Monday, October 31, 2016

Parenting Pointers: How to reconnect with our family in this technology-drenched world

These days we all seem to be living past the speed of life.  Everything is 24/7.  Everything is now, now, now—go, go, go.   Oh, but how we love the speed of our new “e-life” because it makes everything so convenient and so easy, and so very quick.  But not everything in life needs to be convenient, easy, and quick. Some things, like raising a family, are anything but easy and quick.  Yet, that’s not what we’re teaching and showing our kids.

We are wonderful “e-models” for our kids who are learning about the “e-life.”  Showing them how our “conversations” in restaurants revolve around texting people not at our table.  Or how we can chat with 3000 “friends” and still be lonely.  Or how we can break up, make up, propose, and divorce someone without ever having to talk to them face to face—and we think that’s normal. Or how we can successfully watch our kids play a soccer game and keep up with our Facebook page at the same time.

Our kids are watching us all the time.  Especially when we’re not watching them.  They know the glow.  The glow of the screen on our face.  The glow means we’re gone.  They know and they get it.  They’re learning from us how to ignore one another.  How to be isolated.  How to talk without communicating. That’s the legacy we are leaving them.  And remember, our legacy is the gift that keeps on giving, whether we want it to or not. 

I find it fascinating that in a New York Times interview with Steve Jobs, a reporter assumed that Steve’s kids lived on iPads.  Job’s replied, “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”  The reporter was dumfounded. He assumed that the Job’s house was “like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.” “Nope,” Mr. Jobs told him, “not even close.”

Steve Jobs left an incredible legacy to the world with Apple.  He also left an amazing legacy to his family that wasn’t an I-pad.  It was time with people he cared about—his family.  It was about connection between people—not between screens. So, if Steve Jobs can figure out how to balance the great digital dilemma of our modern life, so can we. 

We have a decision to make.  A legacy to create.  Whether or not we want to our family to be ruled by the “e-life” or for us to rule it. But we have to make the decision.  And not making a decision is also making a decision.  If we are adamant about reconnecting with our families in this digital age, then let’s do it.  And do it the right way!

Where do we begin?

First, your family needs to create a “Digital Mission Statement.”  Companies create these statements as a declaration of what they stand for and as roadmap of where they’re going.  You’ll have to sit down with your family, face-to-face, and talk about what it means to be a family in this digital world—and how you are going to set boundaries and what they should be.  It can be a simple list of do’s and don’ts that you’ll all abide by. Write it down to make it real.  Post it on the refrigerator door to make it more real.  Creating this statement is the first step in creating this legacy of putting your family first and electronics second.  

Now for all the adults, here’s what really difficult—the biggest decision you have to make is actually following your own rules.  Yes, I know it’s more fun as a parent to practice “do as I say but not as I do.”  But the payoff will be amazing.  Your kids will talk to you—and you to them.  Oh, and you’ll earn their respect. 

Second biggest decision?  Don’t buy them “candy.”  A mom once complained to me that her kids ate too much candy.  “Where did they get it from?” I asked.   She replied, “I buy it.”  I said, “Well, stop buying them candy . . .”   So what’s the digital moral of this story?  If you buy it, they will use it.  Think before you buy.  Remember your Mission Statement.    

For most families, the “e-genie” is already out of the bottle so stuffing it back in will not be easy.  Before everyone goes into e-shock, you have to slowly take everyone off their digital addiction, step by step, screen by screen.  (If this sounds like a drug rehab program . . .)

Lastly, and it’s really simple.  Create what I call a “e-Free” zone.  It can be anywhere or anytime.  The dinner table is a perfect “e-Free” zone.  No cell phones or TV.  No texting under the table.  Nothing that emits electrons near your food.  Now talk.  What?  Yes, talk.  Ask questions about each other’s day.  Talk about the news.  Or books you’ve read.  Or friends that are having or aren’t having problems.  Or vacation plans. But mostly talk.  Once, twice, or thrice a week.  But just do it!  We owe it to our children to teach them how to talk and have relationships.  Dinnertime is a great place to begin this legacy of communication.   

You’ve begun the most important part of this journey with your family.  Creating a legacy of wanting to be together and enjoying being together. Of connecting with your family again.  And that is one of the most amazing gifts you can give to yourself and to them.

Author Bio: Carew Papritz, also known as The Cowboy Philosopher, is the author of the multi-award winning book “The Legacy Letters. This best-selling author left his career as a filmmaker in Hollywood, and returning to his ranching roots, worked as a cowboy on a cattle ranch in the Southwest where he began writing his book. “The Legacy Letters,” though fictional, has also won acclaim as a life lessons book for all generations, gaining the distinction of being the only book in publishing history to win awards in both fiction and non-fiction categories. A Renaissance Man in an age that lauds the specialist, The Huffington Post says Papritz "intrigues and enlightens, charms and catalyzes change for every reader."   

1 comment:

  1. Those are all great ideas, thanks for sharing this post. It's definitely true that kids have too much screen time and so do adults. Thanks for the reminder to set the example.