…a few thoughts on proximity control…

“Proximity Control” is a term you often hear when educators are addressing the issue of classroom management. It’s the idea that an adult in close proximity can help control the behaviors of students–and that the very presence of an adult can make a difference (without words) in a student’s behavior and choices.

Well, the other day, I came across a couple of photos.  These two, to be exact:


It made me miss those days when my boys could fit on my lap. (That reenactment would be quite a site now, for sure!) But when I looked at this photo, what made me the happiest were the hands held. Not sure where one little hand ended and another began, and that makes me so thankful for some of the sweet times with my kids. (There were lots of those amidst lots of the not-so-sweet!) I thought that this photo kind of gave the term “proximity control” a whole new meaning…

Am thinking this photo (the other one I came across) does as well…59452689516__A43AD75A-10E1-4A1F-9C6E-814AFB28CCA1

We all know relationship is important. And maybe proximity control is not control at all, but just encouragement to do the right thing.  Maybe proximity in the little things that are just about being together and a total acceptance of just being able to be side by side…maybe that’s the best proximity control there is. Maybe the best discipline is done way before there’s a need for a boundary that comes in the form of a “NO…” or a  time out or a consequence. Maybe so.

I know parenting is a gift that is incredible, but also a responsibility that can feel so incredibly difficult.

I have graduated from the stage where my babies could all fit on my lap. I have also come to understand that which I so did not understand when they were little: that control can be a bit of a myth.  A child who does not want to be controlled will demonstrate their will–one way or another. So will an adult. Consequences will come, but in terms of one human being being able to control another, well we all have choices in terms of how we are going to respond to things. Even when we’re 2 (maybe especially when we’re two), or twenty or sixty-two. We all make choices, and we respond based on what we think we know or sense in the minute we’re in…  but the response is also partly based on the history of what we have known in the past…

Trust is so key…and when people trust us, they respond in a different way. Trust is built and cannot be forced. It seems to me that a forcing of trust would only weaken a bridge of trust being built. It’s incredibly counterproductive. Some things just take time.

So, to you young moms out there who are trying so hard to do your best and maybe frustrated when your child is not responding to correction in the way you hoped, well, here’s a reminder from a mom who so gets that– to keep on keeping on with the proximity. Keep playing with the kids. Keep on engaging them with the projects and games and funny songs in the car. Woo them with your cookies and encourage them with your hugs. Let them know you’re there even when they make it painfully obvious that they so don’t want you to be there! Say the words. Tell them what you value. Encourage their friends and use your gifts to lighten their emotional loads…and then…then, they might be so much better equipped to carry the heavy loads and demands that are placed on them.

It’s not easy for kids in this day and age.  I see it in the halls of the school where I teach everyday. And I’m trying to be heavier on the proximity and lighter on the control in my classroom as well.   It’s pretty cool how when you’re heavy on proximity, there’s less need for control. I know there are no easy answers, and I so hope I don’t sound like some ‘know it all’, because I assure you, I do not, and I am not. I so wish I had known way back when what I know now, but, well, am thankful for what I’m learning now. But I do know what some fifty plus years have reinforced for me, and that’s that relationship matters. Kindness matters. Caring and showing respect to the youngest of folks matters.

I’ve made my share of blunders and mistakes and have so asked each of my children individually to forgive  me for those. I’m sure I’m still blundering and making mistakes. But I do know that my desire is so not to control another human–it’s to encourage and lead and guide as folks have encouraged and led and guided me.  My hope is to ‘be there’ even when I can’t physically ‘be there’, but be in the stuff of life by encouraging in little ways. Social media is a great tool to use to ‘be there’ when you can’t be there even if it’s a private message or text.

I know that “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” But I’m thinking you can make them thirsty. You can whet their appetite… and I’m thinking it’s no different with our children and students…and that proximity…being in there with an individual…goes such a long way in leading. After all, ‘educare’ means ‘to lead out’…to educate is to lead. And we want to follow who we trust.. Yes, proximity makes a big difference.  It sure did for me, and I am so thankful for the way my parents and family were often in close proximity to me as a child. Here’s a few visuals of that, and a reminder that we never know how our actions will impact those around us, and maybe even generations to come. ❤ Just a little reminder to you and me as we approach a busy season…that maybe the best gift we can give is ourself…..

And one more reminder…the season to come seems to be all about that gift of proximity…Emmanuel, God is with us…and that can make all the difference <3.


Blessings to You and Yours~


A few more photos of ‘proximity’ from the photo album here on the blog:

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