Forming bonds with your kids after working in Thailand

Working in Thailand

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Heads down, eyes focused, thumbs typing or playing games, is this how your quality time is spent with your children after a hard day working in Thailand?

I was out for dinner last week. My wife and I went to a family restaurant we both really like. It is pleasant, just the right amount of noise, and the food is wholesome and fresh. The restaurant attracts families because of the prices, but the families eating are much different from they use to be. Family dinners are fun because the whole family gets together and talks about the day’s events and who said what to whom.

At several of the tables we saw children with iPads or phones engaged in their activity. There was absolutely no communication between mom, dad, and the children. The children were careful not to spill food on their electronic devices, and what seemed to make the biggest impact was one time when one of the moms almost dropped sauce on the child’s iPad. The kid became animated and basically scolded mom. Mom and dad didn’t really engage with each other either.

While I do not advocate we leave our children to do what they please, I also do not believe in over scheduling children. I do not know whether it’s an Asian penchant to have children who can do EVERYTHING (play sports, sing and dance and play the piano, and excel academically), or that’s just another stereotype of what is typically Asian. But I do see many families fill their children’s schedules with way too many “lessons” at the weekend and after school, I do wonder whether these children still have room to breathe.

This struck a chord for me so I instituted a “no technology” rule at my family’s dinner table. No cell phones, laptops, or tablets are allowed. This was not something negotiable. Continue to show respect and manners with your child at the dinner table. One of a parent’s most important jobs is socializing their child so the child can feel confident in his/her ability to demonstrate manners and respect for others.

We get to really TALK. Not the kind where I start with, “So what did you learn in school?” The children themselves come up with their own nuggets to share about how their day was at school. They would share something funny, or ask a question about something that’s bugging them, or they would remember a funny experience, and we’d have good laughs about it.

I learn to see the world from their eyes. When we are busy, it’s normal, and quite easy, to just assume we know what’s on their minds, or what they are thinking. But I find, as we share more about our individual lives at the dinner table, there is so much I still need to know about my children. They are ever evolving. And everyday, I learn something new about them. I can’t have those insights if my daughter was allowed to watch her favorite Japanese cartoon series on her laptop, or if my son was playing flappy birds on his iPad.

We get to unwind. We are forced to eat and chew our food slowly. We crack each other up with the jokes, or the funny reflection they have about their school experiences. Dinner times then become priceless!

I get to dispense advice that I normally wouldn’t even know they needed if the little stories about their lives are not given opportunities to come out at the dinner table.

I am also given opportunities to get off my online life, and interact, communicate, really talk with my children. I am forced to put my smart phone away and not check on my Facebook updates because really, my online friends’ lives won’t be changed irrevocably if it takes me an hour to like a post they’ve just made!

We cannot go backwards in time, nor should we, but as we continue into the digital age there are some rituals we must keep sacred as a family. Family dinners are one of those. A family is only as strong as its leaders, so parents, it’s time to parent at the dinner table.

Electronics can never teach your child family values as well as a parent. –Mary Jo Rapini