“…and Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again!” I used to hear this familiar line in the holiday song and ruefully think, “No kidding.” Now I smile in remembering that feeling and know that many of you are in that same boat this week.
With a brand new year and perhaps new resolve, we all are looking to get back into school routines, but also looking to the future. (Our son, Brian and 6 year old Kai are looking at daddy’s growth chart from 30 years ago. To quote Kai, “I will be up here when I am 12.”)
Maybe you are wondering, “How can I do better job of parenting?” I suggest a simple task that doesn’t cost any money…focus your attention.
When I was raising young children, one classic book recommended by the cooperative community and still listed in the ICPC and the MH Parent Handbooks, is written by Dorothy Briggs, entitled Your Child’s Self Esteem. (There was a copy in the MH Parent Ed library, but it seems to have migrated away.)
“Focused attention – direct involvement – an ‘all-here-ness’ … is a quality that gets love across … Nothing communicates disinterest more clearly than distancing.” (Briggs, 1970 – Don’t let the old copyright date be off-putting. Good parenting advice never goes out of favor.) “All-here-ness” is today’s “being in the moment” and I find this strikingly relevant to our over-connectedness.
How often are our eyes on a phone, iPad or computer screen in front of others? How many times do we remind ourselves not to text and drive? How often are we checking email on our phones while having a conversation? I hope you have a rule about ‘no phones’ at the dinner table. Thirty years ago, a Walkman was only allowed when the boys were by themselves – not in a room with anyone else, including the carpool, road trips being the exception.
A complimentary description is “multi-tasking” which is supposed to give this behavior legitimacy by making adults more efficient. I strongly challenge that view. Efficient at what, ignoring the person you are with? You have heard it before – actions speak louder than words. Being physically present, but miles away mentally, is communicating a disinterest that is a very effective model to your children. (© Growing Child 2012)
Take the time to focus and you will send your family a warm and loving New Year message: “You are more important than my phone, my music or my Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.”
Best in parenting,
Ginny Hacker, Director