Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Texting is not Talking

It's been reported dads spend less than seven minutes a day talking with their children. Now I don't want to get into a debate over the exact amount of minutes dads spend in conversation, but I would easily concede that dads could be spending a whole lot more time talking with their kids than they do.

I mentioned this point at a recent gathering of men, and one enterprising man agreed. He said he was not spending enough time talking with his son, so he decided to start texting him. Now without passing judgment on motives or methods, I would assert that texting is not talking.

Now I can see some grabbing their phones and tweeting about how wrong I am, that communication is communication and that texting is a valid exchange. I can hear some say just get over it and start encouraging men to text their kids.

But then I would have to start a dialogue about the purpose and definition of conversation. For me -- and I think a lot of others would agree -- true conversation occurs when I can ask my child open-ended, real-time questions that reveal to me his struggles, fears, hopes and dreams. A conversation happens when I listen and he speaks; then I question and he explains; then I comment and he nods -- or not. A conversation is more than words. It is body language and non-verbal clues. Texting removes the head nod of agreement, the shrugged shoulders of indifference, or the wide-eyes of curiosity and amazement. Texting takes away the most important message for a young person: the hug that says I love you, I forgive you, or I am proud of you -- sometimes all three at the same time.

Men, texting relays facts and information, and that is important. It's also a way to keep in touch, celebrate victories, share defeats, and impart advice, and that is important. But I will still advocate we need to follow up our texts with a talk: face-to-face, man-to-man.

So I suggest we resolve to spend a full ten minutes a day in meaningful conversation with our child.

Ten minutes.

It just might be the best part of your day or, better yet, the best part of your child's day.

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