How to Discover What Our Kids Really Need

When I tucked my daughter into bed, she shared some friendship problems with me. I immediately offered her advice and solutions.

The next day, I read this from Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s book, Raising Great Kids: 

“A mom gives three steps to solving a relationship problem when the child wants her just to listen. Sometimes the child is saying in his own way, ‘I want you!’ Remember how you feel when you want to be understood and a well-meaning friend gives advice instead.”

Oops! I realized I had done just exactly what the book said not to do. Sometimes there is a time to give advice. After all, we are the parents and have the role of leading and guiding. 

But, if our children only need to pour their hearts out to us, then maybe all we need to do is listen. 

Cloud and Townsend shared a great question to ask our kids when they’re upset:

“Why don’t you tell me what you need?” 

That way, if they need advice, we can dive in, but if they need us to zip our lips and just listen and comfort them, we can do that. 

The next night, I went into my daughter’s room to tuck her in. Within seconds, tears covered her little eight-year-old face because she had read a tragic part in a book.

My instinct was to protect her. 

To drive away the tears. 

To lift her out of the sadness. 

To fix everything. 

And tie it up with a ribbon.

As I started sharing reasons why she didn’t need to be upset, I remembered what I had read the other day and I stopped myself. 

In place of opinions and advice, I asked her: “What do you need?”

Linsey Driskill
Linsey Driskill
My husband and I live in South Carolina and have eight-year-old triplets. I’m passionate about encouraging families in following Jesus and his words: to love God and love others. I love authenticity, simplicity, spontaneity, and a good cup of coffee! You can find me at and @BeautifulHeartedParenting

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