I borrowed generously from an article I saw In The Huffington Post. Unfortunately I cannot find the original article to give proper credit.
Remember the 1987 PSA about kids and drugs? A father finds drug paraphernalia in his son’s closet and questions him about where he found the drugs, how he even KNEW about drugs. The boy starts in with the standard excuses and finally explodes I learned it from watching you, Dad!
It was a groundbreaking commercial back in the day when stirrup pants were the rage and Bon Jovi was on the stereo and Dirty Dancing was in the theaters.
Here we are, a zillion years later, and things have changed. And stayed the same. Stirrup pants have been replaced by yoga pants — Bon Jovi seems to get better looking every year, and lines from Dirty Dancing are still quoted regularly (right now you are saying to yourself “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” — admit it).
There is one thing about the drug PSA that hits home in today’s modern world. Actually, it’s a phenomenon that’s always been there.
Children learn from their parents.
You can tell them what to do over and over and over again, but it’s really by watching that they learn. We’ve all witnessed toddlers ‘cooking’ like mommy or mimicking their father’s voice or copycatting something on television.
Why, then, are we so surprised that the teens in the world are attached to smartphones? Addicted to their devices? Aren’t we, too, “just checking Facebook” or “sending a quick text” or “making a call” when we are with our children? Aren’t we teaching them by example?
I had a parent come up to the front desk at my gym and she was checking her phone for 30 seconds or so until she acknowledged me. She was attempting to sign her child up for classes and during to 5 minutes it took to do this she sent and received a dozen text messages. Completely ignoring her child (Who was pretending to text on what I HOPE was a pretend cell phone) A recent study by Boston Medical Center shows some scary facts. According to the Boston study, 40 out of 55 caregivers at a fast food restaurant used their devices and their “primary engagement was with the device, rather than the child.” I think the word here is distracted.
Parenthood is not an easy job, and the few minutes parents of young children get to themselves is precious. I know, because I’ve been there. Anyone with small children has been there — that moment when you think if I don’t get 13 seconds to myself I am going to lose my mind. And parents need that. Everyone needs that. Really.
The bigger issue is how we interact with our children when we are, in fact, trying to interact with them. Are we constantly on our iPhone, checking work email or Facebook or whatever?
Technology is not going away, so it’s our job to use it wisely, and, by doing so, teach our children how to use it wisely. There is a place for technology — it’s just not at the very tip top of the list. I hate sitting with my friend, a smart, attractive, interesting young women who lives way too many miles away, whom I rarely see and happen to think the world of, tapping on her cell phone. I want to say HEY — OVER HERE! I AM YOUR FRIEND. I AM BUYING YOU DINNER! I THINK YOU ARE, BY FAR, THE ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING PEOPLE IN THE UNIVERSE AND I LOVE YOU AND I WILL ALWAYS HAVE YOUR BACK!
I don’t say that, of course, because she would be horrified and I would be on the first bus to the asylum.But if I am feeling that way about her lack of attention, what would my kids be feeling about my lack of attention? And, more importantly, what would they be feeling about my lack of attention if they were still three years old and thought I was still magical?
Along with our many, many other jobs as parents, we have to model a healthy relationship with technology. We want to have a real relationship with our children so they can forge real relationships with others. I don’t know about you, but I am hoping for grandchildren some day. If I don’t teach my children how to connect with the human race, I may miss my chance. Sitting around the Thanksgiving table with a bunch of little iPhones just doesn’t have the same je ne sais quoi, does it?
Here are a few tips on ways to form intimate relationships with people instead of dependent relationships on inanimate objects:
When you are with your children, be WITH them. Don’t just put down your smartphone, put it away. Once it is out of site, it’s less likely to distract you and shows your child that he is the priority.
Say out loud to your child, “I am going to do some work (schedule a dentist appointment, call a friend, etc.) in a bit on my cellphone, but right now I really want to spend some time with you. Tell me about your day.”
Create boundaries around technology and apply the rules to everyone, including you and the other members of the household. If you’ve agreed to a no phones at the table rule or devices off by 9 pm, it should apply to everyone, not just your children. (Revisit the “I learned it from watching you, Dad” commercial when tempted.)
Teach your children the art of conversation by practicing with them. Ask open-ended questions of them and answer their questions to you thoughtfully and thoroughly. Skip the one-word answers or the distracted “uh huh” when you are with them.
When you do, in fact, call them on their phone, set the expectation that they should answer or call you back. Too often phone calls receive a text in return. Why? Text is easier, safer and less taxing than a phone conversation. But, if your child is taking the easy way out of making a connection with you, imagine how difficult it will be for them to make a conversation with a stranger.
Keep private information private. What might seem cute or funny or endearing to you (Your 8-year-old son dressed up in his sister’s dance costume! Your 3-year-old is finally potty trained! Your high-schooler made the chess team!) is not for public consumption. Show your child you respect him by using discretion at all times. THAT GOES FOR YOUR LIFE TOO! You children would be horrified if they ever saw some of your Facebook statuses!
Most parents are hoping to instill a strong sense of self-esteem in their children. We want them to be capable, responsible, happy, healthy members of society. Sitting with heads buried in laptops or eyes scanning phones tells them that we think very little of them. We devalue them. And someday they will be gone and we will wish for more time with them. And then we’ll be listening to that “Cats in the Cradle” song and just kicking ourselves! Save yourself the pain and be present now. When it counts.
READ CELL PHONE ETIQUETTE