Step 6

Acknowledge Your Child’s Feelings

Why take this step? Children want and need the most important people in their lives​—their parents—​to know how they feel. If parents habitually contradict their children when such feelings are expressed, the children will be less likely to open up to them and may even start to doubt their ability to feel and think for themselves.

The challenge: Children are prone to express their thoughts and emotions in extreme terms. True, some of what children say is unsettling for parents to hear. For example, a frustrated child may say, “I hate my life.” * A parent’s instinctive response may be, “No you don’t!” Parents may worry that acknowledging a child’s negative feelings or thoughts amounts to condoning them.

The solution: Apply the Bible’s advice to be “swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” (James 1:19) Note that Jehovah God acknowledged the negative feelings of many of his faithful servants by having them recorded in the Bible. (Genesis 27:46; Psalm 73:12, 13) For instance, when Job was experiencing extreme trials, he said that he wished to die.​—Job 14:13.

Obviously, some of Job’s thoughts and feelings needed correcting. But instead of denying Job’s feelings or stopping him from talking, Jehovah dignified Job by patiently allowing him to pour out his heart. Only afterward did Jehovah kindly correct him. One Christian father expressed the matter this way, “Since Jehovah allows me to pour out my heart to him in prayer, I think it is only fair that I allow my children to pour out their positive and negative feelings to me.”

The next time you are tempted to tell your child, “You don’t really feel that way” or “You can’t honestly think that,” remember Jesus’ famous rule: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.” (Luke 6:31) For instance, imagine that you have been dealt with harshly at work or suffered some disappointment, possibly because of your own failing. You express your frustration to a close friend, saying you cannot cope with your job. What would you want your friend to do? Tell you that you don’t really feel that way and immediately point out that the problem is your own fault anyway? Or would you prefer it if your friend said: “That must have been difficult. You’ve had a hard day”?

Children as well as adults are far more likely to accept counsel if they feel that the one offering it truly understands them and the difficulties they face. “The heart of the wise one causes his mouth to show insight, and to his lips it adds persuasiveness,” says God’s Word.​—Proverbs 16:23.

How can you ensure that any counsel you give is taken seriously?


^ par. 4 Take seriously any statements your children make about ending their life.

[Blurb on page 8]

“When anyone is replying to a matter before he hears it, that is foolishness on his part.”​—Proverbs 18:13