One mom posed this question after reading my article, A Child Left To Himself.
Q: I have two little girls (2.5 and 10 months). I would love to hear how you manage this [keeping kids near you and watching and training them throughout the day] practically and still get things done! When you say they are near are they within sight or just within earshot? How have you set up your home to facilitate this? I find that these two priorities (training my kids and caring for my home are in constant conflict… Unless I build in independent play (usually in the living room) especially for the older girl. I may be running to the basement for laundry, in the kitchen cooking or upstairs with the baby. I would really benefit from concrete examples of how you juggle it all!
A: I do not always have them within view, but most of the time, I do.
What I have found that some people call “within earshot” isn’t close enough for what I mean. By “within earshot,” some people mean “I can hear them if anyone makes a blood-curdling scream.”
What I mean by “within earshot” is I can actually hear not just their tone and screams but also their actual words.
- Close enough to hear and correct faulty attitudes, unkindness, or crude joking BEFORE it turns into blood-curdling screams.
- Close enough to recognize the transition from silly kids playing like they are baby kittens into fake-fighting which will quickly turn into screaming/fighting (giving me a chance to stop it before it gets that far).
And the less self-controlled they are in general, the closer they are to me.
So I do have to be creative. Tools like:
- baby gates and
- playpens/pack-n-plays come in handy.
- With some of the kids, I have used “blanket training” to teach them to sit in one spot while I get the dishes done or whatever, but I am not fierce about doing this with every kid. (When we lived overseas and had house church in our home each week, having a toddler who would sit still on a blanket for 30-45 minutes was very beneficial.)
With or without tools like baby gates & pack-n-plays, I am very directive with little ones when I’m not going to be right near them. So for example, I might dump out a bin of Duplos and say “you play right here” in the room next to the kitchen, where I can peek on them while I am cooking. If they get up or move to do something else, I’ll verbally remind them, but if they continue walking to do their own thing, I quickly walk over and move them back to the play area I specified. “No, mama said to play here with blocks. Yes ma’am?”
(We’re southerners, so that last phrase is optional, but I do find it helpful to get their assent in one way or another– “yes mom,” “OK,” whatever.)
If we’ve had a particularly rough day (i.e., they’ve been picking at each other all day, or I can tell the 2/3 year old is emotionally on-edge), I keep them even closer. Yes, in the room with me. Sometimes right next to me.
When they’re acting out/emotionally distraught, they need even more direction and care, and time with mom also helps to minister to their little hearts. That I’m close, want them close, etc. They might help stir the pancake batter, or “help” put silverware away, or whatever, but ultimately, I’m smiling, talking, singing, whatever, helping them to get through a rough patch in their day.
Kids need mom close by, for love, for training, and for nurturing as they grow. But foolish little children PARTICULARLY need mom nearby so that she can squash ugliness and plant seeds of love, tenderness, forgiveness, and gentleness in their little hearts.
Keeping kids close isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it in the long run.
IN THE COMMENTS: What is most challenging about keeping your kids near you?