I had a couple of topics on the tip of my noggin for this week but the blog posts just were not flowing. So, I went back through emails I had saved when I started this blogging journey to what topics I had not built into this site yet. I had to smile at the skier on the mountain. (Yes, that was the title of the email!) Of course, there is a story. There is a commercial for some online bill pay with 4 persons at the top of a mountain in a snow storm. One of the persons pulls out his phone to pay a bill. One weekend I was home visiting my mom and she says, “That’s you.” Ha! She was accurate in the sense that if I have a thought or an idea it needs to be written down or followed up on (Eek! Otherwise I forget!).
And, sometimes I am not just thinking about one thing, but I am multi-tasking. Which in turn, limits my ability to be in the moment. Same goes for my phone. If I check my emails and social media sites often I am missing out on what is happening now. I am guilty of this in my personal life with my family and friends but have been working to keep it at bay for longer periods. Why? Because I want to be present for my family. I want to know what is going on with my friends. I just had a marathon dinner with 2 friends a couple of weeks ago and the phone stayed in my purse for 3 hours. Why? Because nothing was happening that could not wait until dinner was done.
Ever think about this with our kids? I remember in undergrad in one of my books (Eek! I cannot remember which one! It may have been Introduction to Communication Disorders.), a description was provided of an “active” listener and a “passive” listener. Raise your hand if you know which is which! There is a dad sitting in his chair reading his newspaper. His daughter comes in and says Daddy, I want to tell you about my day at school. In scenario 1 the dad puts down the newspaper, has the child crawl into his lap and asks to hear about her day. He looks at her and smiles while listening. In scenario 2 the dad says “Mhmm, and pats his lap while still holding his newspaper. No eye contact. Active and Passive!
Can you relate to that? Have you been in a conversation and the other person cannot pull his eyes off the computer or up from he/she is doing? When someone asks me a question I do my best to put down what I am doing. Slow down. Make eye contact. This lets the other person know that I am interested in what he/she has to say. But, hey I am not perfect. And, we are all human. The expectation cannot be 100% of the time. But, I tell you, when I am mindful of active listening I feel more connected to others. Why? Because I am attempting to be in the moment.
I imagine that whenever that book was published (I was in undergrad in the early 1990s so before that!), I am sure the authors did not anticipate computers and phones being “that thing” which inhibits active listening. Ha!
I was at a training a couple of years ago, hosted by a previous boss, Sarah Martinez. The presenter was interactive. She asked about our time in family’s homes. We were challenged to ask a family that often left the room, “I notice that you are leaving our sessions often. Is everything ok? What makes it difficult to remain in the room with us?” I think the same question could be posed for phones. What makes it so difficult that the phone cannot be put aside for an hour or two. Let’s face it, life is fast paced and the suburbs here in Chicago keep growing and seem busier. I know that sometimes I start doing things without noticing because I am trying to keep up. Which is one of many reasons I love visiting my family! It is a small, rural town. No stoplights to be had.
And now, electronic use goes both ways! I co-developed an app for kids so I am definitely not against electronics. My business is on several social media sites. I do not think these are bad things. What I want to draw attention to is active vs. passive listening. Being present vs. distant. Kids need us to be present and to feel important and heard. Over 70% of communication is nonverbal. It is important to think about what we are communicating to others and to our kids.
And, while I use my Ipad in some of my sessions to work on articulation and language for a few minutes I am a proponent of good ole toys. In my opinion nothing tops the interaction of a toy or an activity that engages a child with you and not just the object (Here is my Toys and Tips series in case you missed it.). This is a good article from the American Speech Language Hearing Association on the use of non-electronic toys: Basic, Non-Electronic Toys May Be Better for Parent-Toddler Communication And, if you are curious about screen time for the little ones here is a good article from NPR: American Academy Of Pediatrics Lifts ‘No Screens Under 2’ Rule. The AAP is not saying “no” it is setting guidelines to be mindful.
I am a fan of using visuals with my kids that have difficulty transitioning away from preferred activities such as the Ipad or the TV. Have a picture schedule with the iPad or TV built into the day. Set a timer during those times so the child begins to understand when that activity ends. Having that visual system will show the child what is next. Maybe put something motivating after the iPad! Use the phrase, “first…, then…” to help with that transition too. If calming is challenging we may need to pull in our Occupational Therapy friends. I was recently in a session and bubbles did the trick but we may need more tricks!
Thank you for stopping by to read this week’s post. Next week we will hear from a Licensed Clinical Social Worker as our guest post for the month! Should be a good one! Then we will follow up with another Toys and Tips post. If you are interested in receiving my blog posts via email here is how…