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Questions to Ask Before Intervening


This post includes Questions to Ask Before Intervening when a child comes to you with a complaint or otherwise. I have to bite my tongue several times a day. I have to hold back my body before intervening to make a challenging situation “better”.

Sure, we adults know how to fix “everything” whether it is finding that perfect puzzle piece or letting your son know he shouldn’t speak like “that” to his brother.

Wouldn’t it be great, though, if we could be a facilitator rather than a dictator?

Child Reflecting

There are days when I can’t stand to hear my own voice utter another nagging word. I know I’m not alone. So, I have mantras that force me to be aware of my language with my children.

My goal is to involve them in resolving the issue, to think about ways they can help themselves, and to let them know I don’t agree with a circumstance without being the big, bad supermom. Here are a few questions to ask a child before leaping in to fix a situation.

Questions to Ask Before Intervening

How can I help you?

I am trying to use this one more. My five-year-old has suddenly in the last few months become a “tattle tale” for lack of a better description. Telling on someone is a tricky situation. I don’t want to ignore the behavior on either side.

I want the situation resolved but I want my children to make their best effort to resolve it themselves. I will guide them with language to use and questions to ask, of course, but I want conflict resolution to be a strength, not a weakness in their future lives. Kids are capable.

How can I support you?

Many of the same sentiments from above. I like the use of “support” because it honors the child’s ability to handle a situation. “Helping” is used when I feel the child may actually need a bit more help whether physically or emotionally.

What did he say when you told him how that made you feel?

This one is a killer. My 3.5-year-old wanted my help in getting his older brother to play superheroes with him. He told me how it made him feel but I was fairly sure he hadn’t had that conversation with his brother. If his brother acknowledges politely and kindly, great. If not, there is a great opportunity to teach or to model empathy,

Window Perspective

What can you do instead of hitting when you’re angry?

This one is tough because controlling that little body heated with emotion is a challenging lesson to learn and it happens slowly over time. Create an anger wheel to spin when he gets angry, a special place for your child to go to sit with his anger, a punching pillow, or practice using words instead of the body to express anger. Mostly this question is a conversation that happens often until the child is cognitively able to understand and change the behavior.

Let’s try again. Rewind and start over.

I love this one because it reminds the child that we’re on his side and it is okay to not be perfect. You’ll notice a child appreciates the second chance to make things right before being “sent to his room” or otherwise.

Will you remind me of the ground rules for dinner?

Allowing a child to be a part of the rule making is a great way to ensure buy in. If a child has a part in creating the structure with your facilitation, he’ll more likely be interested in maintaining the order! Write the rules down as a visual reminder. Each time someone new is eating with us, for example, I ask my sons to let them in on our ground rules, even if our guest is an adult! This review is helpful to all of us, and gives the child a sense of ownership and responsibility.

What questions do you ask?


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