“Are you listening to me?” I asked my husband when he began looking at his bookshelf while I was trying to tell him something I thought was important.

“Sorry, Honey,” he replied and sat down giving me eye contact. He has learned after 40 years of marriage! But I, too, have learned, and I am still learning. It’s so easy to be rude in today’s world of distractions.

We are distracted by children, by televisions in restaurants, by marketing ploys down every aisle, by headphones, and especially by iPhones. My friend Laura, a youth worker, said recently:

 “Have you noticed that it’s all iPhone, iPad, iTouch, iGoogle. I see my 10th grade girls thinking through iWorld eyes without even realizing it. It’s part of our culture, which lifts up the individual and caters to self-centeredness.”

But it’s not just our teens who have fallen prey to this inability to focus on the other person. It’s you, and it’s me. Recently, I was at an intimate dinner party, and another adult pulled out an iPhone and began texting right in the middle of the meal. But I, too, have fallen into this trap. I answered my phone the other day in the middle of a meal with a friend and small children in a very noisy restaurant . I didn’t think it would matter. But it did, and my friend remarked that we need to set the example for our children by not answering or texting during meals. She wants to raise kids who focus on others rather than on themselves … and so do I. My friend was right.

The truth is we’re talking about two crucial character traits: respect and thoughtfulness. We show another person we respect them when we focus on them. And we are thoughtful when we put away all electronic gadgets and focus on those around us. We want to raise other-centered kids in a self-centered world, and it begins with you and me.