Artificial Maturity

Helping kids meet the challenge of becoming authentic adults

Building Relationship Skills in a Texting Generation

The question below came from a woman who is both a mother and a teacher:

Over the last several months, I have spoken to more parents, teachers and coaches than I have students. It seems adults are still trying to figure out this digital generation of kids. Imagine that. The question below came from a woman who is both a mother and a teacher:

Question: My sixteen-year-old daughter is an EXCELLENT “texter”.  I am fighting her weekly to do something as old fashioned as CALLING someone in place of texting.  I am concerned that she will grow up without social skills that she will need in a day-to-day life in work and social gatherings.  I know times have changed, but are my concerns valid?  We as a culture these days, try to expose our kids to all kinds of extra curricular activities from a very early age. I would hate for teens today to miss out on the art of face-to-face talking.

Answer: For whatever it’s worth—I share your concern. I’m certain it feels old fashioned to students for us to want them to know how to actually converse, face to face, but I don’t think the need for this skill will go away soon. Employers I talk to want team members that have good emotional intelligence, which includes social skills. My good friend, Tom Thomas, owns a company called Cardinal Advisors. He spends much of his time working with NCAA programs, helping student athletes learn manners and social skills. He is in demand, working with over 400 schools, and helping students prepare for interviews and jobs. He is teaching a lost art.

Texting is a blessing and a curse. The blessing is—it allows us to communicate immediately through a screen. The curse? We get lazy with our relational skills.

So, what’s a parent or teacher to do?

First, talk to your students about it. If they are ten-years-old or older, they should be able to understand the rationale behind learning people skills. Many teens avoid phone calls because they don’t want to put in the effort of a conversation. Let them know how valuable this skill will be as an adult.

Second, create opportunities for your kids to interact in a social setting, with people older and younger than they are. For instance, throw a party and have your kids host the adults who attend. Have them greet guests, take their coat, offer something to drink and ask how their day was. These are simple but profound skills that make them more marketable.

Third, set boundaries for your student’s cell phone use. Let them know when texting is OK and when phone calls are appropriate. One parent refused to let their son break up with his girlfriend through a text and made him do it in a face-to-face conversation. That’s good parenting in my book. Conflict should never be resolved (as a rule) through texting or email. Those tools are for information not emotion. I believe adults should model and teach these social skills to the next generation.

Tim Elmore is the founder and president of Growing Leaders, an international non-profit organization created to develop emerging leaders.

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