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Inconveniently Accessible

If you've been home with your children over the Christmas break, you've probably heard a lot of this:

"Mom, why does Emma always get to choose which game we play? I want to choose now."

"Daddy, Julian farted on me."

"I want a snack."

"Mama, Emma won't stop sitting on me."

"I can't see the TV, Julian's head is in the way."

"OWWWW...he hurt me."

"Can you bring me a glass of water?"


"It's my turn now."

"I'm bored."

"Stop touching me. MOM...I said stop touching me and Julian is still touching me."

Even when I'm in the shower, there are requests to resolve disputes, help with a stuck zipper, find a missing ipad charger. Mom, MOM, MAMAAAAAA!!!

When they are not at home, my children do things for themselves, entertain themselves, and resolve conflicts with others. But when they are at home, they seem to default to neediness or laziness.

In the summer, I spent a lot of time outside in my garden. It is about 30 steps from the front door of the house. As I planted, weeded, tended and harvested, one child or the other would come wandering out with requests. Most of the time, I would send them back in to deal with it themselves or at least tell them they had to wait until I was finished. But I still had to listen to the whining, as they threw on a pair of flip flops and ran out the door to find me.

But now winter is here. Just down the road from our house, on the lake, we made a skating rink. It takes about four minutes to walk to the rink and it requires putting on winter clothing. When it snows, someone has to go down and clear it off. Over the past few days, I went down twice to clear off the snow, which took around two hours each time. The kids were alone in the house and they knew where I was if they needed me. They're old enough and responsible enough that I don't need to be within arm's length, but they're young enough and immature enough that when I am at arm's length they take advantage of it.

So my new parenting technique, especially when I've had enough of the whining, is to be inconveniently accessible. Just far enough away that it is a bigger effort to come and find me than it is to just deal with the situation themselves. Just close enough that if there is a real problem, they can come and get me.

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Reader Comments (9)

Do kids talk to each other at school or elsewhere and decide ahead of time how to whine? Specifically, what to say when they say it in a whining voice? Because that dialogue is identical to my kids'. Huh.

And yes, I think that approach of being inconveniently accessible is part of what I do too. Too bad for me it's -40 wind chill... :)

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJavamom

I am totally going to try this. What a great idea.

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJordan Danger

My daughter, now four, can't be left alone in the house because she's too young, but if I am sitting on the couch reading or watching a cooking show or talking, she's all over me with requests. If I'm in the kitchen cooking or folding laundry or doing some sort of standing up work, she's independent. It's amazing. And exhausting. On hard days, I bake a lot of bread to keep us both working at our work.


January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCasey

This is SO true, my son is completely independent at school but sat on the floor crying for me to get his snow pants off for a good 15 minutes yesterday. Apparently I wasn't far enough away.

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

This has been my whole break. I have been playing referee for two weeks now... I was so excited to get them back to their separate classes yesterday and then we're hit with the vector! My technique is teaching them to communicate more. They don't talk things out they just push and shove each other. So I have been intervening when it becomes physical and helping them with phrases that could have been more beneficial before the scuffle. It's a work in progress.... Hopefully the weather will warm up soon:)

January 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

So that never ends? :-P I notice when we are out of the house my toddler will go hours without nursing, but when we are home he wants to nurse all the time.

January 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

I'm looking forward to the time when my little ones are old enough to try this. They are too little now (3 and 1), but I think this is a good strategy for school age kids.

January 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

Its funny. I am actually like this with my husband! When he is around I want help with nappy changing, working out the tv settings, shopping etc when I would otherwise do this all alone. I think it is a combination of laziness and a desire for company doing the mundane in life. So it never ends for some of us! And reflecting on it, it is inefficient and annoying for the other person so its probably a good idea to teach kids from the beginning how to think through when they might really benefit from help, when they can rely their own resources and the importance of respecting anothers space. w

January 8, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjenni

That's exactly how my kids "discuss" too.

January 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNico

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