Most of us would agree that we have come a long way in our parenting beliefs and attitudes. In fact, I have heard many a grandparent or great uncle or aunt lamenting that now it’s gone too far the other way, with children ruling how the household runs. Another common lament is that we are simply turning our children into mini adults, so they look good on Instagram. Bit like the Victorian era where they sent their children out to work.
I am lucky enough to live very close to Western Australia’s beautiful coast and I often see a toddler eyes down and looking at a device whilst mum is listening to her music through head phones. At restaurants, children bring their devices or toys and are parked at the end of the table to busy themselves until the food comes. Look, we have all used screens as babysitters to buy us 5 to 55! minutes of peace. My question is “What is the cost of our addiction to screens to our children in social situations?”
A child or adult with high levels of social intelligence is aware of the motives and feelings of other people and knows what to do to fit in to different social situations. They also know what to do to put others at ease. When we take our children out into the world it is an opportunity to help them develop their social intelligence or put simply, to make friends, speak to anyone and engage in social situations.
My eating out example, is a perfect way to assist your child develop their skills and confidence in this area. As a parent, the first thing in any change is to prepare.
Decide– Is this quality time with or without kids? If its without kids, book a babysitter, rope in a friend and leave the kids at home. If it is commit to engaging with the kids. Maybe take a pack of Uno cards. Our fellow Strength Hero, Victoria always has a pack on hand for just such situations. Cards can be played by everyone at the table or for a bit by kids of ALL ages and generates so much conversation and giggles.
Set boundaries – let your children know devices are staying at home. If taking devices is a normal thing, expect push back. Remember, no one likes change, just imagine if the restaurant no longer served your favourite style of wine...or any wine for that matter.
Give responsibility – where would they like to go? What would they like to take that some or everyone could do at the table? Maybe it’s a favourite board game or a paper and pencil game.
Prime your child. Talk about who you are meeting when you go out. If they don’t know them you may like to share how you met them or what you like about them. If they have known the people for years, maybe share one thing about the person that your kids may not know.
Make it FUN– there are so many different conversation starters to generate engagement. For example, if I sent you to a desert island tomorrow and your survival was guaranteed what would the one luxury you would take?
If you are with friends, it means that you are not talking about topics that the kids don’t really need to know about. Again, get a babysitter.
Remember there is no one size fits all here or right or wrong to this modern dilemma. It’s about planning and engaging and taking opportunities in our daily lives. What does your family do?
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