Are you a Cool Parent? Does your 10 Year-Old Agree?
If you asked me when I was 10 years old what I thought of my mother, I would have answered that she was the best, that we did everything together and she was so smart, she might even know everything.
Fast-forward decades later and our 10 year-old selves have given way to a new, information savvy, tech generation who may view you, their parent, as mildly inferior. Not in the wisdom department, or in the experience department and you’re okay in the discipline department – but when it comes to conversation and technology – you have a lot to learn.
First, conversations don’t really happen in person anymore – they will eventually – but a lot takes place before words are spoken.
It generally starts with a text. Yep, you read that right – a text. Are you becoming familiar with having conversations with your child who is in their room – while you’re not? Or when they’re a few feet away from you and the only way to get their attention is to post on their Facebook page when dinner is ready?
Recently, I watched my good friend have a conversation with her son. Conversation may be an exaggeration as it went a little like this…
Mom was in the kitchen asking her son what he would like for lunch. She was met with silence. She called out knowing he was just in the other room. Nothing. She gave a louder shout and looked at me with a “what’s he doing?” face and still, crickets.
She picked up her iPhone and texted him. Immediately a little beep chimed and it read “Grilled Cheese”.
Using a phrase that I swore I never would, “back in my day” that scenario would have sailed out the window along with my phone. My mother is British, was a teacher and the proper way to communicate was with respect and in person.
I know some of you have shuddered. Some because they have found themselves in this exact situation and others because you’re still reeling from the fact that this could be true.
The reality is that with growth in technology around communication, our children have been using high tech gadgets in place of speaking for years. What was new and different to us has become the language of our next generations.
In a recent study by Elon University titled The Effect of Technology on Face to Face Communication, 46% of children and young adults alike said they communicate through their cell phones or tablets with their family and friends. A grand total of 0% reported not using technology to communicate in some way.
It’s apparent that, today, having an open relationship with your children means you need to work on compromising with their terms and your own. There is a lot of scary stuff online so spending a little time in their world will have you appear as a comrade and not the Gestapo.
Remember back in your parent’s day when “rock ‘n roll” was devil’s music? It was born out of fear for what this new trend would do to their children’s brains and attitudes. There are already too many things to fear these days; let’s not let communication with children fall into that category.
My advice? Embrace texting, jump on Facebook (invite your kids now before they’re teenagers), and try to get into conversations about what they find cool – online. Use their method of communicating with friends to open a door to keep communication lines open.
If you respect and adopt what they find cool, you’ll also stay in the inner circle and not be left out in the cold.
Some might perceive this as being pushed around by a 10 year-old kid. Not true. Children are exposed to a new world of information access and technical gadgetry that didn’t exist in our generation. It’s in their school, it’s with their friends and we, too, use it daily.
I am not suggesting we abandon verbal communication and chat by smartphones over pizza, but I have found that the more you use technology, the more you will stay connected.
Be creative. Once you get into comrade status, now you can ask to set aside a few hours where everyone shuts off his or her devices and do something without technology. Get back online before bed and everyone is happy.
I’d much rather pick up a new way of communicating with kids than no communication at all. Strike up that balance and you might be surprised that you also learn a few new things.
If nothing else, I can assure you that picking up your phone and learning to drop a note on Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram or simply texting your kids could result in, you guessed it, Cool Parent status.