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Social media vs Time spent with Mom

Dear MommaHattie,

I need your advice on something that has been troubling me for about a decade.

What do I do in a situation where my two sons and my two daughters are addicted to staring at their cell phones, specifically their insistence of constantly refreshing and searching their personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and who knows what other social media platforms.

The problem with this is they have their noses buried in their phones ALL THE DAMN TIME! It happens from the moment the two oldest ones arrive for a visit until they leave, and it happens with the two youngest ones from the moment they wake up until they head to bed. All four even bring their phones to the dinner table!

What can I do to teach them the importance of taking a "time out" from the devices and their social media relationships?

Any advice you can provide would be appreciated. I've been a mother for nearly four decades and have overcome many obstacles as a parent, but this latest headache wants me to strangle all four of them and bury their phones deep beneath our storage shed in the backyard.

- Gretchen

Dear Gretchen,

You have hit on a subject I refrain from because it bothers me much. I will be kind; however, my words may seem harsh regarding this matter. Two of your children are adults and no longer live with you. Let's start with them; tell them how you feel. Individually. Together. However, you believe they will be more open to it, be honest. Explain that the time they come to visit with you is precious. You would like, if at least only during dinner, to have their undivided attention. If they cannot accommodate, when you speak to them every time they look at their phones, stop talking. If it is as continuous as you say, leave the room. Eventually, they will learn that they must choose between being on their phones or visiting with you when they come to see you.

As for the two that live with you, my first question is, who pays for their phones? (This is where I get a bit animated.) Who's the parent? You are! I am not a strict parent by any means and never subscribed to the "MY house, and these are MY rules" type of living. That being said, a "no screens during dinner" rule implemented by the parent and (most likely) responsible bill payer of the cell phones is well within your right to enforce. If it isn't abided, shut off the cell phone service. It may seem extreme, but so is "[strangling] all four of them and [burying] their phones deep beneath [your] storage shed in the backyard."

As a parent, I have never understood the parents who complained about their children's cell phone use for as long as I can remember. I've refrained from engaging in the conversations and often walked away or changed the subject to avoid. It rubs me the wrong way. I want to yell, "Who gave them the phone!?" Most of the time, it was the parent that created the very problem that has surfaced. Even if the phone was given to the child by some other source (i.e., a grandparent or ex-spouse), you are still the parent and, by virtue, get to make the rules. If your children are mad at you for instituting a rule, they do not like, well, that's parenting! Sometimes we as parents have to do things or require certain habits for the good of our children. Sometimes those requirements upset our offspring. Sometimes that's just the way it needs to be. We cannot have and raise children with the expectation of always making them happy, just as we cannot expect our children always to make us happy. We can, however, do our best to communicate what is bothering us, emulate good behavior, and be honest about our expectations.

Be honest with your offspring. You know your children best, and I am sure they do not want to hurt you. They may not understand fully how much spending time together (sans phones) means to you. So tell them. Tell them without guilt trips. (Which moms tend to do at times consciously or not.) Tell them honestly and from your heart.

Love Lots; Smile Often




National Women's History Month.

Trail Blazing Women of WNY

Western New York is my home. I do love to travel and plan to do more of it in my future; however, Western New York will always be my home. I have said many times, "I would rather be dirt poor living in a cardboard box in Buffalo than filthy rich anywhere on Earth." I mean it. The people, collectively, are an awesome bunch. The link above rounds out National Women's History Month by highlighting women from Western New York.

Love Lots; Smile Often



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