Monday, February 2, 2009

No Parenting from the Sidelines

I definitely mentioned this in a previous blog, but I'll mention it again.

Parenting is not something done from a distance. Nor does it require 100% of your focus. But when you're doing it - when you're parenting - it has to be up-close-and-personal.

The reason I bring this up now is because I realize that we can't be with our kid 100% of his awake time. There are times we need to read, cook, have a phone conversation, or watch a few minutes of TV. But while we're taking this time out for "ourselves", we can continue to parent effectively. The energy used to get up is less than it takes to yell and then deal with the ensuing stress.

My wife reminded me of that. Despite being 26-months pregnant (as of today), she still gets up from the couch to help JD do puzzles, read books, or play cars after a long day of work. She also gets up when he needs some discipline and redirection.

Do you ever get frustrated when your child doesn't respond to your direction from across the room? Guess what? She gets frustrated that you're across the room directing her! Your yelling only indicates that you've taken notice of her actions. The thought that she'll actually change what she's doing because you are directing or yelling is self-misleading.

If your child is 10, then fine. He should be reasonably be expected to take oral direction. But to a kid still in the early stages of communication, you're kidding yourself. Get up and show him what you want.

But, you say, then they'll know that all they have to do to get us up is to act out. Not that I've noticed with JD. There are times that he will do so. Cooking, for example, is something he hates watching me do. But giving him small snacks and a couple of puzzles will buy me some valuable time. Also, the time you put into reinforcing positive behavior will pay dividends at these times.

When he's playing nicely and quietly? Get up and tell him that he's doing good then, too.

Remember, you've got limited time to affect your child's long-term behavior. Putting in these moments and minutes now will lead to better behavior down the road.

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