5 Ways to Guide Your Child: Building Strong Hearts (Without Crushing Their Spirit)

1. How can I encourage my child without criticising them?

2. What are some effective ways to offer choices to my child?

3. How do I deal with my child’s strong-willed nature without constant criticism?

4. What should I do when my child doesn’t listen?

5. How can I be a good role model for my child?

see all the answers below

The first flicker of a smile, the tentative steps of a toddler, the unbridled curiosity in a child’s eyes – these early years are a magical time filled with wonder and the promise of a bright future. As parents, we are responsible for shaping these precious little lives, nurturing their potential, and guiding them towards becoming happy, well-adjusted individuals.

In our previous blog, “5 Powerful Parenting Tips for Raising Great Kids in a Troubled World,” we explored several key principles for navigating the often-choppy waters of parenthood. Today, we delve deeper into one of the most crucial aspects – Building Strong Foundations: Guidance vs. Criticism.

Imagine this: You have a child who thrives on routine, finds comfort in predictability, and enjoys pleasing others. Guiding them with strong moral principles, from a faith-based perspective or any other ethical framework, can be a joyful experience. Proverbs 22:6 (ERV) beautifully captures this essence: “Teach children in a way that fits their needs, and even when they are old, they will not leave the right path.”

However, not all children follow this ideal path. Many parents face a different reality: strong-willed, independent youngsters who know exactly what they want and aren’t afraid to voice it. In these situations, the temptation to resort to constant criticism – “You never listen!” or “Why can’t you ever do things right?” – becomes overwhelming. But before you unleash that inner critic, remember: criticism, while seemingly corrective, can chip away at a child’s self-esteem, leaving them feeling discouraged and defeated.

So, how do we guide these spirited youngsters without crushing their spirits? Here are 5 powerful tips:

1. Shift Your Focus: From “What’s Wrong” to “What’s Right” 🌟

Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your child’s behaviour, I encourage you to shift your perspective to look for the positive. When your child tries to tidy their room, take the time to acknowledge and appreciate their actions, even if the result isn’t perfect. You could say something like, “I notice that you’ve picked up your clothes! That’s a great step in the right direction.” This kind of positive reinforcement can motivate and inspire your child to keep making similar efforts in the future.

How can I encourage my child without criticising them? 🌟

Focus on positive reinforcement by acknowledging their efforts. Highlight what they did right and offer constructive feedback gently.

2. Embrace “We” Over “You” 🤝

Using phrases such as “Let’s try looking at this from a different perspective” or “We can brainstorm together to find a solution” effectively creates a sense of partnership and collaboration between you and your child. This collaborative approach fosters trust and encourages your child to feel valued and empowered as an active participant in problem-solving. It helps them understand that they are not just a passive recipient of solutions but an important part of the process.

What are some effective ways to offer choices to my child? 🎨

Give limited, clear choices that are within acceptable boundaries. This empowers them to make decisions while keeping options manageable.

3. Offer Choices, Not Ultimatums 🎨

When empowering your child, it’s important to provide them with opportunities to make choices within your set boundaries. This can be achieved by offering them limited options. For instance, you might ask, “Do you want to wear a blue or green shirt?” By doing this, you allow them to exercise their decision-making skills while also adhering to your established boundaries. This approach can help children feel a sense of control and autonomy while still respecting your guidelines.

How do I deal with my child’s strong-willed nature without constant criticism? 🤔

Use phrases that promote teamwork, such as “Let’s try this another way” or “We can work on this together.” This approach builds trust and makes your child feel involved in finding solutions.

4. Focus on Solutions, Not Just Problems 🧩

When you come across a messy situation, don’t just demand that it be cleaned up. Instead, suggest possible solutions that could help with the cleanup. For example, you could say, “We could gather all the toys and place them in this basket, or perhaps you’d prefer to organise them by colour?” By providing specific suggestions, you’re not only addressing the problem but also empowering the individual to take charge of the situation.

What should I do when my child doesn’t listen? 👂

 Instead of resorting to criticism, try to understand the underlying reasons for their behaviour. Use positive reinforcement to acknowledge their good actions and work together to address issues.

5. Model the Behaviour You Seek 👀

As children are highly observant and constantly pick up on our actions and reactions, it’s important to be mindful of our behaviour. If you want to instil patience in them, it’s crucial to model patience yourself. Similarly, if you want them to be respectful individuals, consistently demonstrate respect towards others, even in challenging situations. Always remember that you are the most influential role model in your child’s life, and leading by example is the most impactful way to guide and shape their behaviour and values.

How can I be a good role model for my child? 👀

Children learn by observing. Demonstrate the behaviours you want to see in them. Practise patience, show respect, and handle frustrations calmly. Your actions will teach them more effectively than words alone.

Remember, guidance is a continuous journey, not a one-time fix. There will be bumps along the way, moments of frustration and exasperation. But by keeping these tips in mind, you can navigate these challenges with love, understanding, and an unwavering belief in your child’s potential.

Building strong foundations requires patience, empathy, and much love. It’s about nurturing a child’s spirit, not crushing it. With gentle guidance and positive reinforcement, you can help your child blossom into the confident, compassionate individual they were meant to be.

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Sam Soyombo
Sam Soyombo

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  1. Hi Sam, this blog is really an insightful one, even as a student, I found this blog post really informative .
    It has made me think about the importance of guidance and support in helping young people grow and develop. I can see how these tips and strategies could be really helpful for parents and caregivers.

    I particularly liked the emphasis on encouraging open communication and problem-solving skills. It’s so important to feel heard and supported, especially during the challenges of growing up. I’m going to keep these ideas in mind as I navigate my own relationships with family and friends.

    However, how do you think we can apply these principles in our own lives, even if we’re not parents yet? Are there ways we can support and guide each other as friends and peers?

  2. Wow! Use “We” instead of “You”, this blog is very informative, and I am empowered to train my kids in the right path without crushing their spirit, or provoking them. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Sam, after reading this particular blog yesterday, I went back ruminating on it; does this blog actually negate the scriptures when it admonishes us not to spare the rod, less we spoil the child? And how do you balance correcting a child in love and applying disciplinary actions when needed or do you also believe in this modern style of no-beating? Please, forgive me if I sounded too direct but kindly help my curiosity by attending to my questions. Thanks for your time!

  4. This article on guiding kids is fantastic! I especially liked the “We” vs. “You” approach.
    Thanks for sharing

  5. Thank you, Sam,for your insightful article on guiding children without criticism. I appreciate the five powerful tips on shifting focus to positive reinforcement, embracing collaboration, offering choices, focusing on solutions, and modeling good behavior. Your guidance on encouraging children without crushing their spirits is invaluable. I will apply these principles to nurture my child’s potential and build a strong foundation for their future success. What are some additional strategies for handling situations when my child’s strong will and independence lead to power struggles, and how can I effectively communicate with them during these challenging moments?

    • Thanks for your question Isaac! It’s great that you’re looking for additional strategies to guide your strong-willed child. Here are a few more tips:

      Validate Their Feelings: Acknowledge their emotions before trying to address the situation. For example, you could say, “I see you’re really frustrated right now. Can you tell me more about what’s bothering you?” This shows you understand their perspective and helps them feel heard.

      Set Clear Expectations: Having clear rules and expectations can help avoid power struggles. Make sure the rules are age-appropriate, and involve your child in creating them whenever possible.

      Use “I” Statements: “I” statements help communicate your feelings without placing blame. For example, instead of saying, “You’re always making a mess!” you could say, “I feel frustrated when the toys are left out because it makes it hard to walk around.”

      Offer Choices When Possible: As you mentioned, offering choices empowers your child and reduces the feeling of being controlled.

      Pick Your Battles: Not every situation needs to be a fight. Choose your moments and focus on the most important rules.

      Effective communication is key during challenging moments. Here are some tips:

      Stay Calm: It’s important to model calmness even when your child is upset. Take a deep breath and try to lower the intensity of the situation.

      Active Listening: Pay attention to what your child is saying, both verbally and nonverbally. Let them know you’re listening by making eye contact and summarising what you’ve heard.

      Focus on Problem-Solving: Work together to find a solution that works for everyone.

      These are just a few ideas, and what works best will vary depending on your child’s unique personality. What strategies have you found helpful in guiding your strong-willed child? Share your experiences in the comments below!

  6. Understanding goes a long in having a good relationship with the kids and building the right potential in them. Reading this blog, it also explained about loving these kid, and also embracing them in whatever they do.
    Thank you for the powerful thoughts.

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