Tender Guidance

Dad and Baby girl Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.

I recently blogged about positive guidance and would like to share a few thoughts on how to gently guide our children into making the choices that will enable them to be successful in life. Because our babies arrive so dependent on us, it is sometimes difficult to remember that our parenting objective is to empower them to become independent. We often forget that our role from day one is to move them toward independence while building a strong relationship of mutual respect.

I have read so much about positive guidance in my 30+ years in the field of early childhood education. The one word, whether implied or spoken, at the center of every discussion is relationship. Parents become accustomed to their baby’s dependence, and some never move forward but rather continue to do it all for their child – even to the point of imposing choices, consequences, and outcomes. This parenting style is selfish and disrespectful and does not consider the needs of the child.

The first step in Tender Guidance is to build a strong relationship with your child by:

  1. Giving gentle touches.
  2. Speaking kind words.
  3. Quickly responding to cries of distress.
  4. Having appropriate expectations for her age of development.
  5. Watching for his cues and responding appropriately.
  6. Listening to her on her eye level.
  7. Saying his name when talking to him.
  8. Describing the world around her.
  9. Warning him before making a change.
  10. Giving her clear expectations.
  11. Reviewing the rules.
  12. Apologizing when you are wrong.

Tender Guidance means that you:

  1. Explain that the action made you unhappy, not the child
  2. Keep your facial expression consistent with what you are saying. If you are displeased with what he has done, show a stern face when you discuss the action. When you talk about your love for him, make sure your expression matches your feelings. Separate the two things.
  3. Listen. You might get it wrong. Apologize if you do. Adults make mistakes, too.
  4. If you have a toddler, intervene early and redirect to avoid issues. Tender guidance sets the child up for success.
  5. Teach your child to self-manage.
  6. Your child derives her self-worth from you and the other adults in her world. She is not born knowing how to feel about herself – we teach her. Teach your child to be gentle with herself so that she will be gentle with others.
  7. Try different approaches. Don’t be afraid to try new things that are positive and put aside old habits that you know you shouldn’t do.

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