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Six Methods to Empower Children

Book cover for "Garden Your Mind"

Help Children To Think for Themselves

“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” —Colossians 3:21

6 Methods to Help Children Run Their Own Minds

  • The six techniques all require a good spirit, a good attitude to work.
  • Sarcasm or any demeaning wording will cause the techniques to backfire.
  • If your mood is poor, then save these strategies until you can do them with a positive intention.
  • Remember, children easily read your feelings and intention.

1. Provide Examples of Reasoned Thinking

  • Provide a good working example of thinking things through.
  • And while providing a good example, speak out loud what you are doing and why you are doing it.


“I am going to my bedroom to lay out my clothes for tomorrow.”

“I am going to check the cupboards to see if we have enough fixings for lunch tomorrow.”

“I am making a checklist for what I have to get done tomorrow.”

“I am using the dictionary to see if I used that word correctly.”

“I am researching that in the encyclopedia because I want to have my facts straight before I talk to them about it.”

  • Since all humans learn by seeing others in action, example is very powerful.
  • “Monkey see monkey do,” is perhaps the single greatest conditioning factor in human life.
  • Yes, positive role-models are often the most beneficial part of a child’s life.

2. Question to Cause Thinking, Not to Get Answers

  • Ask thought-provoking questions.

Ask open-ended and general questions that get the child to think about what they are doing and how it is working or not working for them.

Remember, they only have to answer the questions to themselves and NOT to you. Please make that fact clear.

Preparatory Questions

“Do you mind if I ask you a few questions to help you to solve or cope with your problems?”

“Please know that you can keep and often should keep the answers to yourself.”

Awareness Questions

“How does thinking that way lead you to feel?”

“Are you trying or are things just flowing for you?”

“Is that way working for you?”

“Are you meeting your highest or best goals by doing that?”

“What are you willing to do to make things easier for yourself?”

“What are you willing to do to remove some of the obstacles to your making things work smoothly?”

“How can you use your negative emotions or stress to do better instead of worse?”

“What are you thinking that is preventing you from fixing your problems?”

“What are you thinking that is preventing you from accepting and coping with your unfixable problems?”

“What thinking do you need to change to do better?”

“What will you tell yourself to do better?”

“How is your thinking making your problems worse?”

“How is your thinking keeping you from problem-solving or coping?”

“What are you sacrificing to keep your problems and is it really worth it?”

“Are you relating to your problems or life as a victim and then expecting life not to relate back as a perpetrator?”

“How will you better relate to your problems or life?”

“How will you change your thinking for the better so that your life is better?”

“How will you change your dance with or way of relating to others for the better?”

3. Explore Intentions to Make Aware, Not to Change

  • Explore the child’s desires, wishes, and wants and reframe them into goals.

Explore desired comforts and conveniences, and then help the child to develop goals to achieve them in positive and productive ways.

Explore what they want to help them formulate positive goals to achieve their wants.

“I know you don’t like to spend so much time looking for things. So what could you do to make it easier and less stressful for you to find things?”

“I know you like to have a pretty room for your self and to show to your friends. So what do you need to do to keep it looking pretty for you?”

4. Provide Objective Examples of Similar Failures

  • Talk about what they are doing wrong either as if it is you doing it wrong or someone else.

This is a form of vicarious learning for the child.

Examples can take the form of storytelling:

“I once knew a child who made things hard for themselves by ….”

It can also take the form of just talking out loud about what you need to do to make things work as if you were the child:

“Let’s see, I am not focused, so I better plan and prioritize and think about what I am doing.”

“I am procrastinating, because I am overwhelming myself, so I better break this task into small pieces and do one piece at a time.”

This technique works because it allows the child not to feel attacked and so wind up acting defensive instead of understanding.

This “example technique” makes it not about the child, which allows them to have perspective and to relate it to themselves in a non-threatening way.

5. Demonstrate an Attitude of Trust

  • Believe in the child.

Believe in the child’s desire to succeed and be social.

Encourage the child that you know that they want to make their life and relationships work.

This single principle has been the successful driving force of many programs that helped children as long as they held to this principle, for example, Summerhill (an experimental school in England) and Boys Town (see the 1938 movie).

  • The child can sense who believes in them.
  • Expect the good and bring out the good.
  • Expect the bad and bring out the bad.

The same child in one environment (for example, school) may do well, while in another co-occurring environment (for example, home) may do poorly.

6. Demonstrate an Attitude of Respect

Respect them; think the best of them; believe in the good in them; trust in their intentions; draw out the good in them; bring out their best; encourage their best; think well of them; honor their intentions; give them the benefit of the doubt; give them permission to make mistakes; encourage them to take risks and overcome frustration; do not rescue but instead provide resources; encourage coping and problem solving; do not remove obstacles but help them to help themselves.

  • Isn’t this what you want? Then give it to get it—that is the secret.

Related Information

Quotations on Arguing from Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

Organized Alphabetically

“Arguing with your children demonstrates you are going to dance their dance.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Arguing with your children gives credence to their position.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Arguing with your children gives your children equal power and voice, which they don’t really have so this will cause resentments later.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Arguing with your children ignores the fact that their purpose is to gain power and control, not truth.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Arguing with your children ignores the fact that they are not struggling to understand but only to undermine.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Arguing with your children lowers your position and raises theirs.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Arguing with your children proves you are going to dance with their position.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Arguing with your children puts you on the defensive and your children on the offensive.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Arguing with your children shows a lack of understanding of the dynamics of arguing.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Arguing your children’s garbage convinces your children that you respect their garbage.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice

Quotations from Various Sources

Organized Alphabetically

“A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.” —Anonymous 

“A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” —Dorothy Canfield Fisher 

“A parent owes their children three things: example, example, example.” —Anonymous 

“A wise man thinks all that he says. A fool says all that he thinks.” —Church bulletin board 

“Allow children to be happy in their own way, for what better way will they find?” —Samuel Johnson 

“Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.” —Orson Card 

“And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.” —Isaiah 54:13 

“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” —Ephesians 6:4 

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;” —I Peter 1:15 

“Children have more need of models than critics.” —Joseph Joubert 

“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.” —Rabbinic saying 

“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence.” —Spanish proverb 

“Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbours, but mischief is in their hearts.” —Psalms 28:3 

“Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” —Colossians 3:21 

“Foolishness always results when the tongue outraces the brain.” —Unknown 

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,” —II Timothy 3:2 

“For the Lord hath given the father honour over the children, and hath confirmed the authority of the mother over the sons.” —Ecclesiasticus 3:2 

“Home ought to be our clearinghouse, the place from which we go forth lessoned and disciplined, and ready for life.” —Kathleen Norris 

“If it’s your job to relieve your child’s frustration, then it’s your child’s job to annoy you.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” —Abigail Van Buren 

“If you want to work for world peace, go home and love your families.” —Mother Teresa 

“In disputes between parents and children, the children always get the upper hand.” —Achad Ha’am 

“Paradoxically, even though parenting is the hardest and most important job there is, parenting is also the job with the least education, requirements, and training.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Parenting is the only job you are guaranteed to fail at.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.” —Proverbs 16:24 

“Some man holdeth his tongue, because he hath not to answer: and some keepeth silence, knowing his time.” —Ecclesiasticus 20:6 

“Something you consider bad may bring out your child’s talents; something you consider good may stifle them.” —Chateaubriand 

“Teach your children to put God first and to soothe themselves and you are a successful parent.” —Kevin Everett FitzMaurice 

“The best leader is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” —Theodore Roosevelt 

“The best thing any parent can do for their children is to love their other parent.” —A paraphrase of someone else’s saying. 

“The first duty of love is to listen.” —Paul Tillich, 1886-1965 

“The most precious things in speech are pauses.” —Ralph Richardson 

“Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson 

“We proclaimed you sound when you were foolish in order to avoid taking part in the long, slow, slogging effort that is the only route to genuine maturity of mind and feeling. Thus, it was no small anomaly of your growing up that while you were the most indulged generation, you were also in many ways the most abandoned to your own meager devices by those into whose safe-keeping you had been given.” —Midge Decter