Closing the Distance

January 13, 2012

Gaging your distance in sparring or self defense is hugely important. If you’re too close you might not have room to maneuver and get your technique out. If you’re too far, well, you miss (like I have so many times).  It’s the same with kids, especially if you are trying to long distance parent. I don’t mean when moms and dads have split up and kids are going between homes, I mean when the kids are in the living room and you are yelling at them from the kitchen.

With four kids in a three story house there are only certain things I can yell and have them all listen to me. For example, “Dinner! Sorry it’s so late guys.” or “Who wants ice cream?” or “Who wants to come to Toys R Us? “.  But these examples aren’t really on the parenting critical path. When it comes to getting chores done, curbing some misbehavior or sometimes even getting a simple question answered, I have to be up close and personal.

I think that parenting up close serves a couple functions. It lets whoever is speaking know that they have been heard and it lets the listener actually focus and listen. This is very important regardless of whether it is the parent speaking and the child listening or vice versa. Plus there is a certain amount of intention when you actually make the effort to go to your child and talk to them. If you are telling them to “Please stop sitting on your brother’s head or you’ll be in the naughty corner” (yes, these are words I have spoken), then you are letting them know that you are physically there monitoring their actions, and there to enforce the punishment if need be. There is also the flip side to this – catching your kids doing something extra nice. It’s great to look them in the eye and say “Thank you for taking the pudding lid off for your brother. I know it is very tempting to lick that piece of foil, but you let him do it. Well done!”. When you respect the distance (or lack of it) when communicating with your child, the greater the chance of your child respecting what you say.

Who knew that a pathetically short back fist would remind me of this basic parenting technique?