Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies... Part 3

Mamas and papas, it’s important to keep monitoring technology use when kids enter their teens. Continue to limit technology time, and remind them to evaluate the values of what they watch, hear and play. Promote physical activity. In social situations, require them to turn off technology, put it away, and use the manners you’ve taught them – make eye contact, greet others, listen attentively and make polite conversation. Shyness or being an introvert is not an excuse for poor manners.

At every age (not just adolescence), that includes not letting your kids tune out on music, games or movies when riding in the family vehicle; don’t “buy” yourself an easy break by fostering a tune-out. That may lead you to wonder, later, why your children don’t talk to each other or to you. Even on long trips, make sure your kids spend at least half their time talking to the people in the car; reading, drawing, or writing; or watching the scenery go by. Daydreaming develops more creativity and intelligence than does repetitive use of technology.
Walk-the-talk you give your kids about technology. Deliberately choose physically active and socially-engaging activities. Revolve your life around face-to-face encounters and real life objects, not around your cell phone, iPod, computer and TV. Turn away from technology to give your children full attention. Show them you can turn technology off, put it away, and limit its use. And, please, if you don’t want your kids to play violent, life-demeaning video games – don’t bring them into the house for yourself.

We adults – mamas and papas, as well as everyone else -- must also remember the manners our mamas taught us.
In social situations – at home and elsewhere – we must limit our use of the phone, the iPhone, the computer, the whatever. Immediately answering every text, email and phone call does not make us more important. For most of us, it just means we can’t set boundaries.
In social situations, when we need to respond to a call or message, we apologize profusely to the people we’re with, leave the room, If possible, and efficiently deal with the interruption. Then we put the technology away, and return ourselves and our attention to the people waiting on us.
Like me, many of you would never deliberately use technology to tune people out. But perhaps, like me, you’ve done it unintentionally.
I’ll be talking on the phone and happen to be near my laptop. I tell myself I’ll “just do this little thing” on the computer while I’m on the phone, believing I’m still fully engaged in the conversation. Only after the other person says a sudden good-bye do I realize I've done it again. My friend heard in my voice that I wasn’t paying full attention, so -- more graciously than I deserved – he or she ended the call. Worst of all, I’d just said, "You’re not important enough to earn my full attention.” Once again, I resolve not to do it again. I’m still learning.
It will be our ongoing challenge to use technology, and not let it use us.

Mamas and papas, don’t let yourselves by ruled by technology.
Please don’t let your babies grow up to be ruled by it either.

-- Reenie

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies.... Part 2

Besides teaching our preschoolers to engage with the rich and wonderful world around them, rather than using technology for their play time, we need to be thoughtful in what and how we teach about technology to our school-aged children.

When children enter school-age, there’s an explosion in the number of technological devices and activities designed for them. That doesn’t mean every child has a right to use it all, or that he should use it all. It certainly doesn’t mean, the more he gets to use, the smarter and better socially adapted he’ll be. (The opposite is more likely true.) Parents and fellow teachers, just as not all food is good for your children, not all technology experiences are a valuable use of children’s time – and that includes “educational” technology.
Every piece of technology teaches something. About every potential new program, ask yourself: what values and skills does this technology teach? (That might be different from what it claims.) Does my child need those values or skills? Is there a richer, real-life way for her to learn those skills and values? What not-so-positive skills and values might my child learn from this technology? While she’s using it, what real life sights, sounds, smells, tastes, tactile experiences and movement will she miss?

Mama, don’t believe your child when he calls you mean for enforcing time limits or taking  technology away. Reassure her of your love, and don’t give in when she whines. Do encourage school-age boys and girls to experience a rainbow-wide array of real-life activities (even if they’re messy). You’ll be glad in the long run... I promise.

Mamas and papas, talk to your children about your family values, and help them discern which technology does and doesn’t support those values. Foster open, non-condemning discussions about these topics. Praise your children for their efforts to make value-affirming choices. If you tell yourself, “Well, every kid is doing this now, and I want my kid to be normal, so I’d better say yes,” you’ll later wish your teens weren't so eager to give in to peer pressure from other "normal" teens. Demonstrate a courageous example by standing up against peer pressure yourself.
When your children are in social situations, please teach them to turn their technology off and put it away. Teach them ordinary manners like making eye contact, greeting people and making conversation. Teach them to cope without technology when they’re waiting or even a little bored.

Mamas, please limit your school-aged children’s exposure to technology. They’re still young enough to shape, so be intentional about shaping them now.
Part 3 of "Mamas...." will appear on August 21
-- Reenie

Friday, August 17, 2012

Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be...

Recently, I sat across the restaurant aisle from a mother and her young son. The little boy, maybe six years old, was playing some kind of electronic handheld game. Twice, his mom told him to put it away. Once, she even took it away. When he protested, spelling out exactly how mean she was for doing such a thing, she gave it back, and he resumed play. The mom essentially ate her meal by herself.

On another occasion, I was visiting a young lady's home. I entered with other guests, and within a few minutes, our sweet-and-shy hostess had picked up her laptop and started engaging with it. I don't know what she was doing, but it had nothing to do with us. She gave us divided-at-best attention for the remainder of my visit.

Another time, friends and I were visiting another family's home. In the midst of conversation, a very nice young man pulled technology out of his pocket and started playing a game. Within a few minutes, the conversation had somehow adjusted to his mental absence. The rest of us eventually left the room. An hour later, the young man was still alone in the room where we’d begun, still playing his solo game.

A mother admitted to me recently she’d used technology as a babysitter for her toddler son when his baby sister had colic. Now that toddler is a teenager and his mom has paid him hundreds of dollars to give up technology for the summer. She’s only one of the many parents I've heard complain that their teenagers spend too much time on technology. This mother stands out, though, for recognizing this: her son’s addiction to technology is more her fault than his.

How do we prevent otherwise nice children from becoming teenagers and adults who tune technology in and tune people out?

We start when they're young.
Mama, when your baby or toddler learns to use a computer mouse or navigate your phone more easily than you did, please don't make the mistake of thinking she's especially clever or gifted. Of course, she is clever! She very likely is gifted! But the reason she can learn technology quickly is because, right now, her brain is a sponge for any learning.

I implore you to focus her learning on books, music, pictures, conversation, technology-free games, active movement activities, building toys, conversation, drawing-writing-scribbling-coloring, looking at nature and live social interaction. I hope you'll allow and encourage her to actively explore every one of her five senses. (Yes, I know that's more messy than occupying her time on the computer.) Please... don't overfeed her technology or use it as a crutch for yourself. Don't teach that super-absorbent brain to start disengaging from the living  world.
Part Two of "Mamas..." on August 19
-- Reenie

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Breaking News, Breaking Down

I’ve long thought of journalists with envy, because they get to write as a job, and they always have assignments to produce more written words.

More often, though, and less charitably, I’ve considered many journalists as insensitive, self-serving individuals, who grab for a story no matter how much it costs those whose suffering is told in those stories – stories of accidents, disasters, crimes, loss, and sorrow.

Recently I watched a DVD that has, thankfully, changed my perspective:
Breaking News, Breaking Down.

In this award-winning documentary, Mike Walter, a news journalist with 25 years experience, turns the camera and the story on himself and to his colleagues. He tells the stories they live when they document the tragedies of other human beings, day after day after day.
  Specifically, Breaking News, Breaking Down tells about the narrator’s – and other journalists’ – personal response to the events of September 11, 2001 and follows with their experience at the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. It highlights the story of John McCusker, a journalist who was so impacted by the trauma in New Orleans, including what Katrina did to his own home, that he experienced a devastating emotional breakdown.

But the documentary doesn’t end on a bleak note. It describes the simple strategy a group of journalists followed, to help themselves and each other heal, and to find hope. They chose a place of retreat to rest and recover, and helped themselves heal further by providing physical help to New Orleans residents whose homes Katrina had torn apart.

In watching Breaking News, Breaking Down, it’s been most important for me to realize that, when journalists view another person’s trauma, report on a tragedy, tell the world of a disaster, it takes an emotional toll.

Some journalists attempt to close off those emotions. Others move to another line of work. But most journalists just keep on going... telling the world’s painful stories, and absorbing one emotional hit at a time.

To see a trailer of Breaking News, Breaking Down:
To see an interview with Mike Walter about Breaking News, Breaking Down: http://nationalpress.org/blogs/newsbag/how-i-got-the-story-mike-walter/
To purchase Breaking News, Breaking Down:  www.amazon.com  or www.amazon.ca  
To borrow a library copy: www.calgarypubliclibrary.com

-- Reenie

Sunday, August 5, 2012

When I Get to Heaven

When I get to Heaven,
I will play the violin.
I’ll learn sign language with no effort
 -- and speak it fluently.
I'll have time and space to raise my favorite animals -- llamas.
(They won't even stink.)
I’ll sing and talk and write and read and play the piano
...all day.
And when I go to Heaven,
I’ll leave a lot of unpleasant things behind.
My body won’t feel old there.
I’ll never be tired.
My brain won’t lose names and dates and events.
I won't buy any more insurance in case of accident, flood, fire or violence.
Never again will I do housework or homework or follow a budget.
And I’ll no longer have to work to keep myself slim.
Over there,
my loved ones will have perfect bodies, too.
My nephew won't have diabetes.
My dad will have clear and complete vision.
And my niece, The Princess,
won’t have any more limitations caused by cerebral palsy.
She’ll be able to express herself
and everyone will understand what she’s saying.
She’ll breathe easily
and move smoothly.
She’ll have no more seizures
or surgeries.
We’ll dance together,
both of us on our feet,
for the first time.
When The Princess and I meet each other in Heaven,
it will be a wonderful, wonderful day.
But even better than all that...
When I get to Heaven,
I’ll hang out with the One Who’s loved me all these years,
every day of my life,
Who’s watched me and guided me through thick and thin,
hard times and happy.
The One Who now protects, comforts and guides me.
Every day.
I’ll sing with Him,
celebrate with Him,
and follow Him around.
He’ll give light wherever I go
and fill my heart with the eternal certainty that I am eternally loved.
By His goodness,
He’s given me a very good life to live here.
I am thankful for its blessings every day.
But when I get to Heaven,
it’ll be even better.
It will be glorious!

-- Reenie