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I'm trying to apply the techniques in the "How to talk to kids..." book and having some trouble.

(19 Posts)
murmuration Thu 27-Nov-14 14:51:20

I got that "How to talk to kids so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk" book. I like it quite a bit! I'm wondering if people can help me with applying the techniques in it? (Especially as it says it's Mumsnet recommended right on the cover smile )

I'm afraid I'm having trouble right at the start, in the accepting emotions bit. In reading it, I've realised that I am constantly negating DD (2.5yo) -- especially in telling her that she shouldn't be upset about certain things. I am able to accept her emotion that the TV show has ended, or her tower fell down, or things like that. Where I have trouble is when she gets upset over things like she asks for chocolate for breakfast and I say no. Before I would have told her that's not something to get upset over -- she's never been allowed chocolate for breakfast and so shouldn't expect it!

But now I'm trying to accept the emotion. Except I'm not quite sure how. The listen attentively/acknowledge techniques don't really seem to work for toddlers. I can't "give in fantasy", because I don't wish I could give her chocolate for breakfast. If I did, I would. And giving it a name, "You're really disappointed you can't have chocolate for breakfast" seems to make her even more upset! That's the opposite to what the book says, as it tells all sorts of stories of how accepting the emotion leads to less upset. Although is that right? Was I squashing the exhibition of emotion she had before, and now all she's doing is showing it to me? Or am I really making her more upset?

I have more trouble with later parts, but I'll start with this one and see if anyone has any advice.

squizita Thu 27-Nov-14 15:07:09

At work I would say something like "Well yes I understand you're upset: that was a nice cartoon. It's a shame it's over but I can't make it come back. Can you think of something you could watch to cheer up?"
Works with toddlers ... to 16 year old raging about "unfair" teachers. grin
I just describe why they're upset and say yes I can see why - then if it's something that can be changed/distracted offer them that, and just be sympathetic otherwise.

Dunno if that's how they do it in books but it seems to work!

squizita Thu 27-Nov-14 15:11:25

... and sometimes they will "blow up" short term! But it seems to work in the long term.

Sometimes I might take an empathy tone "I WISH we could eat chocolate for breakfast. It's sad we can't isn't it? But the Dr and dentist say not to -its just for treats..." you might get a big blow up BUT after that they kind of get that it's a bit of a bum and it's ok nor to like the fact we can't just eat sweets ... but we can't. Mummy/Miss thinks it's a drag too but such is life.

melisma Thu 27-Nov-14 15:19:22

The "fantasy" thing I think means just engaging their imagination, so I would say to DS "I bet when you're grown up, you'll decide to have chocolate every day for breakfast"-that would usually get him giggling and defuse things.

bigbluestars Thu 27-Nov-14 15:33:32

I think keeping brisk and cheerful can help too.

"oh yes chocolate is lovely- shall we have some after lunch?"

" I like chocolate too- I hope Santa brings some"

Empathise, distract, but ultimately if they want to kick off that's their choice. Be firm and cheerful. Don't get sucked in.

murmuration Thu 27-Nov-14 18:45:03

Thanks! Good idea about suggesting when we can have it.

Ah, melisma, I think I need to get better at fantasing! I hadn't even thought that far.

murmuration Fri 28-Nov-14 19:06:17

Wow, this is hard. My first instinct really is to negate. But then I get confused -- is it negating her, like when this morning she went in her little potty and as we were washing hands she suddenly says, all whiney, "I wanted to go in the big potty!" So I say, "You went in the little potty." Am I meant to empathesise then -- obviously she must know she went in the little potty, so she probably doesn't need me to tell her, does she? But what kind of empathasising can you do there? "Oh, so you wished you had gone in the big potty instead." Is that right?

BertieBotts Fri 28-Nov-14 19:59:04

Yes that's right. It's a certain amount of reflecting back but she just wants to know that you heard her.

With the chocolate - if you're going to empathise/reflect emotions (which you don't have to do for every little thing!) you could say "You really wish you could have chocolate for breakfast" but then leave it at that - if you add a "but..." on the end (it's unhealthy, you can't, chocolate isn't a breakfast food) etc then it totally invalidates the whole validating their feelings thing. I'm not saying that never works, just that it's not strictly what that technique in HTT says - there's a bit in the back where they explain this as a frequently asked question, because some kids get really frustrated when you do the "but" thing. You reflect back and wait - count to 10 for the response if she's quiet. If she asks why, then you give the reason.

Giving in fantasy depends a bit on the age. Too young and they will get confused and think you really mean it. But IME ham it up and they understand it's a joke. "Mmmm, yes! Let's have chocolate for breakfast! And popcorn! And marshmallows! What else? And an elephant! With hundreds and thousands on top." you end up laughing, but she really knows the rule so she chooses something normal. Or you say something like "Ooh, wouldn't it be great if we could have chocolate for breakfast. We could have it for every meal. Chocolate sandwich, chocolate on toast, chocolate bolognese, roast chocolate. What else?" Or even "I wish we could eat chocolate all the time too but it would make our teeth all fall out, and then what would we do? We could only eat soup and jelly."

I like the "When you're a grown up I bet you'll eat chocolate for breakfast every day" too.

Or use one of the other chapters - offhand I'm thinking of "Give information about the problem". Instead of saying no you can't, say something like "Chocolate isn't for breakfast" or "We don't have any" (although the latter is a bit of a cop out grin) or "Chocolate is too sugary for breakfast time". It's not you saying no, you're just stating an unbreakable law.

Yes to the "delayed yes" as well which is saying when you can have it.

bigbluestars Fri 28-Nov-14 19:59:22

I think empathy can be slanted a little to put things in a positive light.

"Oh you are sad because you went in the little potty"

or

"Yes the big potty is great for big girls like you- would you like to use it next time?"

Both are using empathy but one is leaving her feeling slightly better about herself and more empowered.

BertieBotts Fri 28-Nov-14 20:01:40

And also yes you can't avoid every meltdown - being a toddler is pretty hard going. 2.5 is also quite young for most of the book - you say you're having trouble with the later parts which is very possibly due to her age. I just re-read it now DS is 6 and finding most of it much more relevant. Happy to help if I can, though, HTT would be my "mastermind subject" grin

snice Fri 28-Nov-14 20:02:58

I would say 'OK, lets use the big potty next time'

snice Fri 28-Nov-14 20:04:02

although Im not sure this book works well with children as young as your daughter

GertrudePerkins Fri 28-Nov-14 20:13:52

I'm with snice
I like the concepts in this book A LOT
But I think they sometimes demand more rationality and emotional regulation than the average preschooler possesses
The ideas work much more effectively with school age children.

NoelleHawthorne Fri 28-Nov-14 20:17:06

lol at mumsnet recommended - thats ME who did that grin

have you done the fantasy bit? 'imagine if all our furniture was made of chocolate'? that distracts

snice Fri 28-Nov-14 20:28:17

do you remember when we used to have threads about this? v.funny

murmuration Sat 29-Nov-14 09:57:25

Oh, thanks! Lots of good ideas. A really hard bit for me is actually doing it as a first impulse. But I guess that gets better with practise?

noelle, wow, you made that happen! grin

I had been feeling that it was all a bit 'old' for us, although the book claims it works for little kids too.

Another area I'm having trouble with is the alternatives to punishment chapter. The punishments in there are so outside my experience that I can't relate, e.g, there's a lot of smacking! and what seems like random pronouncements unrelated to the behaviour (no TV for a child running around in a supermarket), so I can't tell if I am doing the "instead of" stuff in order to apply the "do this" stuff. I have previously read stuff about positive discipline, or whatever you might call it, and have been trying to apply it. But then I've read people on here arguing the stuff I'm doing is punishment, and I really can't tell.

So, for example, one day we got out the step ladder to do some DIY work, and when we were done DD started climbing on it. That was fine with me. But then she jumped on the top step. I told her "Don't jump!" and then shortly thereafter remembered to say "Step ladders aren't for jumping on." (still getting the hang of this!). But she jumped again, and I told her they weren't for jumping on and why (she could fall). She jumped a third time and I packed up the step ladder and put it away.

Was that a punishment? I did take away something she was enjoying. And, in fact, rather permanently as I don't plan to be getting it out again until we do DIY again. She has asked for it back, but I've told her it is not a toy and reminded her that she jumped on it before. I imagine eventually we'll do some more DIY and it will be out again, and I suppose I will let her climb unless she jumps, but probably reminding her beforehand this time.

And lots of similar stuff -- I tend to just remove and distract, and the thing she was enjoying won't be provided again until I feel she's mature enough to handle it (like several age-inappropriate toys occasionally gifted her). But I'm wondering am I punishing her? I really can't tell.

NoelleHawthorne Sat 29-Nov-14 11:28:43

i think you are doing really well. Anything that stops shouting and character assassination is good, but remember 2 year olds are highly irrational and very annoying so dont be down on yourself if it all goes wrong one day!

I used this book ( not to a t but in and out - the ' writing a letter from a wet towel' worked a treat!) and I never shout or argue with my teens, and I am sure this is why.

BertieBotts Sat 29-Nov-14 18:03:34

Oh I'm sure I had a hand in that sticker too grin and the many many others who have recommended it over the years.

Yep it gets easier with practice and becomes your normal way of speaking.

It was written in the 80s which is why all the smacking, and I think smacking is still pretty common in America too, but for that substitute the screaming losing your rag/imposing some ridiculous punishment like "no sweets ever again". Basically anything that afterwards you think "Shit, I wish I hadn't done/said that."

The punishment argument is one which will run and run. People who don't like the idea of gentle discipline like to run with the argument that gentle discipline isn't anything special or new (it's not, anyway, so I don't understand why they think this is some kind of argument!) which is why they say "Well isn't that just a punishment?" - it's easier if you can to try and not get caught into the idealogical stuff and semantics. If it's working, great. If it's not, look for something else.

That said - I would say no, that wasn't a punishment, it was a safety measure. The primary motivation for taking the ladder away was to prevent her hurting herself, not to spoil her fun.

I reckon you could have skipped the first two instructions, because they're pretty vague and don't say anything about why jumping might be a bad idea, and gone to the third about how it's OK to climb but you don't want her to jump because she could fall and hurt herself. But tricky to do that in age appropriate language. Ultimately if she doesn't understand the danger you need to take the danger away, supervise her closely around it, and/or keep her away from it, whichever combination works.

But you did handle it perfectly. And you would have been justified in taking the stepladder away after instruction 1 or 2 as well, or even after no talking at all (though the talking helps her to build up that understanding which will keep her safer in the future, so it is valuable).

My DS is 6 now and I read all of this literature when he was younger, and the one thing I wish I'd done at the time is not worried so much about following it absolutely to the letter. Good enough is good enough, don't beat yourself up. Your #1 priority is to prevent her from hurting herself or others, if you can get her to learn a bit along the way then you've done brilliantly. smile

bigbluestars Sat 29-Nov-14 18:38:13

murmur-the step ladder thing- well my view is that this is not a plaything and playing should not have been allowed. However it is up to the parents to explain. allow some gentle exploration and store away. T
I have never punished.

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