“Kids don’t know how to communicate!” shared a few members of the older generation during a recent chat. What?! Being the mom of 2 young adults and a teenager who are part of that group of “kids,” I was offended. My kids communicate quite well, thank you. Then I realized that the grandparents were referring to the way teens communicate, demonstrated by a gesture implying someone texting…no eye contact involved. Okay, fair enough, I get it.
This was truly brought to light for me the other day when I watched a mom shopping with her 4-year-old who was diligently concentrating on his latest round of Angry Birds on her cell phone. Honestly, for a minute I was jealous of the fact that she had peace and quiet, and I never had that technology to use. Back in the day, my shopping trips included bags of Goldfish crackers for each child, arguments of Fruit Loops vs. Lucky Charms and endless questions!
Things are different and today’s younger generation is so used to screen time and texting that it’s true, actual face-to-face communication is almost something we have to make an effort to have happen. It’s so easy to slip into a habit of losing hours at a time on the laptop, ipod or 360 system, okay, yes… Facebook and Pinterest too!
If we’re being honest with ourselves, we may need to check our own behavior on the technology issue too! When adults say “kids don’t know how to communicate these days”, the next question should probably be…
“What are we modeling for them?”
We often discuss the 3 pathways of communication: Tone of Voice, Words and Body Language. The third item, body language, says so much about the importance of your interaction with the other person.
When you talk with your child do you:
Make eye contact?
Place your body so it is facing your child’s?
Put down your cell phone or close your laptop?
Stop what you are doing so your child knows you’re paying attention?
Do we need to drop everything every time our child starts talking? No, of course not.
However, we do suggest that you take opportunities, even during chores and running errands, to engage your child in conversation. Some of our best conversations happen when I’ve worked side-by-side with my kids while loading the dishwasher or chopping veggies for dinner! After all, parenting is about preparing your child for adulthood…here’s your chance to chat with them and teach them a few things along the way.
For example, when grocery shopping:
Younger children can find certain products through color identification,“Can you find the green box of pasta like we use at home?” or challenge them to find the letter “J” on two things in the aisle.
Children learning to read can help read off the list of items to shop for
Older children can be taught about price comparison, using a calculator to add up purchases, how to shop on a budget
Let kids select fruits and vegetables to eat, research proves when kids are involved in the selection process, they are more likely to eat the healthier foods.
Engage your children in two-way communication. If your child feels you are listening to their side of things, suggestions for dinner ideas, etc, they will be more likely to come to you with more important issues as well.
Technology enables us to keep in constant contact, but it can also reduce the number of face-to-face conversations we have. Take time to unplug and really get to know your child. Most importantly, show your child that they are more important than any text, game or facebook posting in your day.
What better time to start than right now?