Stop what you're doing, get down on their level, and connect. Making them feel heard.
This builds trust and connection. It tells your child that you feel what they're saying is important.
2. Acknowledge their feelings.
Problems that might seem small to us, like a scraped knee, can feel very big to a young child. Acknowledge that you understand how frustrated/hurt/angry/sad they feel. You can even say something like, "Ouch! That looks like it hurt" or "I can see why you're frustrated".
3. Thank them for coming to you.
This is not from the book Montessori for Every Family but a tip I learned from psychologist Dr. Becky Kennedy and is more appropriate for older children.
When children come to you with a problem, it can help to reinforce that you are a trusted confidant. You can say something like, "Thank you for trusting me with this".
This works with school age children as they begin to navigate more complicated social situations. It builds trust in the younger years with the goal that your child continues to trust you as they get older.
4. If they ask for advice, offer suggestions in question form.
Rather than jumping in with advice, start by offering thoughtful questions that will help your child reach the answer on their own. For example, I wonder what would happen if you did X?
This can be used in even simple situations, like a disagreement about weather-appropriate clothing. Rather than "You can't wear shorts because it's too cold", try "Why don't you put the shorts on and stand outside to see how that feels?"
Why This Approach Works
When children make their own decisions, it builds their problem-solving skills and helps to make them feel more confident.
Getting it wrong is ok too. Making their own mistakes is just a different way to learn.
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