Hello Thomas and Chick,
I thoroughly enjoy your newsletters and have found your philosophies
to be of enormous value in keeping me tuned in with how I want to parent.
I have a daughter just over three years old. When she gets frustrated
over not being able to manipulate something the way she wants to, she
throws the item across the room and then sits down with her legs crossed,
puts her head down, and sulks.
Got any ideas?
Need help in Missouri
Dear Missouri Parent,
We appreciate the feedback on our newsletters. It's always nice to get
a few kind words. Thanks.
Your daughter needs to learn new skills to help her get what she wants.
Teach her to use her words to tell you what she wants or what she is
frustrated about. Teach her ways to express her anger or frustration.
Teach her to cross her arms, stamp her feet, and say, "I'm frustrated!"
Have her practice with you a few times until she becomes skilled at
that communication technique.
Show your daughter that pouting doesn't work. Tell her, "Honey,
that is pouting. Pouting doesn't work in our family because we don't
know what you want. Use your words to tell us and we might be able to
Give the pouting as little attention as possible. And definitely make
sure it doesn't work.
With the throwing, tell her, "Honey, toys are not for throwing.
They're for playing with gently on the table or floor. If you choose
to play gently, then you choose to have your toys to play with. If you
decide to throw them, you have decided to have them put on the shelf
for a while." Then follow through by telling her, "I see you
decided to have your toys on the shelf for a while."
Also, remember to reinforce the times she does the desired behavior
by giving descriptive praise. "You came right over to get help
when you were frustrated. You're learning how to take care of yourself
by asking for help when you need it. Way to go!"
Hope this helps, and create a great week.
Thomas and Chick
Question: Won’t Listen
Hello Thomas and Chick,
I have a four-year-old son who doesn't listen to me. How do I get him
to listen and respond?
Frustrated Mom in Utah
Hello Frustrated Mom,
With a four-year-old it's important that you get his attention before
you start talking. Young children live in the moment and are fully immersed
in what they are doing.
To you, your message is important. To him, your message is an intrusion
into what he is currently doing. Remaining unconscious of your verbal
message is a tactic that helps him avoid dealing with the situation.
If he doesn't hear it, he won't have to respond. So it is in his best
interest to remain unconscious of your requests.
The first step in dealing with this situation is to get him conscious.
Address him by name. It is helpful to get down on his level. Sit on
the floor facing him directly when you desire his attention. If you
don’t enter his world, he won't enter yours. Get eye contact before
you begin speaking. When he looks at you, tell him your message.
Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
Question: Weekend Dad
Hello Thomas and Chick,
I am a divorced dad and have a seven-year-old daughter with visitation
every other weekend. I try to get along with my ex and work with her
on most things, including discipline. If my ex takes away TV, then there
is no TV here. But recently I have seen consequences become severe punishments,
in excess of what I feel is reasonable. For example, my daughter woke
up in the middle of the night and watched TV at my ex’s home.
She got caught and my ex gave her one week of no TV, no friends, and
no computer. I feel this is way too harsh for a seven-year-old.
Then she resisted taking a nap one day and spoke disrespectfully to
her mother. For that she received a punishment of two weeks of no friends
and one week of no computer. By the time my daughter is fourteen, what
is my ex going to do, ground her for a year?
What is the best way to approach my ex about this? I don’t want
to undermine her discipline system but I am feeling these punishments
are unreasonable. I thought about giving her one of your books, maybe
The Only Three Discipline Strategies You Will Ever Need, but I don’t
Please offer some advice.
Weekend Dad in Seattle
Dear Weekend Dad,
You have a complicated situation here with your ex.
Your daughter spends time in two households. No two households are
run the same way, as no two classrooms are run the same way. You can
have different norms and different expectations at your house. That
is permitted and even desirable at times.
What your daughter does at the ex’s house is between her and
your ex. You only have her for two weekends a month. If you have to
spend all your time disciplining, you will have no special connecting
time with her. We suggest you allow your ex to handle her own discipline
problems and you handle yours. It is not your job to take care of your
ex anymore. If she can’t handle the child in all the time she
has with her, maybe you should have some more time.
Although it is helpful for divorced parents to be working out of the
same book, it is not necessary that they always be on the same page.
You do not have to follow through on any harsh punishments. Yes, it
would be nice if you and your ex could communicate about these issues
and agree to operate in similar ways. However, you are under no obligation
to follow through on what you deem as inappropriate punishment.
Punishment does not work, as you know from reading The Only Three Discipline
Strategies You Will Ever Need. What works is when children experience
the natural or legitimate consequences of their behavior. If they choose
not to handle responsibility well, they choose to temporarily lose the
opportunity to have that responsibility. It is not the severity of a
consequence that makes this work. It is the certainty.
Tell your ex openly and honestly about your discipline concerns. She
may be willing to move closer to your beliefs.
Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
Question: Hitting and Kicking
Dear Chick and Thomas,
I am the mother of a very willful and delightful 3½-year-old.
She has recently decided to try hitting and kicking as a way of acting
out. She directs most of this behavior at one of our dogs and sometimes
me and my husband. When she does it - we immediately pick her up, carry
her into her bedroom, sit on her bed with her, and explain that hitting
and kicking is not an appropriate way to express her anger and that
it is hurtful to herself and others. We explain that she needs to use
words and that if she's feeling frustrated to tell us and we can help
her figure out a way to resolve the frustration. We wait in her room
with her until she calms down, but we don't allow her to leave until
she is ready to apologize to whomever she hit (one of us or the dogs).
I should also mention that immediately after she hits one of the dogs
- I immediately give the dog lots of loving and attention, asking "Oh,
are you okay? That looked like it hurt." Then I take her to her
room for the "discussion." In our discussions we have been
consistent in explaining that we don't allow hitting or kicking in our
house, that we would never let anyone do that to her and we won’t
allow her to do it to others.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Are we on the right track?
I realize we are somewhat limited to what a 3½-year-old can understand,
and I'm concerned that what we are doing may not reach her because she
may not be able to completely understand the concept of empathy for
others at this early age.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this email.
Kimberly from Washington
You are right on track with our philosophy. We like it that you go to
the victim first and empathize with the dog or other sibling. Removing
the child immediately to an area where she can get back peacefully to
the frontal lobe of her brain is also what we recommend. The problem
solving you do with her fits is helpful. Fixing the problem is more
important than fixing blame, in our opinion.
The only suggestion we would offer is, instead of apologizing, have
her tell the victim what she would do differently next time or what
she wished she had done this time. This reinforces the teaching piece
you do when you talk with her. Continue to concentrate on teaching rather
than on using discipline techniques that punish.
Stick with it and do it with gentleness and love.
Chick and Thomas
Question: Biting Nails
Hello Chick and Thomas,
It was good to listen to you both here in Cancún. Thank you
for presenting The Five Voices of Enlightened Parenting. It was very
interesting to know there are different voices we can use in parenting
situations. We are trying to use them every day. I received my first
e-mail newsletter from you. It was very interesting and helpful. Thanks.
Could I ask you for advice? It is about my daughter. She will be 6
in September. She is very intelligent, caring, and fun to be with. She
is always happy, outgoing and everybody loves her. What I admire the
most about her is her strong and sometimes tough character. She will
always accomplish what she wants.
What I'm concerned about is that she started biting her nails last
year. I feel terrible about it. I feel as if she hurts herself every
time she bites them and I can't do anything to prevent or stop it. These
past months she even started to tear her toenails, causing infections.
I've talked to her in a nice, happy, serious, mad, angry and hopeless
way and yet nothing. We've created goal plans, accomplishment charts,
beauty incentives, and even bought her a beauty purse to take to school.
I've noticed the nail biting increases at school time. Perhaps when
she feels there's something she will not be good at, or when she feels
insecure about some situation?
I give up. I do not know how to handle the situation.
Concerned mother from Mexico
Hello Concerned Mother,
Thank you for your kind words about our seminar.
We have seen nail biting in other children your daughter's age. It
is more common than you might think. The nail biting is an outward representation
of internal anxiety and worry. It is usually related to self-esteem
The internal anxiety about not being good enough or worrying about
performance often turns into a habit that is hard to break. Attempting
to break this habit with gifts or a special nail polish will not work
because the root cause—anxiety—still exists. Instead, focus
on helping your daughter feel more comfortable with who she is and help
her see the positive choices she makes in other areas of her life that
are beneficial to her. Draw attention away from the nail biting situation
and focus on the positive aspects of her growth and choices.
Use the voice of nurture as much as possible around the nail biting
issue. Avoid both the voice of structure and the voice of discipline
with the nail biting. These voices have the potential of making the
nervous habit last longer.
Your daughter will give up the nail biting as she grows and becomes
more confident in herself. Allow her the time and space to do so. You
can also seek the assistance of a family therapist who can help you
explore your daughter's anxiety and how the family can best support
her in her development.
Blessings to you and your family.
Thomas and Chick
Question: Giving up the Crib
Hello Thomas and Chick,
I just read your article, "Banishing Bedtime Blues." I loved
it. It made so much sense to me. Do you do consulting? What is the Parent
I have a two-year-old and we are expecting a new baby any day now.
My toddler is not fully verbal and we are having trouble getting her
to vacate the crib and convert to a toddler bed. Any advice you could
give is greatly appreciated, as we are all greatly sleep deprived.
Soon to Be a Mom Again
Hello, Soon to Be a Mom Again,
Thank you for the feedback on our article. Glad you found it useful.
We will answer your three questions in the order you asked them.
1.) Yes, we do consulting. We travel all over the country as well as
internationally to present our seminars and workshops. You can find
the topics we offer on our websites, www.thomashaller.com and www.chickmoorman.com.
Also, a listing of upcoming events is included at the bottom of all
2.) The Parent Talk System is a style of communicating with children
that creates emotionally healthy family relationships. It is comprised
of a series of verbal skills to help parents achieve their desired goal
of raising responsible, caring, confident children. Each year we offer
two Training of Trainers workshops to develop local facilitators to
take the skill-training back to their communities. For further information
on this exciting training opportunity go to http://www.chickmoorman.com/PTtrainerTraining.html
3.) Congratulations on the new baby. In terms of the toddler/bed dilemma,
we suggest you consider allowing your child to vacate the crib on her
schedule. It sounds to us as if you want her to vacate it on your schedule.
Rest assured that she will vacate the crib. It will be a lot easier
on all of you if you allow her to do it when she is ready.
You have a young child who will have to be sharing the attention of
Mommy and Daddy real soon. You can expect that she will revert to some
younger behaviors when the baby comes. That is normal. If you force
her to give up the crib for the baby, she will resent it and the baby
Put a toddler bed in the room with the crib. Use it for other activities,
like reading stories, playing a game, etc. Make it a habit to read together
in the toddler bed right before bedtime. Give her some special attention
there, like backrubs. If you don't coerce her, eventually she will make
a natural and peaceful transition.
Thomas and Chick
Question: Want Kids to Read
Hello Chick and Thomas,
My next-door neighbor has two children. They are 9 and 11 years old.
She wants them to read over the summer and not spend so much time watching
TV and playing video games. In order to encourage her children to read
she is paying them two dollars for every book they read. According to
her, they have read several books already. Something in my gut tells
me this is NOT a good idea.
What is your opinion?
Want My Kids to Read Too
Hello, Want My Kids to Read Too,
Thank you for your question. Trust your gut. There is real reason to
feel uneasy about the process your neighbor embraces.
We are totally opposed to contests, stars, stickers, money, vacation
trips, or any other external rewards to bribe children to read. Your
neighbor is not helping her children learn to read. She is helping them
learn that reading is so boring and so awful that we have to pay people
to do it.
One major problem with rewarding kids is that it does not help them
develop a commitment to a task or a desire to keep doing it after the
reward stops. When the payoff ends, so does the activity. At the end
of the reward cycle, children who are rewarded for doing an activity
actually choose the activity less often than children who were never
rewarded to begin with. In essence, your neighbor is creating children
who will read less in the long run.
With the system employed by your well-intentioned neighbor, children
do not come to see themselves as readers. They attribute the behavior
of reading to the reward, not to themselves. They see themselves as
a person who reads for money rather than as someone who reads for pleasure,
to find meaning, to be entertained, or because they love it. They have
learned that the point of reading is to get the reward.
Paying kids to read or providing any other form of external motivation
actually harms internal motivation. As external motivation increases,
internal motivation erodes. The more a child is rewarded externally
for doing something like reading, the greater the chance he or she will
lose interest in the activity once the reward ends.
Read to your children, take them to the library and bookstore, let
them observe you reading. Talk to them about the meaning you get from
books. Create a quiet reading time before bedtime. These activities,
done regularly, will do more to help your children become excited readers
than any amount of money you could pay them. Your money is better spent
on buying books. Invest it in your children at a local book store.
Chick and Thomas
Question: Math Anxiety
I'm so happy that I saw/heard you at the Bedford Library in Monroe
County a couple weeks back. My friend (also the president of our preschool)
has been raving about you for nearly 4 years now. Now I know what all
the hype was about. I look forward to reading your books & receiving
more newsletters. And, I am also happy to see that you seem to be healthy
& recuperating well from your health setbacks.
In Bedford, you spoke about math anxiety & it reminded me of an
incident a few years back. At the time, my daughter was about 4 and
got some wipe-off addition cards for Christmas. She completed the whole
deck in about an hour to my amazement so I used descriptive praise like
you recommend and proudly exclaimed, "Wow, Natalie! You did all
72 math problems without even taking a rest!"
Obviously upset, she cried out, "Problem? What's the problem?"
I realized how ignorant it is to refer to math equations as problems
& to this day my husband and I are still trying to break ourselves
of that bad habit of using the term math problem! How discouraging to
be introduced to a new process as a problem. Thankfully, Natalie is
now finishing 1st grade and often writes & solves math equations
for fun & her teacher regularly sends home math games to play with
dice & playing cards. How refreshing to approach it playfully, rather
than with the agonizing & distressful attitude that our generation
Thanks again! Keep up the great work!!
Babs in Monroe, MI
Yes, why do we call them problems? You know I believe in the power
of words and advocate being impeccable in our choice of language in
the Parent Talk book. I hadn’t really thought about the impact
that word can have on children used in that context. I appreciate you
sharing your insight.
Question: Blowing a Good Parenting Moment
Chick and Thomas,
I love your books as well as your wonderful newsletter.
My wife and I have three beautiful children. Their ages are 8, 4, and
1. I wish to ask one question: What is your advice to us parents who
occasionally blow every good and noble lesson we've learned from you?
You know, when the frustrations of daily life, i.e., work and family
and financial crisis, etc., have been allowed to drive us to the point
of sharing the frustration in a way that is unproductive and completely
counter to the lessons we've learned. For instance, when I find myself
losing my temper and my self-control and I raise my voice to the point
of shouting at my children as an unproductive response to their unwillingness
to do as I've asked them, which ends in the baby grabbing the 4-year-old's
food and spilling it onto the floor, after I'd told them to move the
food away from the edge of the table before the baby grabs hold of it
and spills it . . . (Sounds petty to me even now . . .) But my intense
response makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed of my behavior, plus
I realize that I am, thereby, modeling a very undesirable behavior to
my children, which compounds my feelings.
I wind up disliking myself for behaving so ridiculously . . . I'm assuming
that I'm not the only concerned dad out there who occasionally behaves
like a moron in front of his little gifts and blessings from the Good
Lord. So, Chick and Thomas, what advice do you offer for those of us
in situations such as mine?
Curt, Tallahassee, FL
No one does perfect parenting all the time. We all blow it on occasion.
The positive point here is that you hear it, you notice, and you want
to do it differently. Being conscious of your words and actions and
the effect they have on children is a big step in the right direction.
If you remain unconscious there is not much you can do to move to enlightened
parenting. Like yourself for being a conscious parent.
The first commitment in The 10 Commitments book is “I commit
to remembering that experience can be messy.” Things do get spilled.
See it as an opportunity to teach solution seeking. Debrief with your
children how the mess happened and what can be done next time to prevent
it. Involve them in the search for solutions. The dialog and learning
that can come from this is more valuable than making sure no mess happens
to begin with.
Get conscious of the volume of your voice. Use the loudness as a signal
to back off. Take three deep breaths, count to ten. Move UP in consciousness
before you move IN with action. (Actually the fourth commitment.) Move
up by talking to yourself before you talk to the child. Say to yourself,
“I want to remember he is only four. Four-year-olds spill things,
they keep food close to the edge of the table, they don’t think
like an adult. I can’t expect a four-year-old to be six or eight.”
By moving UP in consciousness before you move IN with action you insure
the action you take will have a greater chance of impacting the child
positively without wounding the spirit.
Chick and Tom
Question: Young Children and Competition
I have a five-year-old son (oldest of three other siblings) who has
a very hard time losing---whether in sports, board games, or whatever.
He starts crying, yelling, and gets really upset, frustrated, and angry.
What is the best way of handling his anger, frustration, and clear disappointment
with himself and the game? We want him to feel good about himself regardless
of whether or not he wins.
Mother of a Winner No Matter What
Dear Mother of a Winner No Matter What,
Our first thought is that five is too young to be involved in competition.
We recommend cooperative games where everyone works together to create
a result so all can win together. When games are frustrating to children,
they may be over the child's head. You may need to redirect here by
structuring other activities that are not so frustrating.
Handle anger by naming it and reflecting it back to him. "I see
you are really angry." "You seem really frustrated with this
game." "Your tears show me you're unhappy with the results
here." Honor his feelings and give nurturing.
Focus on what your son does accomplish. Stay away from evaluative praise
like "Good boy" and "Great job." Use Parent Talk
that speaks to accomplishments. "You put three pieces in the puzzle."
"Oh, you found where another one goes." "I noticed you
stacked the blocks as high as your waist."
And yes, continue to view your child as a winner, no matter what.
--Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
More on Competition
Dear Mr. Moorman and Mr. Haller,
I have read several of your books and have made a ritual of reading
something from Parent Talk every night to continue reprogramming my
parental language center. I have two daughters, 6 yrs and 3 ½
years old. My six year old has had difficulty with the concept of competition,
especially 'losing', since I can remember. As parents, my husband and
I have been sensitive to this over the years and have concentrated on
playing cooperative games with each other. My daughter wanted to play
soccer last year, and we supported this. She cried every time the other
team scored a goal. We have worked hard with her to de-emphasize the
winning/losing aspect of the game and emphasize the other aspects such
as exercise, being with friends, kicking the ball, running, etc. We
have used descriptive terms with her and have stayed away from using
evaluative language. As time has gone on, and she has had more experience,
her response to the other team scoring has been somewhat less emotional.
Interestingly, even though she experiences a fairly intense emotional
wound, she doesn't want to quit, she just keeps moving through it. Also,
this has been a perfect opportunity for me to work on my own shame around
her crying, and I have been somewhat successful.
The problem that is beginning to surface is occurring in first grade.
Yesterday, one of her teachers called to tell me about a "problem"
she had with my daughter in her classroom. She described the game the
teacher was playing with the class as "hot potato". She turned
the lights off, and the children would pass the potato to each other.
Then the teacher would turn the lights on, and whoever was holding the
potato was "out" and had to sit on a chair outside of the
circle. Also, as she explained, the children who did not have the potato
would cheer for themselves because they did not "lose". Well,
my daughter was one of the first ones out of the game, and apparently
"lost it", according to her teacher. When the other children
cheered, she cried very hard and was inconsolable for a while.
My daughter explained to the teacher that she "felt sad"
because she felt as though the other children were laughing at her because
she "lost". The teacher, unfortunately, told my child that
she was going to get into trouble because she was "not telling
the truth". The teacher did not think the other children were laughing
at her. So not only did my daughter feel wounded from this game, but
also because she was accused of lying about her own, seemingly accurate,
How can I help my daughter work through this ego attachment to winning
and losing? What language can I use? How do you feel about competition
in the schools for children this age and should I approach the teachers/principle
regarding this issue?
1. How can I help my daughter work through this ego attachment to winning
and losing? What language can I use?
2. How do you feel about competition in the schools for children this
age and should I approach the teachers/principle regarding this issue?
Any words you might have to share would be so incredibly valuable
to me. Thank you for your time and attention.
Not Hot for Hot Potato
Hello Not Hot,
We like the way you are going after the Parent Talk concepts. That
is a great way to integrate the skills into your life.
About the competition challenge . . .
Sounds like you are doing much of what we recommend . . . cooperative
games, emphasizing the other aspects of the game, using descriptive
comments, etc. Way to go!
Make sure your child has an empowered choice around the issue of participating
in competitive activities. Competition may not be her style and she
needs to know she can choose not to participate if that does not fit
with who she is or who she wants to be. Let her know that if she does
choose the activity, she is choosing it for a different reason than
many of her teammates. They are playing to win. She is choosing to play
for exercise or to be with her friends, or to improve skills or to run
Debrief after every experience. "What was it like for you?"
"What did you enjoy?" "Tell me about the hardest part
or the part you didn't like." "How is this similar to playing
checkers?" "How is it different?" Debriefing makes sure
she has a voice both before and after the competitive experience.
Our biggest concern here is the teacher's Hot Potato activity. It is
like musical chairs, dodge ball, and other games of elimination. We
are totally opposed to these activities. There is no sound reason for
any FORCED competition before third grade. And even then, competition
should be voluntary.
Why is it that one emotional response to the game (crying) is described
as "lost it" and another emotional response (cheering) is
not described as "losing it"? Both are valid and real responses
on the part of a child. Why is one OK and another not valued? Both are
honest, open reactions by a young child. Both should be validated by
the adult in charge.
Your daughter was not validated. Her feelings are real for her and
need to be honored as such. To tell her that she was lying is difficult
to understand. Does this teacher know what your daughter's feelings
are? Can she get inside her skin and feel for her? We can see where
she may feel your child's perception is inaccurate, but to describe
it as a lie could well be a perception error on the teacher's part.
Shall we tell her she is lying about your daughter? We don't think so.
But she may have a perception problem. She does have a "how do
you treat children caught up in strong emotion" problem.
Check with the teacher and see if it would be OK for your daughter
to choose not to participate in the potato game. There is NO educational
value in it.
Your daughter may gravitate to individual sports like running and do
it just for her pleasure, not to compete. She may ride horses not to
show them but just to enjoy their existence and beauty. We need more
people like that.
We think you are on the right track.
Chick and Thomas
Question: Cussing Toddler
Hello Thomas and Chick,
My son is a 2 1/2 year old toddler. He has begun cussing. He doesn't
get it from me or his mother. We are both extremely furious and at our
wits end. We have punished him with time out and by taking toys away.
He still does it. His mother has threatened to wash his mouth out with
soap. I don't like that idea, but am considering a swift swat on the
butt if he does it again. How do I curb the cursing habit in my son?
Father Who Needs Help with Discipline.
Dear Father Who Needs Help with Discipline,
We agree with part of your signature, but not all of it. It is clear,
as you suggest, that you need help. But discipline is not the area in
which intervention is required with this youngster. In our opinion,
you have been too quick to jump to the punishment stance. You have bypassed
two important steps: providing structure, and teaching the behavior
you want. There is much more to effective parenting than simply punishing
a child every time he chooses an inappropriate behavior. Provide structure,
then teaching. Consequences can follow those steps if necessary.
First, it is important to note that toddlers are learning the language
of those around them. A toddler does not just start cussing unless he
has been hearing it somewhere. You need to isolate the source of the
cussing and remove it. If you fail to take this step, any other attempts
to limit cussing will be met with great resistance and will not be understood
by your child. Someone is cussing in the presence of your toddler. It
might be another adult, an older sibling, a peer or older child at day
care. It could be the television that is providing him with the verbal
model he is emulating.
Provide appropriate structure in your son's environment by eliminating
the source of the cussing before you take any other step. If the source
is a friend, explain the situation and ask them to join you in the process
of helping your toddler learn appropriate words of expression. If it
is an older sibling, you have to change the way the entire family uses
words and start by teaching the older child new behaviors. If day care
is where he is hearing cussing, reevaluate the day care setting and
ask yourself what other behaviors your toddler may be learning there
as well. Discuss your concerns with the day care provider, and if things
don't change, change day care providers.
Second, when a toddler does cuss, the more shocked your reaction the
more attention he gets. If your son is angry and yells out a cuss word,
move in by acknowledging the anger or frustration and give him a different
word to say. "Billy, you sound angry. When we are angry in our
house we say, 'I'm angry' or 'I'm frustrated.'" Don't make a big
deal out of the fact that he cussed. Give him the appropriate words
to use to express himself. This is the teaching stance, and it is much
more appropriate for dealing with a toddler than the punishment stance.
Simply stated, if you want a behavior, you have to teach a behavior.
Children don't instinctively know how to express their feelings or use
words appropriately. They are experimenting and mimicking. This is normal
behavior for a toddler. Punishing a toddler does not help him learn.
Instead, redirect, give him new words to use. Explain to him the type
of words that you use in your family and stay focused on the positive
side of language and the power it possesses.
Third, to break a toddler's cussing habit, intervene on the first cuss
word uttered. Give the child a new set of words to use. Consider this:
if you can name it, you can tame it. Give the inappropriate language
a name. In this case, call it "cussing." Confront the toddler
by saying, "Lionel, that is cussing. We don't use those kinds of
words in our family. What we do here is say . . . (Add what you and
those in your family say. Use the words that are already used by others
in your family so they have a context in which to use them again.)
Fourth, look for opportunities to help your toddler before he cusses.
Catch him before he utters the inappropriate word. Say, "This is
a good time to say . . ." and give him the words he hears you and
other family members say in similar situations. Stay true to how your
Please do not overreact to your toddler's cussing by hitting him or
washing his mouth out with soap. If you do that, you are revealing as
much lack of skill as a parent as he is in communicating as a toddler.
Withhold punishment. Take the teaching stance. In doing so, you will
create the type of family harmony that results from understanding the
developmental stages of toddlers and helping them deal with their world
in grace-full, solution-seeking ways.
Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman
Question: Hair Washing Hassle
Hello Chick and Thomas,
I heard both of you speak at the Michigan PTA. Your sessions were practical
and down to earth. I began using many of the ideas right away. I bought
The 10 Commitments book and found it extremely useful. I am a committed
parent--in most areas. And I am a frustrated parent at the moment. I
hope you can help.
My two-year-old daughter doesn't like to get her hair washed. She goes
bonkers every time I try to do it. It is such a hassle. My husband,
my daughter, and I dread bath time every evening. Her tantrums are frustrating
and irritating. After the bath scene, it takes an hour to calm her down.
I don't know what to do. I have been working on the fourth commitment,
Managing My Mind first, but I am not being very successful.
Thanks for your help,
Ready to Pull My Own Hair
Dear Ready to Pull,
Go slow and easy with your daughter. We recommend you don't wash her
hair if it's not dirty. This isn't something that needs to be done every
night. Don't expect her to change overnight. She will grow and change
in her own time when she feels ready.
In the meantime, develop some rituals around the hair-washing scenario.
Make it fun. Splash, play, blow bubbles in the tub. Create washing time
as a fun time for you and her. Make the whole experience be about more
than just washing hair.
Have her wash her dolly's hair and explain why she needs to do it for
her dolly. Teach her to be gentle with the doll and be careful not to
get any soap in the doll's eyes. Teach her to help the doll stay calm
Do not wash hair under a faucet. Use a cup to put the water on her head.
You can purchase a visor (similar to a hat) that she can wear to keep
the water from getting on her face, while still washing her hair.
We also suggest that you get her involved in swimming classes so she
can learn that water is fun and safe to be around. This will empower
her around her fear and help her relax.
Reread the commitment on moving UP before you move IN (the fourth commitment).
We want you to keep your hair and your peace of mind.
Chick and Thomas
Question: Failing in School
Hi Chick and Thomas,
I have a son who is in 4th grade. I just got a call from his teacher
at home last night letting me know that he is failing every subject
and his report card will show all "E's". My son has brought
home mostly good grades and I was surprised to hear this. The teacher
explained that he has several missing assignments that didn't get handed
in and his test scores were bad. We have had trouble with him staying
focused in the classroom, but when he does get his work done, he does
The teacher has him seated separately away from the other students
because he causes a lot of distractions. I really don't like that he
has been separated from the rest of the class. I imagine him sitting
in a corner with a dunce hat on. My husband has been to the classroom
a couple of times to observe the situation. My husband says it's very
boring to sit in the classroom because our son doesn't need help with
his work. He just needs help to stay focused on the work. The teacher
thinks maybe he has ADD, but I had him tested at Sylvan Learning Center
when he was in 1st grade and the results were negative. The teacher
thinks we may need to retain him in the 4th grade if he doesn't make
progress by the end of the year. I have been searching the internet
trying to find ways to help my son learn to concentrate and stay focused.
There isn't a lot of information out there that I can find. So far,
I've been talking with my son frequently about concentration, pointing
out times when I notice him doing it. I bought a couple of games such
as Simon, where he has to concentrate on the color pattern and repeat
it. I have noticed that he gets bored with it after about 2-3 minutes.
Do you have any suggestions at all? I would appreciate anything that
Hello Troubled Parent,
It is difficult for us to respond without knowing much more about the
actual situation. It could be that your son is bored out of his mind
in that class. What activities does he have to do? Is it all seat work
or are there learning centers and opportunities for students to engage
in cooperative learning going on? Can he work at his own pace, or is
he forced to go along with everyone who may be behind or ahead of him?
Is the learning active or does he have to sit for long periods of time?
Does the teacher bond with the children and work to build relationship
or is she more interested in power and control? All of these considerations
and more feed into your son's behavior.
We are wondering why you were not notified by this teacher before the
situation got to the point where your son was failing every class. It
is much easier to catch up when you are not so far behind. You may want
to ask that question.
If you are satisfied that the classroom is being run effectively, you
might want to consider creating a plan to give your child the structure
he needs to complete his work.
1. Tell him if he chooses to complete his work at school then he has
chosen to have the weekend free to do his normal activities. In other
words, opportunity equals responsibility. If he keeps his responsibility
up (completing his work and turning it in), he continues to earn opportunity
(fun activities on the weekend). If responsibility goes down, so does
2. Check with the teacher every Friday. Make a list of all missing
and incomplete assignments.
3. Set a weekend time for your son to complete his work. ALL missing
and incomplete assignments need to be made up on the weekend before
any other activities are engaged in.
4. Stick to this plan.
5. Remind him that if he chooses to do his work at school, then he
will have none at home. If he chooses not to do it at school, he can
choose to do it at home. Leave that choice up to him.
6. Don't make him wrong, bad, lazy, or non-focused. Just make him someone
who needs to get his work done and make sure he does that first. And
do it with an open heart.
Consistency is the key. Hang with it. If he continues to have trouble,
get him a tutor.
Hope this helps.
Chick and Thomas
Question: Aggressive son likes “bad guys.”
Good Morning Gentlemen,
A concern that has developed is that my son is enthralled with "bad
guys" and wants to become one when he grows up, according to a
comment on a form he dictated to a tutor. His teacher also validates
that he tends to be more aggressive than other boys and seems to be
excited by the thought of the tough guy image. On the other hand, he
can be the most caring, compassionate child I have ever met. He is aware
of others' feelings and is empathetic to their situation and experiences.
Another comment on his form was "My family is.......mad."
This also raises a huge red flag in my mind. I don't believe we are
mad. At times we do get frustrated with behavior. However, overall we
are very loving and involved with our children. Could this behavior/attitude
be an attempt to receive extra attention?
What suggestions can you give us to encourage comments that reflect
a compassionate frame of mind from our child and possibly us if we really
seem "mad"? I will be rereading the Parent Talk book and listening
to the Parent Talk CD's as I await your response.
San Diego, CA
Yes, aggressive behavior is often a call for attention and more specifically
a call for love. See it as an indication that your child is unskilled
and needs love from you in the form of attention and teaching.
It is hard to say whether or not you are "mad' as he describes
it. Maybe he is right about that. Maybe he isn't. But what if he is
right? If nothing else, it is part of his perception. It is part of
what he believes.
Help him learn how a loving family communicates when they are mad.
Model for him the Describe, Describe, Describe technique that we include
in the Parent Talk book. Describe what you see. "I see juice spilled
on the coffee table." Describe how you are feeling. "I feel
frustrated." Describe what needs to be done. "Juice spills
need to be cleaned up with a wet rag." When you use this Parent
Talk technique, you refrain from attacking character and personality.
Teach him to communicate his anger effectively. Teach him to say, "Your
voice is too loud for me now. Can you tell me softer?" or "Yelling
scares me." If you teach him to communicate this way, he will be
giving you clues as to when he thinks you are mad. This will give you
some feedback to determine how you are coming across to him and help
you decide if you want to change the tone or content of your language
Thomas and Chick
Question: Kids Won’t Listen
Dear Mr. Moorman and Mr. Haller,
Thank you for all that you do to help parents be all that we can be!
Your newsletters are wonderful and so helpful.
My children are 9, 7, and 6. My question is this: Despite the dangers
involved, regardless of where we are or what we're doing, I have a hard
time getting my children to LISTEN. I can ask them to stay by me in
the store or pick their dirty clothes up after a shower, but I cannot
get them to respond without persuasion or threats. And if I succeed
once, there is no guarantee that it will happen the next time without
intervention. I have repeatedly explained to them the dangers involved
in wandering off on their own as well as the responsibility that they
have as a member of this family. My youngest responds to the rationalization
that if he doesn't do his jobs it just makes more work for Mom and will
leave less playtime for us. The other two, however, appear at times
to simply "take control" of the house and make up their minds
what they are going to do and what they are not. I hate using the divorce
as an excuse and I don't really believe that is the underlying problem.
I understand that the choice to be a "whole family" was taken
away from them and that they may be acting out accordingly, but we have
been through a year and a half adjustment time already and I think for
their own safety, my sanity, and the well being of our family, something
needs to change. If that needs to be me, please tell me how and I will
work toward that.
Thank you so much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you
Desperate for Answers
Hello Desperate for Answers,
You are right that it is difficult for us to give advice knowing so
little about your situation.
There are some things we know about children that we will share with
you here. You can fit them to the situations as you feel appropriate.
1. It is not appropriate for children to "take control" of
the house. The parent needs to be in control. Children of all ages can
have some choices, but the adult needs to structure those choices and
be in charge.
2. Children need consistency. They need a consistent routine and consistent
consequences when they make inappropriate choices. When discipline is
handed out haphazardly, children are willing to play the odds that this
time will be the time the consequence is not delivered. Follow through
3. Talk less. Act more. Spend less time convincing, arguing, talking
into, threatening, persuading, etc. Just take action. Say it once and
then follow up with whatever you would do if you say it the tenth time
and they don't follow through. They may not be listening because they
know you are not serious until the 5th or the 10th time. Be serious
the first time, every time.
4. Do not use divorce as an excuse. Children are changed by divorce.
Some for worse. Some for better. They need to learn to be self-responsible
whether or not you had a divorce. It may be harder on you because you
have to do more of the work. Do it. They are worth it.
You cannot control the divorce thing. It is over. What you can control
is the amount of structure, love and consistency you provide. Concentrate
Read parenting books. Get parenting CD's. Take a parenting class. Go
after this responsibility seriously. Find a single-parent support group.
Make some time for yourself so that when you come back to them you are
refreshed and have more to give.
Your children's behaviors are not abnormal. All kids do those things.
And you need to respond with structure, love and consistency.
You can do it. Stay on it. And do it with an open heart. Implementing
consequences is one of the most loving things you can do. Give them
that love, regularly.
Hope this helps.
Chick and Thomas
Question: Picking Up Toys
Hello Thomas and Chick,
I have 3 children, ages 2 (girl), 5 (girl), and 8 (boy). I have a hard
time every day with them picking up after they are done playing with
things. I have tried taking things away if they don't pick it up, but
they don't really seem to care. One time I actually boxed everything
up from my son’s room except his bed and dresser, but he didn't
seem to care. He had other toys from his sisters’ rooms to play
with. I told him he could earn his toys back one by one, but he just
commented, "I don't care."
The 2-year-old will get things out I think to just make a mess. And
the 5-year-old just cries and says, "I need help," and won’t
do anything as far as chores unless you're helping her which before
you know it she’s gone and you're left picking things up.
Christmas is coming and I feel why should they get more things that
I have to clean up every day? But how can I deprive them of Christmas?
I know you’re going to say that I don't have to do anything. That
I'm choosing to pick up after them if they won't, but I choose not to
have a cluttered house and if they won't pick things up then I guess
that leaves me to pick things up.
What can I do to get them to see that I have my own responsibilities
with working full time, and cooking, and cleaning, and taking them to
their extra activities and that I shouldn't have to pick up after them
Children 2, 5, and 8 years old will not fully see and appreciate the
adult responsibilities you handle daily. They are so immersed in their
own world that they do not have the maturity and insight to put themselves
in your shoes. You say they don’t seem to care. They probably
Two-year-olds do not get things out just to make a mess. Their minds
do not operate like that. They get things out because it is fun to get
things out. Then, because their attention span is from 3-5 minutes,
they see something else and move on. They do not do this to purposefully
frustrate you or make more work for you. This child is simply being
two years old. That is what two-year-olds do.
It sounds as though you see yourself as a victim here. You can create
a lot of resentment and frustration for yourself if you continue to
take that stance. It’s time to get empowered and take control
of this situation. Begin by containing the mess. Young children will
make a mess, so your best hope is to contain it. Keep messes in one
area only, a bedroom or play area. Make the other areas of your home
off limits for toys and other playthings.
Instead of spending your time dealing with messes after the fact, invest
your parenting time on the front end, before messes occur. When a child
gets something out, nothing else gets taken out until that is put away.
This will take some front-end monitoring on your part for several weeks
until the new norm becomes a reality. You will have to stay on top of
this and watch for children to wander off without putting things away.
Catch them immediately, remind them of your home rule, and see that
it is enforced. Invest the time in teaching your children how to make
an effective transition from one activity to another. If you are lax
here, they will learn to be lax in putting things away. You can care
on the front end and work there or you can care on the back end and
work there. Those are your two choices. Sounds like you don’t
like doing the back-end work. If that is so, you only have one choice
if you want a clean home and responsible children.
Good parenting is not time efficient. This will take a commitment on
your part. You have to be the one to decide to make it.
Thomas and Chick
Dear Chick and Thomas,
I don't know where else to turn and I need help desperately! My daughter,
in kindergarten, has started getting homework. I can only take 10 minutes
and then I'm at my wits’ end. It drives me insane when she doesn't
pay attention, fools around, plays with her pencil, looks off the other
way, writes a letter and then acts like she never saw the letter when
it's time to write it again. I just got done writing words with her
and I am so full of anxiety, frustration and honestly - anger. During
the homework time I am doubting myself, doubting her, thinking she has
a learning disability, and so on. I know part of it is that it isn't
fun. But how do you make homework fun? I'm having all kinds of flashbacks
from when I was little!! I don't want it to be the same and we have
a long way to go! Do you know of a good book or a technique? Help, I'm
at my wits’ end and she's only 5! How do I even know what's normal
and what she should be able to do and not do?
Thanks for anything you have to say, even just for letting me vent!
At My Wits’ End
Dear Wits’ End,
Kindergartners should not be doing homework. Homework should not begin
until at least third grade and then it needs to be only activities that
kids can do without struggling. Homework for young children should be
confined to activities that allow them to come home and show off or
activities that bring the family together and build connectedness.
It sounds like it might be time for you to go to school and start asking
questions. Your daughter may be enrolled in one of those schools that
is caught up in the achievement frenzy. In an effort to show increased
test scores, many schools are pushing first-grade curriculum down into
kindergarten regardless of whether or not children are ready for it.
You may have your child in a kindergarten room that values forced achievement
above the needs of the child and one that ignores appropriate early
Your child’s reaction to the homework is not yet an indication
that she has a learning disability. It is more a situation where inappropriate
activities are forced on children too young. A 3-5 minute activity that
the child can do, that is fun to do, a couple of times a month is the
ONLY appropriate homework for a kindergartner. We suspect your child
would be able to handle that.
The school needs to relax. And so do you so that you don’t add
any unhelpful pressure to this situation. If you and the school continue
to pressure this child at this age, a leaning disability will occur.
It’s called hating school.
Become an advocate for your child. Invite the teacher to give her less
seatwork-oriented activities and explain that the homework is interfering
with your family time. Ask the teacher to design more active assignments
that take less time and occur less frequently. Detail your frustration.
If the teacher persists in giving homework that you feel is inappropriate,
send it back with a polite note explaining how you feel about it. Tell
the teacher what you did with family time that night and all the learning
that happened because of it.
Have fun. After all, isn’t fun the first part of fundamentals?
Chick and Thomas