5 Signs You’re Neglecting Your Kids

Whenever my daughter leaves a room, she tells me she loves me. It’s something I cherish because it’s such a perfect picture of her sweetness. This weekend was the first time she ever did it and it made me sad. As she entered the room, I was playing a game on my phone. With excitement, she told me about a conversation she had with a friend. I looked up for a second and said, “That’s great, honey.” After 30 quiet seconds, it came: “I love you, Daddy.” I looked up and told her I loved her too, but after my brief and half-engaged response, the smile had disappeared from her face. In the moment, it didn’t occur to me. I missed an opportunity. I missed her. She wanted to connect, and I was so consumed with playing a dumb game that I neglected her.

The last thing most of us want to do is neglect our kids. Well-intentioned we may be, but busyness, distractions, and maybe even laziness have a way of keeping us from being the dads we strive to be. Without intentional thought and awareness, we can easily take opportunities for granted. We need to look for any signs of neglect so we can refocus. Here are 5 signs you’re neglecting your kids.

1. Your screen use has gone up.

Does your phone notify you of your screen time? Mine does and I’ve had consecutive weeks where my screen time increased. That’s a bad sign. It shows me where my focus has been. Yes, there could be plenty of other reasons for the increase. Maybe your screen time was so low it had nowhere to go but up. Perhaps you’ve been doing more of your work there during working hours. But more than likely, it’s going up because you’re neglecting some important people. Let that information serve as a reminder of what’s important. Prioritize your kids and take pleasure in your screen time notification decrease.

2. You’ve missed or have been late to a number of their activities.

When we become dads, we don’t set a goal to miss our kids’ activities. It happens one decision at a time. We typically think it’ll be a one-time decision to get the promotion at work or impress our boss or to get some of our responsibilities checked off the list. Then we cave to the same pressures or temptations again. Habits form and we miss more and more. This is one of the clearest signs of neglect. Set clear boundaries and goals around your kids’ activities and events. Missing one here and there is understandable. And sometimes there are seasons when the family needs you to work. I get it and have been there. Do what you can to be there, and if you legitimately have no way of being there, call your kids and ask them all about it. Ask someone to take videos. Be excited for them as they relive it with you.

3. Your child asks if you heard what he or she said—and you didn’t.

Again, this will happen from time to time. After all, there are millions of bits of information going through our brains every day. But it’s important that our kids know that they are being heard. So, if you hear these words and miss what your kids said, stop what you’re doing and thinking about and focus on them. Or at least explain that you have to finish what you’re doing and then you’ll be able to focus on them. Here’s the deal though—make sure you don’t forget to come back to them.

4. You didn’t notice your child left or entered the room.

This makes our kids feel invisible. Typically, when our kids come to a room we are in, it’s to connect with us in some way. Unless of course you’re in the kitchen and a teenager enters. Then they’re probably just there for food. Even then, they still want to be noticed. So be mindful of where they are, and if they enter the room, make eye contact; react with the same energy as if your favorite celebrity just came into your house.

5. Your kids expect you to be absent or say no.

If you want to have a good relationship with your kids when they’re older, then you need to be with them now. One of the obvious signs of neglect is when your kids expect you to not be there or to say no to spending time with them. It’s an indictment, and you need to change. In Joshua 1:9, the writer says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” He draws strength from God’s presence. Our kids draw strength and self confidence from our presence. Be there.

Sound off: What are some other possible signs of neglect?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are you looking forward to right now?”