Loosening the Reins

“Children need 

guidance and


far more than instruction.”

-Anne Sullivan, U.S. educator of the deaf & blind (1866-1936)

There is a fine line between guidance and instruction and this famous teacher helps us understand that difference with one simple word: sympathy. I know that I often get caught in the trap of instructing my kids far too often. I feel like it is my duty and obligation to be sure that they are doing the right things at the right times. The problem is, when I take on the role of instructor, I also take over the reins. Their projects start to become my projects; their problems become my problems. In order to really teach my kids about life, I need to do a little less talking and a lot more showing. Showing my kids their choices and then allowing them to make up their own minds about a decision will do far more good in the long run than any lesson that I can tell them. By sympathizing with them when those choices have painful consequences, we make ourselves safe havens. We make ourselves available to them simply by being there when they hurt without saying “I told you so” even when we did.-Hal Runkel, LMFT, Author of ScreamFree Parenting and ScreamFree Marriage