As parents, many of us wonder and worry how our actions influence our children later in life. Alice Aspen March has dedicated much of her career to examining the role of positive and negative attention on children and adults, the way we interact, do business and build relationships with each another.
“The kind of attention you get in your early, early years stays with you for life,” March says. “That’s the problem.”
In her new national radio show, Attention Matters, March talks with educators, psychologists, thought leaders and others to address different aspects of this phenomenon. The goal of the program is to give “tools, information and insights to enable people to consciously receive and give appropriate quality attention.”
Most recently, she has been discussing the role of “helicopter parents” and “snowplow parents” and the impact they are having on their children. “College kids are dropping out of school and depression is rising,” she says. “They’re left hopeless, helpless and unable to communicate easily. Their parents must role model and give their children a chance to fail and get back up again.”
March has been discussing the role of attention in creating healthy adults since 1991. Prior to that, she founded and served as the executive director of a nonprofit called FACT, Focusing Awareness on Children and Television. The organization’s issue was how heavy television could affect youth. Working with FACT, she was a key advocate for public broadcasting and kept the TV show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on air. Over the years, she exchanged programming ideas with Fred Rogers and enjoyed a friendship that lasted until his death.
In addition, March also sought to reach children and parents through other avenues, including a play she commissioned for the Los Angeles School District that explored the ways too much television and too little exercise could lead to obesity, depression and poor reading skills.
She also went on to create and produce an Emmy-nominated documentary called Latch-Key Kids, narrated by actor Christopher Reeve. This show increased the development of extended after-school programs by the California State Senate. March was also appointed to two state commissions and invited to speak at the National Association of Television Program Executives at their national convention of 2000.
Today, March speaks worldwide about the value of positive attention and the difference it makes in the physical, mental and spiritual health of all of us. She became interested when she discovered that her youngest son was using drugs and went looking for her role in his dysfunctional behavior. After she had an epiphany over the word “attention,” she spent four years researching the subject and giving workshops for parents. Her son later told her that she had saved his life.
On Tuesdays at 3 p.m. EST, the Attention Matters national radio show gives March a chance to broaden her audience as she and her guests delve deeply into topics affecting every one of us.
Whether it’s her radio show listeners or her workshop attendees, March knows that the subject of attention sparks people’s interest and can resonate deeply within their lives. “I’ve given a lot of workshops to a lot of people – CEOs, rotarians, parents, physicians and educators,” March says. After one such workshop, an attendee told her that she changed the way he talked to his son and turned around a previously strained relationship.
March’s mission comes from seeing her physician father, who “loved to work at the free clinic in Detroit. His energy was different when he came home – he was smiling and happy.”
March attended Kingswood for three years, starting in 10th grade. “I loved Kingswood,” she says, recalling her days as one of the editors of The Clarion, her drawing classes and her roles on stage and behind the scenes for the Gilbert and Sullivan musicals. “The director heard me sing and told me to do make-up the next year,” she says, laughing.
With the continued success of the Attention Matters show and ongoing speaking engagements, March has no plans of slowing down, working fiercely to improve the lives of others by showing the life-changing effects of listening to, including and supporting people. “With proper attention, everybody flourishes,” she says. “With negative attention, they can act out in self-destructive, violent and antisocial ways.” March is always available to talk about what positive attention does.