Talk Less, Listen More

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Solutions for children’s difficult behaviour.

By Michael Hawton

H aving parenting difficulties? Who doesn’t! I once read that parenting is where our trust in our own ability and skill is tested the most. We are faced daily with the potential to fail.

I have recommended this book to worried and harried parents countless times since it was published in 2013. It will reduce your failure-potential exponentially. And increase your parenting skills and your enjoyment of your children.

The book applies to preschool and primary school ages, and the principles still apply in adolescence with some changes, which allow for increased independence. Moreover, the notion of “talk less, listen more” is fundamental in adult relationships as well.

M ichael Hawton encourages what he calls outside-in parenting. In outside-in parenting, we focus on how we can help children pay attention to their feelings and then manage those feelings. This echoes my own emphasis in therapy, that enabling children to endure their own intense feelings is a major task for parents. Outside-in parenting increases children’s emotional flexibility through understanding their feelings and learning self-regulation.

The book is organized so we can first look at some of our mistakes (chapters 1-4), then what is likely to happen when we implement some changes (chapter 5). In chapters 6 to 9 you learn how you can manage your children’s difficult behaviour - quietly. There is an emphasis on self-regulation - and this includes you! In chapters 10-12 you are given some ways to promote the behaviour you want.

Michael cautions against over-using praise and rewards, as this fosters over-reliance on external rather than internal satisfaction. This goes against the trend of praising children for everything, but Michael argues his case very well.

The final section of the book introduces additional resources, including the website: Here you will find parenting courses, articles on hot topics and much more.

This is a must read for parents, grandparents and anyone who work with children of all ages.