Can you find me and my dad? Click the pic.
It’s summertime and that means baseball – America’s pastime. I loved the times my dad and I played catch in our back yard. It was a great way for us to challenge each other and connect. I’ll never forget his mantra, “keep your eye on the ball,” whenever I would flub a grounder, drop a fly ball, or swing the bat with my eyes closed. “Don’t let yourself get distracted. Follow the ball into your glove. See your bat connecting with the ball”, he’d coach. When I followed his instructions, and kept my “eye-on-the-ball”, magic happened.
The same goes for parenting. Don’t let yourself become distracted from putting the relationship first. Follow that “parenting ball” all the way to your “parenting glove”. Parent with the end in mind.
Are you keeping your eye on the “parenting ball”?
There are so many distractions from doing the job of coaching your child to be a caring, responsible, and powerful human being. The media is filled with suggestions that sound great, but in reality may distract you from connecting in meaningful and emotionally intelligent ways.
Taking your eye “off the ball” with technology monitoring.
One area in which parents can be very distracted is in keeping tabs on, and controlling, their kid’s cellphone (device) activity. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take this lightly. Kids today have, in the palm of their hand, the power to connect with anyone, anywhere in the world, 24/7. And in those young hands is also the potential to get into some serious trouble. In one of our parenting sessions, a father, who had not yet become fully aware of what is available on the internet, declared, “I wasn’t concerned before we started talking about it, but I am now. When I was a teenager my parents only had to worry about me and my brother hiding our newly acquired Playboy magazine.” So true. It definitely feels like there is no more innocence remaining for our children.
There is hope.
There are apps that allow parents to monitor and control their child’s electronic life. Of course, one of the things about technology is that it upgrades in a seeming blink of an eye. It can become all-consuming of your time and energy to stay on top of it all. And you already have another full-time job, right?
So we encourage balance here. You can quickly lose sight of your original desire, which (we hope!) is a strong, trusting, relationship with your child, and supporting him in gaining the life skills and emotional intelligence required to feel confident in taking care of himself.
Don’t let yourself get distracted from the goal – a meaningful relationship.
From a coaching standpoint, I’d point out that in an attempt to keep your child safe, through monitoring and controlling, you can become so distracted in your efforts – looking for something inappropriate or questionable – that you begin to lose sight of the relationship.
Consider sexting. If you’ve seen on their device, or suspect, that they’ve sent or received explicit photos, approach it as a problem that YOU are struggling with (not something you’ve caught them doing that’s bad). Otherwise, they’ll become defensive, and you won’t communicate effectively. Ask for their help in solving your issue. It could go something like this:
You: “I’m really worried and afraid about this whole sexting thing. Would you be willing to help me figure out how to best handle it? Are you comfortable with that?”
Child: “Okay, I think so.”
You: “I know that sexting is out there and I know that it is possible to receive such a message innocently. Have you ever received a sexting message?”
Child: “No.” (many kids will say “No” first)
You: “Okay. Good. But let’s pretend for minute here. How do you think you’d feel if you had received a sexting message from a friend?”
Child: “I don’t know, kind of weird I guess. It’s hard for me to talk to you about this.”
You: “It’s difficult for me too. I do know this, when I’m feeling not so good, or weird, about any action I’m taking, or thinking about taking, it’s my own inner guidance telling me that maybe I should rethink what I’m about to do? Does that make sense?”
Child: “Yeah, it does.”
You: “Then that is the most I can ask of you, to tune in to how you’re feeling, because that is the best guidance you can ever have. What do you think?” (give your child a chance to say anything else about this)
You: “You’ve really helped me feel better about this whole issue. I feel that it’s my job to keep you safe while teaching you to keep yourself safe. I’m not always sure of the best ways to do that. Talking like this helps me a lot. Thanks.”
Child: “It helps me too. It feels better when we talk it out.”
Stay focused on “how it feels” and what it means about him or her to participate or not. Share your own feelings and experiences around the issue.
Whatever you do, please, do not make it your life’s work to control all that your child is doing, because that’s when you’re “taking your eye off the ball.” It’s when you’re attempting to control everything in your child’s life, that you miss the opportunity to create the magic in the relationship . . . closeness.
Remind yourself that control is only an illusion. However, you can have a direct, and positive, impact on your child. Knowing that your long term goal is for him to respect himself (and others) and take responsibility for his actions.
The more you can talk to your child about your issues while asking questions, and asking for his help, then listening, the more success you’ll have at keeping your eye on that “parenting ball”, following it all the way into your “relationship glove.” Play ball!
Oh, and more more thing, if this issue is a hot topic in your family and you would like to learn how to better approach it, we would cover it more in depth in our Private Intensive Instruction.
Here are two resources for exploring internet use and monitoring.
WebSafety.com and CommonSenseMedia.org
It’s all about the relationship.
As always, please leave a comment in the space below and share this within your own social media network if you are so moved.
Keep asking yourself, “What is it that I don’t know?”, in your quest to becoming a more effective parent.