Are you “Bringing Closer” or “Distancing?”

(3-minute read)

Circles of Closeness

Our actions and inactions bring people closer or push them away.

Which one are you doing?

Last week, I mentioned Chaim, an 11-year-old boy whom I recently started seeing. One of our goals is for him to learn how to develop better relationships with the people in his life, including siblings, classmates, parents, teachers, and so forth.

Most kids need multiple lessons to reach the same goal. So while we taught him about “love” and “respect,” he needs more skills and concepts to understand how relationships work.

Thus, another concept I taught him is the Circles of Closeness. He is in the center. The people in his life are in the circles around him based on how he treats them. He can do or not do things that will bring people closer to him or distance them (push them away).

Below is the sample poster we made.

We used examples of behaviors he engages in and asked him, “Does it bring your mom/brother/friend closer or does it distance them?” We then wrote the behaviors onto the poster.

Two Optional Ideas

Idea 1:

Create a bunch of small cards with examples of red and green behaviors. Do not color code them so that the child needs to think for himself whether the behavior will bring someone closer or will it distance them. The child needs to place each behavior on the circle rings based on how it will impact the relationship.

For example, some minor annoying behaviors would be placed on the inner rings (ex. standing too close) because it might not push someone away as much as super upsetting behaviors (ex. punching someone), which would push someone to the very outer rings. Conversely, small pleasant behaviors might keep people on the outer rings (ex. saying “Please” and “Thank you”) as it doesn’t make someone feel especially close to you, but very special thoughtful behaviors are likely to bring people so much closer, i.e. to the inner rings (ex. Delivering classwork and homework to a friend who is sick and at home.)

Idea 2:

Instead of putting behaviors on the rings, put stick figures or pictures of people in the child’s life on the ring based on how the child is behaving toward that person. For example, if you steal something from your friend, he will probably move away from you to the outer ring. If you help him with his homework, he might appreciate you and feel closer, thereby moving closer to you to the inner rings. Use a variety of examples to show the child how his behavior is determining how people feel toward him.

Circles of Closeness

Tip: Ask, “Is this behavior gonna bring mommy/your friend closer to you or will it distance them from you?”

Have a friendship-filled week!


Dr. Devora

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