I was sharing them on Instagram. And everyone’s like, Oh, that’s so cute. Can you draw me goofy? Or can he draw me—

Jewell: Aww

Felicia: —or Mickey Mouse. So I would take the request and he would draw it. And I would just show him a picture or he’d watch a video and it got to the point where he’s like, what do my fans want now?

Bernie: Who wants to commission me?

Felicia: Funny, so we would open it up. I would post it on my story and say does anyone want to help Isaac practice his drawing skills so you can follow my stories. So it kind of, like snowballed into, alright, what do my fans want now? Occasionally, he’ll take a break, like, Mommy, I just need a break from my fans. And I’m like, okay, that’s his fan. So I have to say, Okay, does anyone want a drawing, and then they would put it, they would send the request, and he would draw, and I would tag them. It’s kind of been a really fun thing. It does take time away from the screen where he can focus on his skill. So I’ve gotten like art set sent to me, and I have colored pencils everywhere. If you look at my house, it’s his craft room, really, that I’m in. So he really, he spends a lot of time. And he’s very meticulous with his colors and what he does. So those requests are very special, I frame them and I send them to those who requested it. But it’s just nice to see where his imagination goes.

So now some people are like, can you draw me in the mountains. So we’ve been going on a lot of trips, that’s my, my big thing. I want my kids to see what’s around us, because we’re in Nebraska, let’s be honest, I’m surrounded by cornfields. And I want them to see the world. So he has been drawing, he keeps a notebook, he keeps a sketchbook everywhere he goes.

Jewell:  I love how you tap into a talent that you may or may not have known that he had. So I have a question for you, Felicia. So as a school counselor how do you think it affects a child when they’re left to their devices all day?

Felicia: I kind of get to see the positives and negatives. So now I tried not to get my kids away from devices because they need to learn how to use it appropriately. And our school district here is one-to-one iPads. So they’re on screen all the time. As a counselor, when I meet with kids, or they have something going on, it typically has to do with social media. You can see how it takes a toll because they’re constantly comparing themselves to other people. They’re constantly comparing what someone else has based off the images that they see. On the other end, there are great ways for them to learn new skills. You know, they learn all these fun things. And if they’re really interested in something, they can look it up. But there are reasons why parents should be very intentional with which apps their kids have access to.

Bernie: Wow.

Being present for your child

Jewell: I love that you said that there’s good and bad because we can’t hide our kids from technology. I mean, I think it would be silly for us to think that we can because you’re right. I mean, all our kids are on their devices for school, so that is what they’re trained on.

I love how you said, you know, for parents to be active, again, being intentional, being present in looking at what their kids are exposed to because as an adult, I get FOMO (“fear of missing out”), I get it. I’m in my 40s [I’m like], oh, “How come she’s looking cute?” Then I started looking at myself…you know, all of this. So what more of somebody at a young age [that’s] not mature enough to handle those kinds of comments and all of that. So I love how you said parents need to really

stay on top active be proactive be present, you know, but again, I want to know more because I really do want to know, and our listeners, because we have such negative connotations. Oh, electronics are evil, you know, they’re bad social media is bad. But there are positive things, you know, I mean, can you help us share? How can we make it a positive experience? Can you expand on that a little bit more, please?

Felicia: There are resources. So I refer a lot of parents to Common Sense [media] and they go over movies and games that are age-appropriate for different developmental stages. And then they also have like a “do and don’t” apps that parents should really look out for. I’m very intentional with how much access my son gets to others and strangers and people he games with. But as a parent, we’re visitors in this world, but when you take that away, it’s hard as a parent to figure out that world that they live in online. And when you take that away, abruptly, you have to be mindful of that’s the only community that they know. Like, if they can’t talk to their friends, they do have FOMO (“fear of missing out”). Like, then I’m not going to know what they talked about, and I’m gonna go to school, and everyone’s talking about something and I’m lost.

Bernie: I’m not gonna lie, I’m like, I’m gonna be fifty soon, and I’m gonna get I gotta Google FOMO Okay, so thank you for bringing that up. Like, what is FOMO? I’m learning so much from just talking and listening to what you’re saying, because my son just started Roblox, because for a long time, he didn’t have the Switch. And he didn’t have the Xbox and all that. But then I realized, you know, just like what Jewell was saying, like, electronics is not evil, because I started at first I was like, oh, my son’s not into that. And then I realized when he started going to school, you know, all his friends were talking about Minecraft, Roblox, this and that. And he didn’t have [any] idea what they were talking about. He just made it up like he knew what they were talking about. And I felt bad. So we gave him the Switch. He’s on Roblox. And I am being actually proactive and checking, like, why are twelve, fifteen, people trying to be your friend, and you just got on and he was like, I don’t know, he only plays with one person, and that’s his cousin.

I think that’s the one thing I’ve learned as far as doing this Faith and Family podcast, it’s really important to stay relevant. We definitely need to spend more time as a family and away from the screen. What else? I want to hear from Tracy, what else do you think we can do to spend more time as a family? What have you been doing Tracy?

Tracy: I love that you’re doing the no device during mealtimes. That’s actually been one of the hardest things to do. I’m still working on this. I will admit, like for long car rides, if I don’t want the kids to fall asleep, I will turn on the iPad to put on whatever their favorite movie is. But I’m staying connected to your children and finding out what piques their interest and just diving into it. Just give them A or B options. Do you want to color? Or do you want to play pretend?

Jewell: But I did want to share something because I think it’s we have to like what you were saying, Tracy that the internet is not a bad thing if we use it right, right? As a matter of fact, my 13-year-old daughter used electronics to invite her friend to a Bible-based webinar that we had not too long ago, you know, and the topic was about social media—how social media influences Christian living. And through her electronic, she was able to invite her friends. So it’s teaching them how can we use our tech? How can we use technology to be able to share our faith and do more good in the world? So just wanted to add on top of that. But Felicia, just to add to Bernie, what else do you recommend? What else can we do, in addition, to stay connected with our kids and our family?

Keeping your child in mind

Felicia: You know, just having conversations, intentional conversations with your kids. And I use the car ride a lot. I have three boys. So they’re not really into sitting down and like having conversations with me. I have to either throw a football or we have to go out for a walk. But the eye contact part they’re not really into, it’s not their jam. But when we go in the car, I have really insightful and thoughtful conversations, especially as I see my oldest kind of coming into his own. But it was having those conversations with my kids and like you said, you have dates, and I have dates with my boys to like, this is your time, and it’s hard to split yourself into three. So I try my best. Okay, this one really likes art, so we’ll do something for you. This one’s really into nonfiction and historical things. You know, I’m trying my best. And it takes a lot out of you trying to be intentional without devices.

When we plan trips, I have to plan it based off everybody. Like, it’s not a trip for me, it’s all for my kids, and tapping into those conversations and like, okay, how am I going to intentionally plan something that they’re going to remember for years to come? So I think listening to your kids, and planning ahead of time, and it’s like I said, I’m split into three. I try to listen more than I talk now.

Bernie: That’s a great sentence—listen more than talk. For my son, you know, I only have one son. You know, for him, when he is most out there ready to share is when we go out for like hot chocolate. Because in my neighborhood, I’ve got a coffee shop down the street, we grab a cup of hot chocolate, I do my coffee, we walk the neighborhood, or we go out and have breakfast or lunch. And that’s when he’ll spill the beans and he’ll share just kind of like what Jewel is doing with their kids that one-on-one time. And that’s so important. It can take a lot just to try to be intentional, but when you think about when they get older, they’re always going to remember that and that’s going to pass on to their kids; as far as “My mom or my dad took the time to talk to me.” Because I didn’t have that growing up. I didn’t. But now I know, having these conversations with my son—you know, when they’re still tiny, of course, there’s only so many things you can talk about. But then as you see them get older and their conversations start changing: what they care about, what they don’t care about, what scares them, what makes them happy. One time my son said to me, “Enough about me, Mom, how are you doing?”

Jewell: Did you start crying?

Bernie: I was trying not to cry over my eggs at the cafe, but that meant the world to me, because he is also present for me.You know what I’m saying? For him to say—he let it all out he told me whatever, some of it was big things and all that. But the fact that he also was like, “What about you, Mom?” I’m just glad that it’s happy. I’m happy to hear these things. The important things that I’m learning about all this conversation is intent and being present. And listening, right?

Spending time with kids

Jewell: Yes. And then that’s why I think Family Hour is so important. You know, we can catch up with our kids and our spouses and share stories and really hear our children.

You know, every night I ask my kids three questions, and they know this, they come prepared now. “Tell me three things that you’re grateful for that happened today.” So I mean, it could be small things, it could be big things, you know. [The] second question is: “How did you help somebody today?” “Well, I helped Ate (means ‘older sister’ in Filipino)”, or “I help mama.” It could be small things and or it can be big things. And my last question is, “How did God bless you today?” Because I want them to recognize, [that] no matter how big or how small, God is present in their lives. The stuff that comes out of their mouths—as parent you’re you feel good, like wow, they’re thinking about these things versus focusing on the negative things. Maybe they did see something negative online or what. But I want them to learn to focus on the blessings in their life on a daily basis.

So every night—then they pray and man, their prayers! I wish I could record every single one of their prayers, but when we teach our kids how to communicate and see the blessings in life, it shows in their prayers. Because the stuff that comes out of their mouth is like, wow, I thought you’re nine but you talk like you’re 30! I love it, I love it. Each kid, you know, they take turns leading the prayer.

I always, always say this: our children [are] a reminder of how much God loves us. The stuff that they do, like what you said, Bernie, your son took the time to ask you, “How are you, Mom?” That’s God’s way of using our children to check on you. That’s why it’s important that we take the time to be present for our kids and teach them the blessings that they receive on a daily basis.

We have a Minister of the Gospel, Brother Jeffrey DeGuia, with us to share some verses on the importance of spending time with family.

Bro Jeffrey DeGuia: Thanks, Jewell, and hello to all our friends and listeners. This topic is very much in line with God’s teaching and ultimately, his desire that every family led by the parents be properly guided in such a challenging and potentially dangerous world. In fact, God mentions how often we should guide our young ones here in Deuteronomy 6:6-7 in the New International Reader’s Version. I quote:

The commandments I give you today must be in your hearts. Make sure your children learn them. Talk about them when you are at home. Talk about them when you walk along the road. Speak about them when you go to bed. And speak about them when you get up.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 New International Reader’s Version

And with that, sister, Jewel, I’ll bring it back to you. Thank you very much, everyone.

Bernie: Thank you, brother, Jeff, this verse is something that is so true, because the one thing I do when I do tuck my son into bed, you know, I also make sure like, you know, say your prayers, but also remind him how loved he is, and that mom and dad are always there for him to listen to him. We’re his biggest fans, we’re his biggest supporters, and that he is just loved. One thing I was teaching my son as well is before he even talks to us, there’s nothing wrong with talking to God first because God will use us as an instrument to help him. So for me, that’s the one thing every time I put my son to bed: you are loved, you are amazing, every positive affirmation I can give him, but most importantly, God loves him the most and more than anything to go to Him first when something’s going on, and that we will be the ones to be used as an instrument to help guide him.

So for me positive reinforcement before bed, you know is something that I was wanting to do for my son until he doesn’t want me to tuck him into bed no more! I don’t know when that will be but I feel like it’s coming soon. Yes, thank you all for sharing. We know that someone out there is listening, and probably needs a reminder that we will always need God in every phase of our lives and He never, ever fails.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank our wonderful guests, Felicia and Tracy, for sharing their stories. Thank you so much, ladies, for joining us today.

Tracy: Thank you for the invite, and just to save you some time, Bernie, FOMO means “fear of missing out” so you don’t have to Google it later.

Bernie: Thank you very much for reminding the oldest person in this group.

Jewell: Thanks for listening to this episode of Faith and Family.

Bernie: If you enjoy listening to us talk, laugh, cry, build each other up, you can download more on Google podcasts I Heart Radio and Apple Podcast under Faith and Family please leave us a review or just say Hi and as always take care and please stay safe.