Can you think of a single situation, no matter how grave, where the atmosphere would not be instantly shattered with a loud fart – or a drawing of a butt?
There is no faster way to create universal common ground.
My 50 year old mark will be here soon.
I’m married to a wonderful woman.
We have 12 incredible children.
Grandchildren are poppin’ up like weeds.
Cute, cuddly, giggling and oftentimes sticky weeds that I love.
And I love every minute of it.
Problem is, those minutes are dwindling away.
Not because we’re running out of time.
…but because the time we have is not being used to be together as much as it used to be.
Where you used to see a standard with ‘family nights’ or ‘date nights’ or traditions like eating together, playing together and enjoying one another’s company as a family, a gap is growing.
Personally, I’m blaming electronics for a good chunk of that challenge.
That hit me when I went to family function and saw a couch with four teens sitting on it, all using their smart phones.
…and I discovered that they were all texting one another.
They didn’t look up.
They didn’t talk.
They simply laughed or snorted, staring at their screens, and kept typing!
I have several issues, but yeah, I’m blaming the use of electronics for starters.
So what can we do about it?
STEP 1: Stake Your Claim To Common Ground
The first thing you can do as a parent, is get the attention of your kids.
Talk to them.
Heck, bribe them.
The funniest way I know is to sit next to my kid with a folded piece of cardboard and start tapping away with my thumbs while making ‘BEEP’ and ‘BOOP’ sounds as I do so.
Takes a few minutes sometimes, or a nudge with an elbow and a, “Hey, why aren’t you answering my texts? You a snob or something?”
My teen looks at me puzzled, then down at my advanced piece of pressed and folded cardboard.
“That’s not a smartphone.”
I snort. “Sure it is.”
*roll of the eyes* “So that isn’t gonna work.”
With the lightning reflexes of a fat ninja, I snatch the smartphone from their grasp with a, “You’re right, this WON’T work. So let’s actually talk!”
Some freak out.
Some bark orders back at me.
Some start to cry…because you just took their lifeline away to the outside world!!
STEP 2: Take Notice
You’ve thrown your kid off guard.
You have their attention.
Now you need to calm the waters and shift that attention elsewhere.
Suggestion: Notice them.
Notice who they are, who they are becoming…and bring that to their attention.
FIND SOMETHING REALLY GOOD ABOUT YOUR CHILD AND MAKE THAT THE FOCUS.
“I just wanted you to know…I’m proud of who you’re becoming.”
“Thank you for [insert something they did for you that you liked, or they did that impressed you].”
OR you can try the really DISTURBING route and just smile at them.
(Love this one)
…as in smiling BIG…show teeth…and hold it.
Don’t say a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g.
Freaks daughters out, especially.
“What?!?” they blink a couple times, scooting a foot away from you.
Just shrug at them and keep smiling though.
Lock those cool eyes on them and GRIN.
“I’m just…ya know…feeling grateful that you’re my daughter [son]. That’s all. I think you’re awesome.”
These things don’t solve the issue, but they open the door.
That’s when you stop the games and actually look at them calmly, chuckle a little to break the ice and then chat with them.
Make sure you have a specific situation that you’re pleased about in mind before you do this.
Express your pleasure and joy in who they are & what they’ve done.
Yes, it may throw them off at first, but you do this to give yourself an opportunity to make a request…
STEP 3: Drag Their Particular Interests Onto Your Common Ground
What do your kids like to do?
Play video games?
The key here is to take an interest in what your child likes and then choose to participate on their ground.
The best example I can give is when I couldn’t get close to my kids for months because they were SO immersed in League of Legends when it became popular.
My son’s (and one of my daughters) were obsessed with playing as a team.
No matter what I suggested or how I bribed them, they wanted to play the game instead.
So I joined them.
At first, they thought it was odd, but kind of a cool idea.
As I started learning, they saw I not only had potential, I did REALLY well as a team player.
Best of all, we had fun.
A lot of fun.
That fun turned into other video games, then board games, card games…
All because I went to where my kids were and allowed them to discover that hanging out with dad was a blast—so they tried other things as well.
My point here is that the gap between generations is growing in our society, but there are things we can do about it.
We just have to be smarter than the problems.
That’s why my oldest son and I have been working on ways to proactively help parents close that gap and create incredible memories with their children at the same time.