I have a friend who thought it would be fun to play a role-reversal game with her little girl – the daughter pretended to be mum and vice versa. My friend started by asking for something in a little girly voice but before she could get it out, the pretend mum said, “In a minute,” and ignored her! She kept on saying, “In a minute, in a minute”, and my friend had the chilling realisation that, according to her daughter who was impersonating her, this was her hallmark phrase.
Kids have always had to compete for our attention against siblings, chores, TV and phone calls, but the thing they most often have to compete with now is our smart phone. I could be as guilty of this as anyone reading. I just love my iPhone and iPad.
The thing is not just to be with your kids but to be ‘present’ with your kids – entering into their worlds, mindful and engaged. You can’t be doing that and checking Trademe or playing Angry Birds at the same time. What makes it much more difficult these days is the blurring between home life and work life. We can be at home, in our lounge, playing with the kids, and a little chime from our pocket tells us we have a new email message. That little chime or buzz has taken our brain straight down the road, back to the office, and our kids saw it go. I bet some kids learn to hate those sounds.
Many of us do have to be reasonably available to our customers and colleagues after hours. Yes, your children are important to you but, no, they cannot have all of your time. It is okay to attend to texts and mail, but do it in a way that doesn’t make you look like a puppet on an electronic string, jumping the moment your phone chirps. Could I suggest you say out loud to your kids, “I have to check my email (or text). I’ll be back with you in one minute.” (That’s right, “In a minute.” There’s actually nothing wrong with “In a minute”, as long as they know that you really do mean a minute, and are not just fobbing them off for half an hour). If you say something like that, your kids know you are not just randomly playing with your phone, it lets them know you are still mindful of them and it reminds you to be responsible about getting back to them as soon as you can. We can reassure them that we love them more than our phones.
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