Reminding parents and kids to stop and make eye contact should not be worthy of a blog post. I mean, didn’t we master this skill somewhere in the 16th century? Unfortunately, in today’s gadget-happy culture, this lost art is positioned for a long-overdue comeback.
We talk on this blog a lot about teaching kids to navigate the online world. It’s our goal to help you raising cyber savvy, cyber safe kids who can hold their own and not get trampled online. We talk about privacy issues, social issues, and all the emotional and physical threats our kids carry in their pockets on a single device.
However, if you leave out the critical detail of making eye contact regularly with your child then anything you attempt to teach her about online safety, well, it may just slip into the abyss.
So we pause and recommend (rather plead) with parents to please, stop, drop (the gadget) and lock eyes with your kids.
Don’t finish that email. Don’t keep typing while waiving the “just one sec” finger. Don’t text at the restaurant. Don’t get more preoccupied with posting a photo to Facebook than you with living the moment at hand. Don’t nod to your kids as if you are listening while strategizing your next Words with Friends move. You get the picture.
Studies concur: eye contact teaches a child she is valued, how to listen to others, and it does wonders for her self worth and self-confidence.
Be fully present with your child and teach them to do the same with others. Explain to your child what you are doing and why. This will teach them that eye contact and listening is a top value in your family.
Be prepared. They may act awkward at first. They may blow you off with a laugh. But be assured: when you lock eyes with your child, no matter the age, they will light up like a firefly. Whether they let on or not, all kids need and crave attention, love and affirmation. Not one of them is “too cool” for extra affirmation.
By building your eye contact, when the time comes to deposit wisdom into your child, they will actually listen and learn rather than be face-first in a device. Hopefully, they will soon begin to return the courtesy and look at you when you talk.
Good luck. And remember, it’s never too late to begin a better thing.