Dear Social Grace,
I have a close friend who lets her teenagers come over to my house plugged into their ipods at all times. I find this the height of rudeness, and it sets a bad example for my younger children -- how do I navigate this?
Oooh, I detest that! Why attend a social occasion of socializing is not part of your plans?
You have two options, here:
- Your House, Your Rules. Simply tell the plugged in teens that you don't allow earphones/electronics/texting/etc. in your house during family gatherings. Say something like: "We have made the Johnson house a tech free zone during family gatherings. You can leave your gadgets here." To really make the point, set a bowl or basket out to house the nasty little nuggets. Tell the teens that you really want to talk to them and catch up on their lives and this is impossible when their heads are bobbing to Lady Gaga's latest. In order to execute this successfully, you must be comfortable correcting other people's children. As a former seventh grade teacher, this is not an issue for me, but that is not the case for everyone. Make sure you direct your request to the teens, not the parents (who clearly permit this hideous practice and are therefore unlikely to enforce your rule). This strategy also avoids the invariable scapegoating comment as in: "Aunt Grace won't let you listen to your music here. Turn your Ipods off."
- Let It Be. Tell your kids, "Different families have different rules." Leave un-uttered the next sentence: "Aunt Bess does not mind that her children are rude and anti-social." The Graces among you will share it telepathically.
If your interaction with this family is frequent, which seems to be the case based on your question, then the first option is preferred--a bit of short term tension will, hopefully, make for more pleasant visits in the future. (Alternatively, it will drastically reduce their visits, which may not be a terrible thing). For one-time guests, option two may be the easier path.
But as Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld demonstrate, connecting may not always go according to plan: