Developing A Help Plan With Your Child



What advice do you have about “hands on” vs. “hands off” parenting?


One of the challenges of raising children is determining how much to help,

guide, and remind vs. giving them the room to steer themselves. The differences

between a “hands on” and “hands off” approach to parenting has far reaching

implications. Some children can truly benefit from more guidance while others

experience help as intrusive and even suffocating. Conflict may arise when kids

receive too much or too little parental involvement, leaving parents frustrated

and unsure of what to do.


If these circumstances sound all too familiar consider the following coaching

tips to navigate your way to a mutually comfortable helping role with your



Choose a calm time to have a frank discussion with them about the issue. Share

your observations of the roles each of you play in the too much vs. too little

help drama.  Gently bring up the times when they have resisted help but later

found it could have led to a better outcome. Balance this discussion with

examples of how well they did when receiving no help. Ensure that they

understand your goal is for them to become self-sufficient and independent

adults who can rely upon their own resources. Invite them to offer their honest

perspective on you as a “hands on” vs. “hands off” parent.


Develop a help plan that entails dividing up areas of life where the two of you

agree they need more or less parental help. Where there is agreement try to

detail the ways they would like to receive help. Do they want a single reminder?

Is it better for you to offer guidance when you find out they have a specific

task ahead of them? Should you wait for them to request help no matter how much

they appear to be struggling? Don’t dwell on the areas of disagreement over

help. Instead, suggest that the two of you place them in the category of

“undecided” until future events clarify what level of help appears to be needed.


As you watch events in the “undecided” column unfold in your child’s life resist

the urge to insert comments as they occur. “This is why I think you need my

help,” will likely backfire, making your child less agreeable to a help plan.

Keep on mind that the timing of comments and environmental context will have

major impact upon how well your child accepts what you offer. Consider and/or

acknowledge if another parent does not support your view of how much help is

needed. Recognize that your message will have greatest impact when delivered in

a loving tone and with words that focus upon your child’s happiness and success

in the world.


When the agreed upon help is offered do so in a manner that displays your

confidence in their abilities. This requires an attitude combining your

unemotional guidance with praise for

their efforts. Suspending your reactions is often a critical requirement for

them to try to manage their own.


Dr. Steven Richfield is an author and child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting.

Contact him at 610-238-4450 or