Hugging Distance


I have always admired police men and fire fighters for being willing to run toward high-stress, chaotic situations. My instinct is to do just the opposite - even in my own house. Now, when my kids are hurt I naturally want to run to them but when they are throwing fits or bickering with one another or creating unnecessary drama I sometimes wish I could just lock myself in a dark, quiet closet until the storm passes. Anyone else?

While it may be natural to want to avoid the stress of children who are in the throws of character development, it turns out avoidance is not the best strategy. In fact, the simple (though inconvenient) act of stopping whatever we are doing and physically walking into the situation is so, so helpful and here's why.

1. We become invested.

When we drop whatever we are doing (cooking, sending emails, nursing a baby) and walk up the stairs or down the hall to wherever our child is crying/yelling/freaking out we are automatically invested in the situation. This investment makes us much more likely to investigate what exactly is going on and follow through with any discipline or correction that needs to take place. When I am unable or unwilling to stop what I am doing to run toward the chaos, my usual response is to yell "Everyone go to your room!" which may solve the "noise problem" in the short run but doesn't solve any heart problems and it also doesn't help my relationship with my children. Speaking of relationships...

2. It fosters relationship.

The best kind of parenting takes place within hugging distance. We can not yell instructions or corrections across the house and expect that to have the same result as kneeling down in front of our child, making eye contact, rubbing their back and talking through the problem. Even when we need to dole out consequences, doing so from a posture of relationship is more effective and better received. This does not mean that we constantly have to be at our child's beck and call, but good parenting is often inconvenient and the call to be faithful, intentional parents needs to be stronger than the urge to escape.

3. It creates opportunities to address heart issues.

When my kids are misbehaving my initial internal reaction is, "You're bothering me, so stop it!" I want the noise to stop. I want peace and quiet and harmony. Of course, as we have previously discussed, yelling across the house for everyone to be quiet is not super effective. Paul Tripp, in his book Parenting says that when our kids misbehave we can view that as God's grace in allowing us to see a part of their heart that is sick and in need of a Savior. When we take the time to see and address the root problems in our kid's hearts, we are not only fixing today's issues, we are making disciples. And making disciples is surely worth setting down our phones and dragging ourselves down the hall.

Of course, there are times when we really can't drop what we are doing and will have to yell instructions up the stairs. And there are also times when our kids need to learn how to work things out on their own. But generally, when our kids are young, they need us to show up for them - mind, body and soul.

Lord, help us fight against the temptation to duck and cover when You are calling us to step into the messy, chaos of parenting as representatives of Your peace.

Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

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