Does Body Language Matter in Parenting?

So, we have a Facebook group for Five Minute Fatherhood, lots of great conversations. And someone just recently posted something in there that really got me thinking, I want to talk to you more, Jeff, about this. He wrote, “So, in a podcast from a little while ago in training children, I think it was Jeff who brought up the power of getting down to eye level with your kids so that you are not invoking fear in them. Do you think there would be a difference in getting down on their level or picking them up and bringing them up to your level?”

So, this is a great, great question. What is the body language that a father should have with regards to their child, and does that matter? So, you have the, I am 10 times bigger than you, and I’m going to stand and… There’s the authoritative stance.


There’s the, I’m going to get down on your level, stance. I’m going to bring you up to my level. Jeff, have you thought about those different ways of just how your… What are the ways you communicate to your kids?

Well, I feel it’s exactly what you said of the… Just be aware that body language communicates something. And a lot of research backs this up, we obviously know. My position tends to be the, they already probably know I’m the authority. That one is reinforced a million times a day at some level. So, I don’t feel like it’s ever necessary to do something particularly to enforce that. And in fact, I think most dads over crank that one of not paying attention to how their body language can feel a little ominous and intense to their kids, even though it might not be to them.

And so, you have to be really aware of that. And so, then, I think the one that almost no dads do or a lot of dads don’t, is really see body language that’s really based on emotional connection. And yeah, eye contact. For me, it’s less about getting down on their level. It’s more about eye contact, and getting down on their level is just the way to get eye contact. And so, I would say… We worked really hard. And some kids more than others, it was actually a year-long training of, they’re almost having a seizure when I asked them to look in my eye. You know what I mean?

What would they do? Are they just to try to avoid it?

They would just resist it, just so… Close their eyes, look any different way. And it’s crazy. Right? And so, to me, that even reinforced it though, of, oh, there’s something here where eye-to-eye, face-to-face, level-to-level gentle connection, and still stern, and serious, usually because it’s usually about a, “Hey, we shouldn’t have done that,” moment or something, that they resist, that shows me that’s exactly what they need. And so, I think just try really hard to frame those moments, have those moments, take those moments. And because I think it’s a long play where, when our kids are 20, I want them to generally have a lot of pictures in their brain not of me standing over them pontificating, but them in my lap getting a little wisdom conversation, me, eye-to-eye, telling them that it will be okay. Stuff like that. And so, I think that’s just something to think through of that, the one you do the most is probably the one they’ll remember.

Yeah. That’s funny when you think about the future because I’m now picturing my 5’2″ wife has to look up to Jackson.

Yeah. And that’s a whole different thing.

This 6’1″. If you’re completely relying on your size to establish your authority, that can backfire spectacularly at some point. That’s a good point. I love the idea of getting down to their level and getting their attention because I do think that with especially toddlers, that’s a big deal. And in The Skill of Fatherhood course, we talk about my favorite correction for toddlers is getting down in their face, eye contact, and maybe, chubbing their cheeks if you really need to get, grab their face and we are looking at each other, and I have your attention right now.

Yes, exactly.

I need to tell you, “Stop doing that. That’s not okay.” But it communicates a lot to… That eye contact. I love that. I’ve seen the same thing with our kids. There is something about what they’re experiencing there that is challenging for them emotionally, but really important. So, I love those ideas.

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