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Is it possible to be an attentive parent while answering a cell phone or texting?
Parents have never paid 100% attention to their child 100% of the time. This is an unrealistic expectation and even if it were possible children need self-time. We all do.
Some tasks like cooking and cleaning parents have always done with half a mind and one eye on the kids. But the ubiquitous gadgets we all use have changed our attention levels.
My mother worked at home as a commercial artist. When she was in her tiny studio we knew she could not be interrupted unless it was important. She had to concentrate on her work. I never dared say, “I’m bored.” A good thing as both my sister and I learned to amuse ourselves.
But my mother was there, she could decide when to do her work, she could look up from her work. She took breaks and played or talked with us for a while. She balanced her work with time with us. When we were needy for attention or a new game, she gave us pencils and paper and we sat on the studio floor playing artist.
Today everybody is connected, not to others although we tell ourselves we are, but to a gadget. Our gadgets beep and ringtone and flash and vibrate and others pop up like a new email. Instead of weighing what is important right now we obey the above signals often before the beep had ended.
I watch these connected people in public places. They interrupt a conversation with a real person or a child to obey the command of the gadget.
I watch myself at my computer. The appearance of a new email? I jump to open it. I even know why. It is likely something I can deal with quickly and then get back to my work. But some days it’s one darn interrupter after the other and I may not get much work done.
Today we do the urgent before we do the important. It’s a pretty dumb way to manage our lives.
How do our children fit into all this? I think it’s rude when a person obeys the beep or texts in the middle of a face-to-face conversation. I have seen young children get a sad look on their face when Mommy starts playing with her phone. Why? Because they are not playing in her game the way I played in my mother’s art game. Mommy is totally absorbed if only for the minute she decides to wait before answering.
I have talked about this before (see http://parentkidsright.com/parentips.html) but I want to emphasize that kids really do need our UNDIVIDED attention, not every minute, but for sometime every day.
If you are listening to the call of your gadgets during the time you are think you are giving your child undivided attention, you miss the whole point. Turn the damn things off!
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