Jacob Gan 
Article Title
Are you sure about your advice to your children? 
Posted Date

In our interactions with our children, inevitably they will bring up the problems they encounter. Inevitably too, in trying to be helpful (and sometimes to display our wisdom), we often respond by providing solutions on how to solve the problems. However, this is not generally recommended due to the following reasons:

Reason Number 1: We assume that we know what the problems are and forget to first listen carefully in order to better understand the problems. As a result, due to lack of in-depth understanding of the real issues, the advice that we so readily provide will not be relevant and will not solve the problems.

Reason Number 2: Without sufficient probing, we may not understand our children’s points of view or perspectives on what trouble them. As a result we do not provide the solutions that our children need. When our children share conflict that they are having with their friends, we may start advising them on how to stay away from those friends while they actually may be feeling guilty for not treating their friends right and want to gain the courage to apologize to their friend. As a result we may be doing further damage to relationships that they are trying so hard to salvage.

Reason Number 3: In our eagerness and haste to provide the counsel, we forget to extend empathy to our children for the problems they are facing. Our children will not feel connected to us, and they may feel that whatever suggestions we provide have no bearings on their problems and are unlikely to be accepted.

Reason Number 4: As we are the one dishing out the advice, if the advice turns out to be good, the credit goes to us and not to our children. On the other hand, if the advice is taken and implemented but does not turn out to be successful, it is taken to be our children’s fault as the advice is likely to have been one that was successful when followed by another person. In this case, it is a lose-lose situation for our children because if the advice is successful, we claim the credit and if it is a failure, it is a reflection of our children’s incompetence and stupidity.

Reason Number 5: We take the position of the experts who have the knowledge and wisdom and we talk down when we give advice, instead of speaking as equals. We treat our children as if they have neither the knowledge nor the skills to handle the problems. It is a one-way traffic and likely to be resented by our children because they feel that we treat them as if they have nothing good to share with us.

Reason Number 6: We give the message that we think our children cannot develop the solutions themselves. This is disempowering for our children and will do great harm to our children’s development.

Reason Number 7: We do not show appreciation for the efforts our children have taken in solving their own problems. This will discourage them to take great efforts in coming up with their own solutions and taking the necessary steps to solve the problems when other problems crop up in the future.

Reason Number 8: They may just want to share their problems with us and do not want or need any counsel from us at all. Whatever advice we provide may not only be futile, but damaging to our children’s self esteem.

What then should we do when our children come to us with their problems? I do not pretend to have the expert solutions to dish them out. In accordance with what I have written, I will ask you the following questions instead: How are you going to understand their problems and help your children gain a better understanding of their own problems so that they can develop their own solutions? How are you going to show sufficient empathy with your children so that they feel fully connected with you enough to express their real thoughts and feelings and be receptive of what wisdom you may have to offer? How are you going to make the situations win-win for them? That is, how are you going to encourage them to develop their own solutions and take the credit when they succeed and also take the credit for the efforts taken when they fail? The last, but definitely not the least, question is this: “How are you going to make them feel that it is always good for them to bring their problems to you?”

Jacob Gan PhD (Michigan) has more than 20 years of teaching experience in a university and 8 years of business/industrial experience after graduation. He writes for,,,,, and He hosts, an elearning portal. 
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