Lots of us think that we’re more efficient when we do more than one thing at a time. And women are presumed to be born multitaskers. Personally, I don’t find it a superior skill. When I multitask, I actually take more time to complete what I’m doing, and I’m more likely to make a mistake. When you also factor in the inevitable stress and the emotional detachment resulting from being so “scattered,” well, it doesn’t make a great case in favor of multitasking.
Yet many women—and men—multitask, and our daughters certainly get the message that it’s a great thing. As an advice columnist, I get emails from girls talking about the pressures to get a million things done, and done well, and how it makes them crazy and cranky. Yet it’s so hard for them to slow down and reclaim some breathing space.
I also get a lot of emails from girls and boys spelling out their frustration about trying to talk to their parents about things that matter. Teens say their parents “don’t listen.” Parents tell me the same thing about their teens. We all want to improve parent-teen communication. But we can’t do our part when we’re busy with six other things or even one other thing.
I know it’s not always possible to drop what you’re doing to listen to your daughter. But let’s be honest: not many of us do open-heart surgery or negotiate international crises at home. So when our kids want to talk, we could take a break and focus on them if we chose to. But most of the time we don’t. We keep doing whatever we’re doing and shift into an unconscious auto-listening/responding thing: “Uh-huh. Uh-huh.” If you feel like it’s more pressing to fold laundry or do your online banking instead of having a real conversation with your child, that’s your choice, but at least be upfront about it.
Auto-listening isn’t healthy. In a healthy relationship trust and respect have to flow in both directions. Want your daughter to respect you? Then you’ve got to respect her. Auto-listening is disrespectful. And it’s not fooling her anyway. Even toddlers have been known to turn Mom or Dad’s head to get their attention. If she knew at 18 months old that no eye contact means you’re preoccupied, how can you hope to fake it with her now? And why would you want to?
Back to Article Listings
|Page 1 out of 2|