Please pay attention to me!

Almost every year I try to do an article related to parents paying attention to their young children; and how important it is for their development. I do this because I see more and more each year of the tech-savvy generation paying little or no attention to their young children while they text, email, watch TV, listen to their ipod’s, etc. It really saddens me, and yet, there are times I find myself doing exactly the same thing! We, as a society, have forgotten how important forming relationships and attachments are; especially when it comes to our children. Cuddling, talking to and singing to your infant is how your baby learns. The need to form an attachment is essential for their growth and development; and to do that they need to see YOU smiling at them, laughing with them, talking to them and loving them. Toddlers need to know you are listening to them when they are telling you about that flower they saw on your walk, or the squirrel that ran away from them, or the fact they may be hungry or thirsty. Preschoolers need to know you are listening when they tell you about the new friend they made at school today; or how the teacher really liked the picture they drew; when you put your devices first, it’s telling them that what they are saying isn’t important and as time goes and they grow, they will eventually stop talking to you; something you never want to happen!

So, I have included a blog that I found from “Thomas” (quite a few years ago) and want to share it with you, I think you will see how he really hits home with his example.

I was eating breakfast at a diner yesterday when I noticed a cute 3-year-old boy sitting at the table next to me. He was playing with the little cream containers and then tossing them on the floor. As I usually do when I see toddlers I made goofy faces at him, which is not much of a stretch for me. He was making them right back as he gleefully tossed more cream onto the floor.

Of course his parents were oblivious to all this activity. The mother was yakking on her cell phone, I think the conversation centered around a new Coach purse she just had to have, while the father was staring at his phone in rapture as he texted away. Here I was, a complete stranger, and I had more interaction with their son during breakfast than they did. Not to sound too old fogey but what is it with this new generation of tech-addicted parents?

It is one thing to see young adults walking around town with their text ready cell phones held out in front of them, as if making an offering to an unseen god. It is quite another to see them morph into parents, but still be as tethered to their gadgets as a junkie to his spoon. In the playground, dads absentmindedly push their kids on the swing with one hand while staring at their screen and texting with the other. Is checking your Facebook status or getting a tweet from a college drinking buddy more important than interacting with the real live human being right in front of you?

I see mothers jogging with those running strollers. Their child leads the way, delightfully pointing something out in a child’s awed gibberish while mom is oblivious, wrapped in a set of headphones connected to her iPod or nattering away on her ear phone.

It all reminds me of the Harry Chapin song “Cat’s in the Cradle.” You remember that one. The father is always too busy for the son, but as the son becomes a man he is too busy for the father. Chapin wails away at the end, “My boy was just like me.”

Someday these parents will wonder why their kids don’t have time for them and who they learned that from. Look at the reflection in your shiny Android screen and you’ll have the answer.

So parents, I implore you: unless you are calling in for a medical emergency or a tactical air strike against a nearby terrorist cell, nothing you are doing on the phone is more important than interacting with your child. Take it from someone who was not fortunate enough to have kids of his own, those moments are too precious too squander.

It’s not easy, I know. In fact, when I want to “talk” to my kids or grandkids, I text them so I will get a response. We have raised a high-tech generation who would rather message you than actually “talk” to you. Believe me, I do appreciate the advancements in technology that have been made, but you know, I really do miss hearing their voice.

So, please, when your little one comes up to you and wants to tell you something; put the phone down, shut the computer off, record what you were watching on TV and kneel down and look them in the eye; because NOTHING is more important than what they are telling you!

Sue Junge is an Early Childhood Support Specialist for the Iowa River Valley Early Childhood Area and is a Thursday columnist for the Times-Republican. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. For more information, please visit www.iowarivervalleyeac.com.