Kids (4-12)

Attitudes: Steps to Opening Your Childs Spirit

In The Key to Your Child’s Heart, author Dr. Gary Smalley warns against the destructive power that a closed spirit can have on a family. What is a closed spirit? Dr. Smalley defines “spirit” as, “a person’s innermost being.” A person with a closed spirit has usually been hurt and has stopped being vulnerable to others (or specifically the person who has offended them). They tend to stop communicating with others on a deep, meaningful level.

With a child who has a closed spirit, he may exhibit a variety of signs, including arguing, being contrary, withdrawing, or being unresponsive to affection. The child may even begin to rebel or act out.

This article primarily deals with a child’s closed spirit to his mother. Whether it is because of a recent situation or is ongoing, a child may harbor hurt feelings and resentments toward you for a long period of time. A child may not know how to address their concerns to you, or may feel that they won’t be understood if they do share their feelings. If you recognize that your child has become closed off to you, Dr. Smalley recommends the following steps to opening your child’s spirit.

1. Become Tenderhearted. 

If you have offended or hurt the child’s feelings, cease any yelling or harsh language with the child. A gentle voice will convey that the child is important, that he is cared about, and that you recognize there is something wrong and are willing to listen.

2. Increase Understanding.

Attempt to understand your child’s pain and see things from their point-of-view. A casual comment said in fun may have hit a sensitive issue with him that you were unaware of. Stop and listen to what your children are trying to tell you.

3. Recognize the Offense.

Even if you did not do something wrong, look at how your words were conveyed and if your attitude was wrong. For example, discipline is a necessary part of parenting, but if done in anger can have negative results.

4. Attempt to Touch.

If the child has been hurt, let him know he is loved and cared about by holding him for awhile. Don’t be afraid to show affection to your child, although be prepared for him to back away if he still has a closed spirit.

5. Seek Forgiveness.

Asking for forgiveness is often a difficult thing to do, but a necessary step in regaining a child’s open spirit. However, if a child refuses forgiveness, Dr. Smalley suggests slowly working through the steps again.

In addition to teaching parents how to work through opening a closed spirit, Dr. Smalley provides a list of 84 ways that parents can offend children, based on his counseling experiences with children. A few of the ways are listed below.

  • Not showing interest in things that are important to the child
  • Breaking promises
  • Criticizing unjustly
  • Allowing siblings to pick on the child
  • Telling the child his opinions do not matter
  • Never saying, “I love you” or showing affection
  • Never spending one-on-one time with the child
  • Being insensitive to the child’s trials
  • Speaking harshly
  • Being inconsistent
  • Not praising a child for his accomplishments
  • Ignoring the child when he is seeking help
  • Arguing with the child’s other parent in front of him, or putting the other parent down in front of others
  • Not being able to control their anger and taking it out on the child
  • Being sarcastic to the child or making sarcastic remarks about him to others
  • Making fun of a child’s dreams, accomplishments or hopes
  • Insulting him in front of others
  • Showing favoritism to a sibling

Other examples of reasons children have given for feeling hurt include, “Seeing my parents spend a lot of money on their pleasures, but when I want something, they don’t seem to have the money,” “Needing my parents, but they are glued to the television,” “Getting my hopes up to do something as a family and then not following through,” and when a child is able to sense “a difference between what is said with the mouth and what is said through facial expression.”

As you can tell, the reasons a child may feel hurt are wide and varied, and each child will react differently to a situation. But mothers need to take the time to understand their children and keep their spirit open.


This article is based on the book, The Key to Your Child’s Heart, by Dr. Gary Smalley.  

© 2007 iMom. All rights reserved.

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