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Please talk to your child

BabyToday I saw something on Facebook that made me sad. It also reminded me of a post I wrote originally in late 2009. Here is the old post:

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This post is outside the realm of my usual topics, but not really. First, some background: Last week while out walking I noticed several moms pushing strollers while staring down at their iPhones or BlackbBerrys, madly texting. Their babies were wide awake, but the moms were engaged with someone else. As a parent and as a human, this worries me.

When my daughters were babies I talked to them all the time, well before they were verbal themselves. “Let’s have some oatmeal … OK, it’s time to put on these blue socks … Which foot first? Left? Right? … Honey, we’re going for a walk. Where’s your pink snowsuit and your mitts?” This is not Pulitzer material, but it’s communication that helped my children to learn to speak, to listen, to learn, and to feel cherished and loved.

This week in the New York Times, health columnist Jane Brody tackled this very topic. Her article begins:

I recently stopped to congratulate a young mother pushing her toddler in a stroller. The woman had been talking to her barely verbal daughter all the way up the block, pointing out things they had passed, asking questions like “What color are those flowers?” and talking about what they would do when they got to the park.

This is a rare occurrence in my Brooklyn neighborhood, I told her. All too often, the mothers and nannies I see are tuned in to their cell phones, BlackBerrys and iPods, not their young children.

Brody goes on to quote Randi Jacoby, a speech and language specialist in New York, who said: “Parents have stopped having good communications with their young children, causing them to lose out on the eye contact, facial expression and overall feedback that is essential for early communication development.

If you’re a parent, please think about this. You’ll have plenty of time to play with your iPhone when the kids go off to college!

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Here is the article I saw today that sparked today’s post. “How to Miss a Childhood” was actually published in May 2012. Of course, I wonder if I would have been tempted by the lure of the iPhone when my children were younger. I’ll never know. For now, the house rule is “No mobile devices at the dinner table.”

About Donna Papacosta

Writer, speaker, podcaster, communications and social media consultant, content marketer and curator. As a consultant, I emphasize the importance of storytelling and relationship-building, and enjoy helping people understand how today’s technology, combined with tried-and-true tactics, can help them communicate better with employees, customers and prospects. In other words: Share your story, build your business.

4 Responses to "Please talk to your child"

  • Eden Spodek
    February 12, 2013 - 1:19 PM Reply

    Donna, thank you for writing this. My sons were born at the of the digital age. I spent a few minutes a week online while they were napping or my husband was around to interact with them instead. I didn’t have an iPod and got my first cellphone (for emergency calls only) when my firstborn was two-and-a-half. I read to my kids starting when they were practically newborn and spoke to them all the time.

    Your post made me stop and think what it would be like if they were born today. Would I have done the same or been plugged in and tweeting most of the time? I’d like to think nothing about my parenting would have changed but it’s hard to say.

  • Donna Papacosta
    February 12, 2013 - 1:29 PM Reply

    Thanks for commenting, Eden. I LIKE to think that I would have put the iPhone down and avoided my Mac when the kids were babies. That’s what I LIKE to think, anyway. The only digital pull in my life when my kids were babies: email. I found it quite easy to disconnect to spend dedicated time with my children, whether they were on my lap, in the stroller or swinging in the park. When they played soccer, I watched them. When they swam, I paid attention. Parents today have to deal with so many distractions. I just hope they think twice before paying more attention to the BlackBerry than to Junior. As you and I know, children grow up so fast!

  • At Home with Kim Vallee
    February 12, 2013 - 3:20 PM Reply

    The best deterrent in my case comes from my toddler boy; he grabs my hands and asks that I get up every time I’m sit at my desk to use the computer. My desk is in the living room next to his play area. I can use it mostly when he is not around.

    What you wrote, Donna, is so pertinent. It touched a cord because experts highlights the importance of talking to your baby as often as possible; it helps to build language and to develop their intelligence. We started to read to my son the first day he was born. That doesn’t mean that I stopped to be connected. I try, to the best of my capacity and obligations, to not use my computer or iPhone when he requires my attention.

  • Donna Papacosta
    February 12, 2013 - 3:41 PM Reply

    Thanks for commenting, Kim. I like your son! He’s smart for wanting and enjoying your attention. I’m a little worried about some babies and children who are not getting this kind of interaction with their parents or caregivers. How will these little ones grow up into people who can listen, talk and communicate face to face?

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