One of the first principles of Slow Parenting is suggesting that you turn off technology for at least one hour a day – more if possible.In this world of omnipresent texting, calling, emailing and twittering I know this sounds like a difficult task, if not impossible, but it can be achieved and the rewards are huge. It is up to you to make the choice.
Turning off your phone is not a form of discipline. The action of doing this gives permission for you to disconnect, even just for a few minutes a day and in doing so, you are allowed to sit quietly without noise, be still and engage fully with your child, your friends and your surroundings. We all need time to quiet the mind and this pressured world of being “on” is taking its toll.
There was a time , not so long ago, when we waited for letters in the post to receive our family news and relied on weekend phone calls to connect with others around the world. The thought of contacting someone every day, let alone every hour, or second, seemed as remote as sitting on the moon. Yet, in my lifetime this has become the norm and with the escalation of technologies we shall see an even greater increase in how to communicate quickly and efficiently. One one hand, it is all quite marvelous but we do need to remember that all this does not necessarily improve the quality of our lives.
Every day, I see a plethora of stressed faces on the street with people (many of them parents and caregivers) distracted by their phone, trying to respond immediately and fretting if they are not acknowledged instantly.This pressure is not normal, nor is it healthy and the ones who will suffer the most are the children who are being exposed to this behaviour. Every time, you stop to acknowledge a text or phone call- should you be with your child or family – you send the message to that person that the call is more important. The text is more pressing than conversation or being engaged with those around you. I observe children in strollers or in the park, being totally ignored while the adults are busy pressing buttons on their phones, playing cat and mouse with those who are supposedly more important. The trend is becoming quite frightening and I see an escalation in just the past 2 years. What message does this send your child? Your partner or friend? Those around you?
We all are concerned about a generation of young people who are becoming more detached and self absorbed, with poor manners and social skills. Is it any wonder why this is becoming the trend with young people, when adults are teaching this self absorbed behaviour for them to model? Children learn from observation. You are illustrating to them how to live in this world. Is being distracted and anti social the example you want your child to inherit?
Interpersonal skills are one of the greatest issues facing educators now with a new crop of young people who seem to have no idea how to communicate, look others in the eye, or take responsibility for their actions. Children live more and more in a virtual world that places no demands upon them. The instant gratification that technology gives our youngsters needs to be kept in check.
By turning off the phone or computer for awhile each day, you and your family remain present and engaged. Be thoughtful – It does not need to become a time of being overly structured or “task driven”. Give yourself permission to sit quietly and read or do a simple craft project with your child. Take a walk in the neighbourhood looking in windows, saying hello to those you pass. Maybe you fold the laundry and let your children enjoy a romp in the warm towels as they tumble out of the dryer. Take time to sit in the park or by the water and watch the world go by. These moments are the ones that will keep you sane and remind your children to enjoy the simple, uncomplicated and easy way that days can unfold. Remember, there were generations of children who were raised without any technology, who thrived in being out doors and “making it up as they went along”. We rob ourselves and our children of these simple joys by complicating the landscape with all the self-inflicted pressures of being on, 24/7.
It is wonderful when a parent comes to me and expresses gratitude for creating a place where they can indeed switch off from the world, without guilt, and spend quality time with their children and friends.
The desire to detach from those who are present, and attach to those who are virtual is a trend that is rapidly becoming the norm.
It is up to all of us to accept responsibility for our actions and learn to set self boundaries, so that our children grow and mature with a deep understanding and respect for interpersonal relationships based on intimate, honest, face to face communication.
c Jean Alice Rowcliffe 2012