My Swedish grandmother had an important role in my childhood, and when I think of her or see her picture, I am flooded with a lot of fond memories. One of my favorite memories was when she would bounce me on her knees and chant a Swedish nursery rhyme:
“Rida rida Ranka
hästen heter Blanka
Vart ska vi rida?
Till en liten piga
Vad kan hon heta?
den tjocka och den feta”
I remember holding onto her hands, always admiring a ring that she only wore on special occasions. We would both laugh over that funny rhyme (summary- riding a rocking horse to a little girl). As my grandma wasn’t a touchy-feely kind of maternal figure (typical of a “proper Swede”), those moments of sharing her culture and giving me personal attention were so precious to me. When I hung out with Grandma, she was present the entire time, giving me 100% of her attention, which was invaluable to me.
Lately I wonder if the achievement gap in the next generation will be attributed to the attention gap. How many times do the members of your family have a cell phone/ electronic device close at hand during meals, hanging out as a family, and shopping? How many families do you observe on their own phones while sitting at a restaurant or at social events? Even during my latest round of parent-teacher conferences, which were student-led, several parents were listening half-heartedly while texting or checking other apps. I rarely observe meaningful conversations or being 100% present- I do hear a lot of frustrated parents taking enough time off their phone screens to yell at their equally frustrated children who are acting out in the stores. When these little ones are entering school, how will this epidemic of attention loss impact their vocabulary, language processing, and literacy skills… not to mention social skills?
Maybe I’m just being old-fashioned and selfish, but when I talk with someone, I want their whole attention. It makes me feel respected and worthwhile of their time. If I feel this way, is it an overall theme of our millennial children’s hierarchy of needs?
I thought of some Parenting Tips to share in our class newsletters or conferences:
- When children are speaking about something worthwhile, put the phone down. Make them #1.
- Put the phone away during public meetings, dates, excursions, etc. Savor the moments outside of home, and spend the time molding your children’s behavior in these unstructured environments. Don’t use the phone as a babysitter!! One day the batteries will die- how will you entertain your child then?
- Preserve one hour a day to be technology-free in your house. Spend that time interacting with each other without texting or using social media.
Jim Elliot states it perfectly: “Wherever you are, be all there.”