By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children’s and Dayton Daily News columnist
“Please refrain from using your cell phone during this workshop,” requested the presenter at a recent conference. Despite that announcement, the woman next to me continued to furiously send text messages on her iPhone. After about 15 minutes she turned to me and apologized for her behavior.
“I hope that I’m not disturbing you, but I’m in the middle of a serious family emergency with my daughter,” she explained. My annoyance immediately transformed to understanding.
“It’s fine,” I responded. “I hope that things are okay with your child.”
Working in a pediatric hospital, I wondered whether the emergency involved any accident or serious illness. The woman asked me to watch her materials while she made a phone call to her child. She returned in about 30 minutes, just as we were taking a morning break.
“Is your child doing any better?” I gently asked.
“I think we have the problem solved,” the mom responded. “She’s a junior at college and got locked out of her dorm this morning. She has an exam at 3:40 pm and really needed the books in her room. I made a few phone calls and got someone to let her in. I’ll text her throughout the day to see how see is doing after this setback.”
“I’m glad things worked out,” I remarked.
Here’s what I really wanted to say:
Since when did an adult being locked out of her room become a “serious family emergency” for a mom? Spend a few hours where I work in a children’s hospital and you’ll see real emergencies. Kids come into our hospital seriously injured from car accidents or barely able to breathe due to asthma attacks.
Your child is an adult. Why does her inconvenience become your issue to solve? She is a junior in college and can’t figure out how to deal with such a simple problem? While I understand that text messages are a convenient way to stay connected with your child, you may have built up a dependency between you and your daughter that isn’t good for either of you.
I’m sure you love your child very much, but one of the goals of parenting is to prepare our children for a world in which we are not there to answer their every question, solve their problems and protect them from failure and frustrations. If your daughter is depending upon you to make phone calls to get her into her room, how will she handle more serious issues when you are not around?
Your adult daughter will never develop the confidence to successfully navigate solutions to real problems if you continue to reinforce her dependency on you. This also makes me wonder about your own life and whether you have developed interests and activities other than your children.
It’s time to cut the technological umbilical cord and let your child live her own life.
Gregory Ramey, Ph.D., is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit www.childrensdayton.org/ramey.