Thursday, September 28, 2017

Parenting On Demand: Texting Not Talking

Read and then we'll talk!!

Does this ring true for you? Does your teen text from the comfort and serenity of their bedroom sanctuary for concierge and room service? Maybe for you it isn't a house issue, maybe your teen texts you multiple times a day with silly questions, demands for rides, food, CVS runs, and permission to go, buy or do.  I have had many many parents report that their teens text them 30-40 times a day. Often these are working parents with demanding jobs, fielding requests from their kids that absolutely do not need immediate attention. And every time the beast gets fed with immediate gratification, the requests get even more frequent and insistent. One parent reported to me that she was in an important meeting and her phone was shut off. When she turned it on after the meeting there were 20 texts from her kid, demanding, not with worry, but with entitlement: WHERE ARE YOU...PICK UP....I HAVE TO ASK YOU SOMETHING...PICK UP...PICK UP...PICK UP!!  Now times those annoying texts by 5. What a way to have to do your job and feel responsive to your kids!.

Kids are not intuitively demanding. Somewhere along the line, this behavior was reinforced probably by you. Here's the thing about technology, it sneaks up behind you and bites you on the ass!! It starts small with a cute text from your kid asking for something. It starts almost as a game. "Ooh, I bet I can text my mom/dad to get me something, and not even have to leave the comfort of my cushy bed,  and then voila, the desired snack, laundry, whatever magically appears. Mom/dad receive cute text, and with an awwww, that is so to complete the request. Rinse and repeat. That happens a few times, with a desirable outcome for your teen, and VOILA you have just conditioned your child to text and demand.

The good news is you can reverse the curse!!! And reverse you must. There is no substitution for face to face communication. Yes, texting can be a an easy shortcut conversation and it totally has a place in your world.And sometimes there has been a heated exchange and a text and emoji can calm the waters, and then perhaps open the door to a face to face.  But like everything in life there needs to be balance and accountability and responsibility. You time is valuable and should be respected. And your teen needs to learn how to delay gratification. It is really OK for them to walk three steps down to the kitchen to ask you something or to have to wait till the end of the school day to talk or text with you. If they are texting during the school day and you are returning their texts however silly and benign they are, you are distracting them from the work of school. If you set a limit and say, I will not be responding to your texts during the school day.....period!!! They will just have to deal.  And they will. You are teaching them a life skill!! This is not just about a demanding teen, this about setting a foundation for who your teen is to become as an adult. Life is not on-demand, unless that is what we as the adults in their lives are teaching them. Be strong, set limits on your availability. Literally do not answer a text that comes from within your 4 walls. Even by responding with a "if you want to talk to me, you have to come to me is reinforcing. Ignoring is the only way to go for in-home text demands! And if you want to demand something, than demand respect for your time and your life!!!

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