Thea, my 3 year old, doesn’t look you in the eye. In fact, she hardly ever stands still enough for her to glance your way as you speak to her and very rarely does she look at you even if she is the one initiating the conversation. At first I thought it was just the way toddlers function, they haven’t learned conversational rules and etiquette and it falls once again upon the parents to teach it. But once noticed, I noticed something else as well; how often I speak to her without looking at her. How often is my back to her because my eyes are on my phone, my iPad, my computer and what she gets is an answer over my shoulder? Too often…
And I am not alone. My husband, Brandon, is the same way. It drives me crazy when I try to speak to him and his eyes are on a gadget and he doesn’t even respond. Yes, he may be busy, but still, the lack of conversational etiquette is annoying at best, infuriating at its worst. Yet, this is our life, this is how we proceed through the day; constantly sacrificing the here and now for whatever is on the screen. We are raising a generation of children that are not looked at when spoken to and then wonder why they do not look at us when we speak to them.
When will we make the connection between our own poor behaviors and those of our children?
So I have become very cognizant of how I speak to Thea, of how I look at the babies while I feed them rather than check Twitter or email. I leave my phone in the car when visiting others, don’t bring my iPad unless we are spending the night, and my home computer does not stay open to the internet when I am not on it. The less temptation there is to just check one more time, the more I focus on those that are important. A small step indeed to togetherness and proper behavior, but a large one still since these skills will carry my children into the world, will open or close doors to them. So if I do not model how to be in the now, how to be a respectful conversationalists, my children will bear the burden. My children will be the ones to suffer from my own disengagement. It does not matter that I may be learning something or working on something important, they should always take precedent and they do that by me looking them right in the eye. Starting now.