Teach Your Children Well — Another Reason Not to Multi-task


Along with the mounting research that says that multi-tasking is ineffectual, let me add one more reason not to do it: your kids. If you want to teach them good manners and focus, you’d do well to practice a little mono-tasking.

Maybe it’s just me, but I often have a hard time getting my kids to pay attention to what I am saying. At school, teachers instruct children to give “attentive listening,” while at home I find myself saying, “look at me when I talk to you” with ever more frustration. I was really getting annoyed with with my kids, and then I realized how much of the time I fail to look at them when they address me. I keep on typing or cooking dinner and only listen with half my brain.* I was not modeling the behavior I was seeking to encourage. Drat! I hate it when I do that!

We tend to blame t.v. and video games for our kids’ short attention spans and poor manners, but perhaps we ought also to look closer to home. So I am cleaning up my act, and I encourage you to do so as well. Here’s what I will do: if my children ask for my attention, I will give it fully or will pause long enough to look them in the eyes and ask them to wait until I can give my attention. (Note: this is a good practice with your spouse and co-workers, as well.)

It also occurs to me that I should practice what I preach on the subject of interrupting, shouting from one floor to the other, and talking with my mouth full. But I’ll save those for another day.

* (The most recent issue of the journal Science shows this to be literally true — when we have one task, both sides of the medial frontal cortex work on it, when we have two, the left and right sides each take task. )