5 Things to Check Before You Correct a Child


Support your child's independence and problem solving using these 5 steps before you correct or suggest a better solution.

Correcting starts early…

That book’s upside down” or “Your shoes are on the wrong feet.”

As our kids get older, it seems that there are more and more things to correct.

2 plus 3 equals 5, not 6!”

Pour the juice with both hands!”

One of our jobs as parents is to guide our children and help them make good choices.

However, it’s easy to slip into over-protective, over-critical, over-correcting mode. When we over-correct, we rob our child of the opportunity for problem-solving and critical thinking.

In order to give them this privilege, it’s up to us to step back and take a look at the situation.

Take a quick second before you intervene. You may find that there are times when you can let it go, instead of giving a correction.

5 things to check before you correct:

1. Look for the “Why”? Does your child refuse to try a new task simply because they know you will swoop in and do it for them? Are they using this challenge as a way to connect with you, have one-on-one time with you or get your attention?

2. Developmentally Appropriate? Is my child old enough to complete this task? Have they met the developmental milestones necessary to do this well? Many parents underestimate their child’s abilities, believing that they are too young or incapable, when actually if given the opportunity, they are capable.

3. Is Teaching Required? Some tasks require a little instruction before they can be carried out appropriately. Have you (or another caregiver) talked with your child about what is required in this situation? If so, is there something that needs to be clarified or does your child just need more practice?

4. Parent to the Rescue? Many parents find it hard to watch their child struggle. The feeling of anxiety or fear drives many parents to jump in and rescue their child from a challenge. Are your feelings getting in the way of your child’s success?

5. Safety Concern? Is your child making a choice that is dangerous to himself or others? Obviously, it will be necessary to intervene if someone’s safety is at risk.

What to do instead.

Some parents feel relieved when they realize they can stop over-correcting and hand some of the problem-solving over to their child. Other parents feel more anxious, worried that their child is doomed to failure because they did not intervene.

I’m not suggesting that parents sit back and let their children struggle or point and laugh as their child attempts to solve a problem. Instead, I encourage you to build up your child’s confidence in their own problem-solving abilities, while gently guiding from the sidelines.

  • What does your child need? If your child is engaging in helpless behavior to get your attention, don’t ignore it. Children are wired to be connected to their caregivers. They will often do whatever it takes to get this need filled. Rather than waiting for your child to act, implement some connection time, spend one-on-one time together on a daily basis.
  • What does your child think?  Often, parents want to teach or help, but a child doesn’t need (or want) instruction or assistance. For example, if your child’s lego creation seems a bit wobbly, but they are playing happily, let it go. There’s no need to correct their building strategy in this moment. Save the instruction for another time.
  • Does your child have any suggestions for solving the problem? Children often come up with creative solutions when given the opportunity. Rather than giving them the answer, see if the child can brainstorm ideas first. If the idea sounds appropriate, allow your child to give their way a try. If it doesn’t work, reevaluate and try again.
  • Is there a better way to say this? Sometimes, less is more. This especially applies to correction. Instead of giving your child another lecture, say it with a single word or short phrase, “backpack” or “do those shoes feel right?” Overused phrases like, “be careful” can be rephrased to be more specific, “walk, please” or maybe it’s not needed at all.

How can I help?

Making changes to our parenting patterns can be difficult. It may be helpful to ask a friend or your spouse to help you as you make these changes. If you would like more specific guidance, suggestions, or encouragement, Parent Coaching may be right for you.  Contact me today for a free no-obligation phone consultation.

Nicole Schwarz (couch 3)

Welcome! I'm Nicole Schwarz.

I'm a Parent Coach, Licensed Therapist and Author of It Starts with You. I help stressed, overwhelmed, confused parents find calm, confidence and connection with their kids. No one is expecting perfection here. But, if you’re willing to examine your parenting, find encouragement, or try something new, this is the place for you.

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