I had been away from my family for many weeks. Everyone else had moved back to New England while I stayed a little longer at my job in DC. I arrived home for good, late on a school night, after a 10-hour drive. As a reward, I got a huge hug from my little boy, who was waiting up.
Since I had been away, he had taken up the clarinet, and was eager to show me what he had learned. He played a song. I was duly impressed. But I had just left a job I loved and a strong gravitational force was pulling me to the computer after an entire business day away. I opened my email, read a couple of messages, sent one out, logged off, then went up to tuck the kids in. Later, my husband said that PD had a second song to play for me, but when I went to the computer, he put away the instrument and said, “Mom doesn’t care.” Heartbreaking. It was two years ago and I still feel sorrow over the opportunity lost.
I’ve heard people express regret about teens texting their friends during dinner, or when visiting Great Grandma. What a shame to miss this important family time. But sometimes, yes, the parents are the guilty ones. An item in the New York Times today examines the possible effects on children’s development when parents talk less to them and more to their screens.
Parents as models
Parents need to examine their own behavior, that’s for sure. We never allowed toys at dinner when the kids were little. Everyone participates in the conversation. It’s pretty easy to extend that rule to communication gadgets. No cell phones at the table. And that includes parental crackberries. I’ve been guilty once or twice, and so has “the dad.” From now on, no exceptions!
And while we’re virtuously setting the example in the electronic genre, why not examine our big screen habits. Don’t want your kids to watch too much TV? Time to curb your own couch potato tendencies, if any…(wink wink) That’s the advice today from child media expert Dr. Michele Borba.
Instead of gathering around the TV, Dr. Borba suggests establishing a TV-free family night. This is a great idea because guess what? Your kids want your attention. They don’t want you paying attention to the little screen, or the big screen. Would you believe that kids ages 7 to 12 would actually rather play with parents than watch TV or use the internet? That’s the finding of a recent global study conducted by Ikea, the furniture store. I do believe it. Kids want your attention and they certainly don’t want to share it with people who aren’t even present! I’m sure this will be a worthwhile investment of your time that will pay off – somehow! – when the little sweeties turn into surly teens who try to tune you out with their gadgets.