"Religion is nasihah (sincerity, advice)."
The above is a well known hadeeth that's part of the 40 Hadith collection of Imam an-Nawawi that most Muslims would have read and learnt. It's about giving advice and being sincere.
Before we can understand how to give advice, we need to understand what an advice is and what it isn't. The dictionary meaning of advice is a guidance or recommendation offered with regard to prudent future action. Criticism, which is the opposite of advice, means the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the perceived faults or mistakes.
From the meanings we can understand that giving advice is about offering someone an action that is good for them to take without looking into their faults and mistakes whereas criticism is to tell the person how wrong they are without any future action to take to correct themselves.
1. Have Sincere Intentions To Advise and Not To Shame
When you want to advice your child, make sincere intentions that it will be an advice and not to call him out for some wrongdoing or mistakes. Shaming your child is to find faults and mistakes and focus on them throughout your speech. Who likes to listen to all the mistakes they've made? No one so there's no need to rehash them. Instead, focus on the beneficial action that your child can take.
2. Give Advice with Kindness and Good Manners
Before Luqman starts giving his advice, he would call his son gently "O my son". This is according to traditions which is an endearing term for a beloved one. He didn't point out faults or shame his son, he just gave the pieces of advice.
O my son, do not associate anything with Allah. Indeed, associating partners with Allah is a great injustice. (Quran, Luqman 31:13)
This was what Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessing be upon him, did as well. He would call the child gently "O my---" before giving the advice.
Abu al-‘Abbas ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbas reports: “One day I was riding (a horse/camel) behind the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, when he said, ‘O young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of God, and He will take care of you. Be mindful of Him, and you shall find Him at your side. If you ask, ask of God. If you need help, seek it from God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together in order to help you, they would not be able to help you except if God had written so. And if the whole world were to gather together in order to harm you, they would not harm you except if God had written so. The pens have been lifted, and the pages are dry.’ ” (Related by Tirmidhi)
Notice how neither Luqman nor the Prophet, peace be upon him, found faults with the child they were speaking to but only gave actionable recommendations. All their advice contained verbs - to do something.
When you're talking to your child in a kindly gentle manner then they are more likely to listen to you and follow your advice. If you're harsh and critical then they will build a defensive wall and shut you out or even argue back at you.
3. Give Advice in Secret and Not in Public
When you give your child advice, don't do it in front of everyone. You're trying to guide them to the right course of action so it's no one's business except your child's. When it's done in the open for all to see and hear, your child might feel shamed by it.
The people watching might begin to wonder and say, "Oh why was this child given an advice? He must have done something wrong" and add their two cents worth which can then lead to discussions and criticisms.
Follow the three rules above when giving advice. Sometimes we get carried away and start to point out all our child's faults or weaknesses. But this is not a kindness. Do it gently like Luqman with his son and the Prophet, peace be upon him, to the Companions.
Read my other articles on giving advice: