Boomer Grandpa: Grandchildren must learn how to carve out time for quiet
As I lifted up the nozzle, there was a television screen built right in the gas pump blaring at me with news, sports and weather updates. It also told me I could go into the station and buy a 102-ounce bottle of Kick Start or something like that, along with two hot dogs with all the fixings. No thanks.
After filling up, we headed for the Cities. After my wife and I arrived at our destination in downtown Minneapolis, we lugged our suitcases out of our vehicle in the parking ramp into a small foyer.
This area wasn't any bigger than 10 feet wide and 30 feet deep and had a bank of two elevators. However, in this small space, where people probably do not spend more than one minute, is a high-definition TV again letting us know the latest news. Really? Is this necessary?
In the hotel lobby and breakfast area there were several television screens. As we ate breakfast the next morning, one channel had a car repair show on and not one person was watching this. (I was peeking at it.)
Another TV had an old western on, but there was no sound so why even have the TV there in the first place?
The next day we were at the Mall of America, and above every informational kiosk there are four television screens. Some were playing ads, but one set was playing an old sitcom from years ago. Good grief, why? Who's going to stand there and watch a whole TV show?
Step away from the noise
Everywhere we go it's noise, it's deafening stimuli, it's TVs in places where they do not need to be. Of course, this is in addition to the smartphones and other goodies that people are looking down at on a constant basis.
This column is not about kids watching too much television or people spending too much time on their smartphones. It's something else that I want to say.
My opinion is that one of our critical missions as grandparents is to somehow teach our grandkids the ability to step away from the noise, to enjoy a moment of quiet, to hear the birds sing, or to listen to water lapping up on a shore. How to sense true feelings or to let your mind just wander. No additional input required.
As old fogies, so to speak, we can't just criticize; we must figure how to help our grandkids develop skills to make choices and to be able to separate themselves from the hypnotic screens. Maybe this isn't rocket science, but I still needed some help trying to grasp what I want to say and what we, as grandparents, need to do.
I called a friend of mine. Steve Bingner is an acquaintance of many years and a licensed psychologist with 30 years of experience in patient mental health and he specializes in treating children, adolescents, and adults as well.
We kicked this around a bit and Steve immediately put his finger on a recent study about problematic Internet use and self-regulation. Sometimes the more you use the technology, the more you need it.
We can strengthen self-regulation away from technology with exercise, spirituality, time with family and friends, and outdoor activities, just to name a few. Kids in school who are involved in music, theater, athletics or various groups or activities are on the right road. It's critical for kids to have multiple interests.
So let's cut to the chase. What can we do as grandparents to help our grandkids deal with this tsunami of information and technology everywhere they go, today and in the future?
— Set the example! We need to be good at this self-regulation by getting off the couch and taking them places. Give them incredible lessons and experiences that they will remember. Maybe it's on a lake, a park or even our backyard.
— When we see them doing the right thing, we positively reinforce it by praise. Maybe we can join in by reading a book next to them or playing catch or sitting on our deck or the tailgate of our truck and talking. Look for opportunities when they seem willing to talk. Look for opportunities to teach them a skill, a proficiency at something they enjoy that could last their lifetime.
— Set limits. Steve said set up "Grandma's Rule." Grandma says if we put together a puzzle first or take a 30 minute walk, then you can play computer games or text your friend. I think the more lessons we can teach in self-regulation, the better we all will get at it.
In our lifetime, we baby boomers have seen a remarkable evolution in technology. But the continuing increase in it is starting to make the future hard to imagine, even for us. Every building you go in, every car you ride in, every place you go, every time you get home, you are bombarded with information, sensationalized news, being told what to wear, buy and what we should look like.
I am picturing my grandson 30 years from now. His wife comes out to the garage looking for him. She asks, "What are you doing?" He responds with, "Nothing, it's quiet out here. Come here, I want to show you something my Grandpa taught me years ago."
Loren Else, of Rochester, also writes the Day in History column for the Post-Bulletin. Do you have a Grandkid Quote of the Week? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe it'll make an appearance in Boomer Grandpa, which runs every Wednesday in the Life section.