Parenting Tip #1: Walk Away

My wife and I try our best to parent with purpose. It's sort of a hobby we have together. We read parenting related blogs, science journals, books, etc. We've also been fortunate enough to stumble upon parenting methods ourselves. One of these is The Walk Away Technique. It applies mostly to toddlers, but we still use it for Sydney who is almost four years old. Please don't expect anything too earth-shattering here. It's the simple things that really catch our attention as parents and this is extraordinarily simple. My pastor, Andy Stanley, says there is cumulative value in routinely investing a small amount of time into something over a long period. And this principle certainly applies here. The power isn't in doing it once, it's in making it a routine.

I put together a video to illustrate.

Parenting Tip #1: Walk Away from dewde on Vimeo.

As I said in the video, the key point is to provide your toddler an alternative to the behavior you want them to avoid. I don't believe that merely telling them to stop, or not to touch something, or to just say "No!" are adequate, especially in the very beginning which is formative. Obviously, sometimes just saying no should be enough. It depends on the toddler's stage of development. Still, I believe the usefulness of defaulting to a "walk away" directive in most cases cannot be overstated.

Another thing to notice is my tone of voice and language. Oh, if only I could be as consistent with those two things as my girls deserve. I'm not. One thing Dewdette and I do well with, however, is addressing our girls with respect. You'll notice I said, "No Ma'am." We want to teach our girls to be respectful to adults and to use Sir and Ma'am. A general rule in our house is to model the behavior we expect from them whenever possible. Therefore, we address them with the same manners in which we hope to be addressed.

"Yes Ma'am, you may have grape jelly on your sandwich."

"No Ma'am, don't touch that. Please walk away."

If I'm being honest, Sydney hasn't quite caught onto the words yet. Not when talking to us anyway. But we haven't been bullies about it, either. We believe showing respect is more about tone and body language than specific words. And when Sydney is disrespectful our first inclination is not just to have her use different words. It's to start over and try again with a nicer tone, body language, AND words.

What is remarkable, though, is that Sydney copies us in how she interacts with Savannah, her 1 year old little sister. That is, she treats Savannah like we treat Savannah. For example, if Savannah walks up and grabs Sydney's Barbie, or crayon, or doodle-board, the first thing you hear Sydney say is...

"Savannah, no Ma'am."


"No Ma'am Savannah, crayons or not for babies. Mommy! Savannah has a crayon!"

It's amazing to see a 3 year old treat a 1 year old with respect and kind words. But it's not surprising, she's just copying her parents. That's what kids do. So once again I'm back to the principle that if, as parents, we want Sydney and Savannah to grow up with certain values or habits or characteristics... the place to start is not with them, it's with us.

So there it is. The Walk Away Technique and also a little dose of respect. Two things we feel are working with our kids. Do you have any tips or insights into parenting? Have you read any good books or seen any good videos lately? Please share! I can use all the help I can get!

NEXT: Parenting Tip #2 - Thanks For Asking