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Parenting Questions and Answers

Question: Frustration

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 help you."

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.

Best wishes,

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 know.

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.

Best wishes,

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


Hello Kimberly,

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.
Please help.

Thank you.

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 and confidence.

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.

Best wishes,

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 Talk System?

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.

Thank you,

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, and Also, a listing of upcoming events is included at the bottom of all our newsletters.

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 .

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 as well.

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.

Best wishes.

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

Hi, Chick!

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 was taught.
Thanks again! Keep up the great work!!

Babs in Monroe, MI


Hello Babs,

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


Tallahassee Curt,

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.

Best wishes,

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, perception.

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
Philadelphia, PA


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 fast.

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? Any ideas?


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 family communicates.

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.

Best Wishes,

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 and relaxed.

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.

Best wishes.

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 it well.

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 can help.


Troubled Parent


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 opportunity.

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.

Concerned Mom

San Diego, CA


Concerned Mom,

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 patterns.


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 soon!


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 every time.

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 on that.

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 too?




Dear Overworked,

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 don’t.

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.

Best wishes,

Thomas and Chick

Question: Kindergarten Homework

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 childhood education.
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?

Best wishes,

Chick and Thomas

Question:  Getting Ready for Camp

Dear Chick and Thomas,

I really enjoy your email newsletter.

Our 4 ½-year-old son started summer camp this week, 3 days a week. Every morning is a battle to get him to get dressed and go to camp. He did great going to a pre-k program all year, but this is a different camp, different kids, counselors, etc. His conversation is that he doesn't want to go to camp. He'd rather stay home with mom and his baby sister. Well, he ends up going and loving it, but not without a battle. Any suggestions on how to make this a more pleasant and positive morning experience?


Billy's Dad


Hello, Billy's Dad,

Keep the focus and the conversation on the benefit and the fun that the child has once he is at camp. Play down what is going on at home and play up what is going on at the camp. Ask questions about camp. Tell stories about when you were at camp. Ask him to show you what he did at camp. Play some camp games with him.

It sounds like the morning transition is mostly where the trouble exists for your son. We suggest you begin the morning routine earlier to avoid having the transitional period be rushed. Allow time for the mental and the physical transition to be relaxed. Give the child as much time as possible to make the transition.

Some kids fight their parents about going and then fight them because they don't want to come home. The middle is fine, but they need help making effective transitions.

Grant him in fantasy what you will not in reality. "I bet you wish you didn't have to go today. It would be fun to just stay home and relax. Not an option, though. Let's get ready." Acknowledge his feelings. "Sounds like this is one of those days when you would rather not go to camp." Don't try to talk him out of his feelings. Just let him know you heard them by stating, "You're feeling frustrated about getting ready for camp this morning. That kind of spoils the beginning of the day, doesn't it?"

Let the child know that the option of choosing the attitude he goes with is his. Going or not going is not a choice-unless it really is a choice and you decide to not battle and let him stay home. If you do give him that option, be aware that you will be pressured to allow it in the future.

Stay calm and use lots of empathy and nurturing.


Chick and Thomas

Question: How many times do I need to use a technique?

Hi Thomas and Chick,

There is a saying going around something to the effect of: Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

If consistency and time is needed for your Parent Talk techniques to work, how do I know if the parenting techniques I employ are going to be successful the 25th, 50th, 75th time or not at all? How can I tell if I'm doing it right or need to change techniques?

Panhandle Bob


Hello, Panhandle Bob,

An interesting question you pose.

Before you use any parenting technique, whether from Parent Talk, The 10 Commitments, or another source, check to see if it resonates with your being. Do you think and feel that it will help you be who you want to be as a parent? Does it feel like the right thing to do for your family, your children, and yourself?

You have to have faith in the parenting skill you are implementing. Then, if you believe in it, consistency is the key. Some kids need more repetitions than others. The Parent Talk skills work if you work the skills. And it is also true that not every skill works with every child.

If you are repeatedly telling your child to stop whining without teaching him what to do instead, the child will continue to whine. Consistency won't help you here because you are using an inappropriate, malfunctioning tool. A hammer won't work where a screwdriver is called for. In that case it makes no sense to continue the parenting technique. One thousand repetitions of "stop whining" will not do the job.

Check it out inside when you are unsure if the skill is appropriate or if more repetitions are necessary. Trust your inner knowing. No one knows your child as well as you do.

Create a great day,

Thomas and Chick

Question: Lying

Dear Thomas and Chick,

Thank you for providing this service to us. I am enjoying the books I bought very much and waiting patiently for the CD's to return from another family that is also getting help from you.

We have a 15-year-old son in his second year of high school. Lying has become a very serious problem. He will not be truthful about his school assignments and is doing very poorly.

Recently he has been dating. He has not told us the truth of how he has met these girls. He creates stories about them and then has to keep up the fabrications until it is too difficult for him to remember all the details. I have no idea why he lies because there would not have been a problem in either case if he had told the truth.

Today he asked me if I was going to ask about how school was today and my response was, "Unless things change and you become honest I don't see the point in asking anything. Nor does it seem to matter what I have to say." Not an example of using effective Parent Talk, I know, but I am really trying to be the best parent I can be. I am really lost!

God bless you and all you try to do for our children.

Wits End in Edmond, OK


Hello Wits End,

Fifteen-year-olds sure are fun, eh?

It might be time to go after this issue directly. Have a good, down-to-earth conversation about what your son is after here. "Jason, you don't always tell me the truth about school or dates. What are you hoping to get from that? What are you trying to accomplish?" Is he trying to get you to back off? Does he want some privacy? Is this a control issue where he wants to control where the conversation goes? Maybe you are being too nosey in his view. Maybe he is attempting to find a sense of self, some independence. Maybe he is attempting to eliminate what feels to him like cross-examination. Check it out with him. Hear what he has to say about this.

When he asks, "Aren't you going to ask me about school?" give it back to him so he's in control. Say, "What would you like to share with me about school?" Let him be in charge of the response.

Lying about school is probably an attempt to avoid the inevitable: doing homework, having to study, your finding out about his poor grades. You will find out eventually. He is probably attempting to postpone that.

Beat him to the punch. Check with teachers regularly. Find out from them what the assignments are so you can tell him what the homework is. When he says he doesn't have any, tell him you talked to the teachers and you know what homework he has. Tell him what that is. Don't try to catch him in a lie. Just tell him that you know what the homework is. Operate from a position of knowing, not from one of not knowing and needing to depend on him for the truth.

Guess he hasn't figured out yet that trust is built through telling the truth. We don't give car keys to anyone we cannot trust. Now is the time for him to build his reputation with you. If he wants to be trusted when he is old enough to drive, he needs to demonstrate that now.

Opportunity equals responsibility. If the responsibility falls, so does the opportunity. He is in control of that.

Hope this helps.


Thomas and Chick

Question: Down Syndrome

Hello Thomas,

Greetings from Mexico. It is interesting to read your newsletters. I always learn something new. Thank you. Please help.

My son is 8. My daughter is 6. And now we have a new baby who is 4 months. He has Down Syndrome.

Both children love the baby so much. They say it is the baby they always wanted. Even though we have explained everything to them, sometimes they don't fully understand what Down Syndrome is. They know for sure he will be able to do anything he wants, but slower.

Is there any advice you can give us on how to manage their relationship? What about a book for  parents whose job is parenting a disabled child?

A Loving Mother


Dear Loving Mother,

A host of books exists on Down syndrome children. Some of them deal with siblings. I recommend that you contact a Down syndrome foundation through the Internet and maybe even join a parent support group online. The more information you have, the better prepared you will be to handle and address the various developmental issues. It helps to hear from other parents who have already gone through it. They can be very insightful.

The best thing you can do is openly love your new baby as much as possible and let your other kids see your love, patience, understanding, acceptance, and appreciation.

It will take awhile before your children really get it and understand what the disability is and what it means. Their understanding will grow in time, as will their love for their sibling.

Blessings in your commitment to be the best parent you can be. Remember, your baby has chosen you and this family for a particular reason, all of which has not been revealed yet.


Thomas Haller

Resources in Mexico

Instituto Irapuatense Down, A.C.

Fundación John Langdon Down, A.C.

Question: Biting Nails

Hi you guys,

I was just reviewing some old e-mails and read your 9/26/05 newsletter. In there, a woman wrote to you about her six-year-old daughter who bit her nails. Her question to you was why. Your answer was that it was due to the child's self-esteem and confidence level. That answer may work for a six-year-old, but I highly doubt that is the reason my three-year-old son has been biting his nails for a year now. Any other suggestions on nail-biters?


Mom Who Wants to Know


Hello Mom,

Sometimes nail-biting in young children starts out as anxiety about something and then as the anxiety goes away the nail-biting remains as a habit. If that is the case, the nail-biting is no longer about anxiety or self-esteem. The issue then becomes how to deal with the habit.

The goal in dealing with the habit is bringing it to awareness without increasing the anxiety. Could be the child is not even conscious that the nail-biting is a habit. So helping him stay conscious is what is needed.

A slow and gentle pace is the key here in raising awareness of the habit. You need to find some fun, easy, gentle ways to remind the child that his fingers are in his mouth. "Looks like your fingers found your mouth again," said with a playful tone, is helpful. "Oops, your teeth are trying to eat your fingers" is a soft way to make the reminder.

Sometimes a quiet reminder sign, like holding up one finger, is good if other people are around and you don't want to say anything aloud to create embarrassment. The sign needs to be agreed upon by both you and the child beforehand.

Make an effort to remind without making the child wrong, without making him bad, without coming across as stressed or anxious yourself.


Chick and Thomas

Question: Praise

Dear Chick and Thomas,

I love the stuff you guys did on praise. Thanks for taking the time to put that in a concise, user friendly order.

Here is something I noticed recently. Because we never say, "Good job," my two-year-old daughter does not expect that kind of response when she does something. Instead, she often joyfully says, "I did it!" when she accomplishes something, without requesting or requiring us to say anything. We often smile or add, "Yes you did!"  I did not expect that whole "inner sense of accomplishment" experience to occur until she was much older. It feels so wonderful to see that she feels good about what she is doing and that she does not depend on us to provide an external evaluation for her. I didn't think that was something that could happen as early as two.

Thank you for your efforts.

Santa Barbara Momma


Dear Santa Barbara Momma,

Thank you for taking the time to share your observations. Yes, creating that internal standard through the use of descriptive and appreciative praise can be accomplished at an early age if you learn and consistently use the verbal skills we teach in the Parent Talk System and have available in our first-ever e-course, Good Praise/Bad Praise. We are hearing many positive reactions from subscribers who have purchased the e-course on praise and are encouraged to create another e-course in the near future.


Chick and Thomas

Question: ADD and Parent Talk

Hello Chick,

I just want to thank you for your Parent Talk the other night at our school. You made it fun and interesting and my husband stayed awake, so that was a good sign. Also, I bought your entire parenting kit. Thanks.

I have one question and I thought you might be able to help. My son was diagnosed with ADD in second grade. He is now in 3rd grade and I just wondered if all your Parent Talk applies to children with ADD as well?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Appreciative Mom


Dear Appreciative Mom,

Wow. Your husband stayed awake the whole time? This is good!

Yes, the Parent Talk material applies to ADD kids as well as others. Obviously they have special needs and you will need to use the skills often and with consistency. If there is one thing ADD kids need it is structure and consistency. These materials will help you create that for him. Have fun using all of them.


Chick Moorman

Question: Attention Seeking

Hi Thomas,
I’ve a 6 year old son who is bright but is able to rebut when challenged. Recently I noticed that he needed extra attention from external parties especially when either my husband or I are engaged in a conversation with our friends or relatives. He insists he needs to show his aunt or uncle his latest toys or tell where he has been. He was a very polite boy until these recent episodes. My husband and I are embarrassed when he insists on taking the attention for himself.

Best regards.
Need help in Singapore


Hello Mother from Singapore,

To a 6-year-old child, the world does revolve around them. They are into the I, Me, My stage. They have strong egos and need to tell and share and get lots of attention. This is developmentally appropriate. You may be asking your six-year-old to be nine. Remember, he is not nine, but six.

Teach him how to get himself attention. Teach him how to do that appropriately. If you want a behavior, you have to teach a behavior. Teach him the words to say to get in on an adult conversation. Teach him how to ask if someone is interested in hearing his story or seeing his new toy. Teach him what to do if the person says yes or no.

"I have a new toy, would you like to see it?"

"I'd like to tell you about my trip to the zoo. Would this be a good time?"

"Would you like to hear me play the violin?"

Young children do not have these skills. They only develop them when adults take the time to teach them.

Have fun with this.


Thomas Haller

Question: Breaking Harmful Parenting Habits

Hello Thomas and Chick,

I have been following your newsletters and I've also been to a couple of the workshops that you did at our school. I learned a lot and hope they will have you back.

I have implemented many of the suggestions you offered. I love them. However, I've been having trouble breaking some of the bad parenting traits that have been hardwired into me from my childhood. I know that there are certain things like yelling and getting frustrated that I shouldn't do. However, I'm finding it hard to break the chain. I understand that I am responsible for my actions but it's a lot harder than I thought it would be to be the kind of parent that I want to be.

My son is 6 now and he is for the most part a really good kid and I anticipated some differences in him once his sister was born. However, I'm noticing that he is less responsible for himself now than he was before. I have given him responsibilities that I thought were age-appropriate and he took them on with no problem (a little reminder here and there), but now it's almost as if he is deliberately not doing them. Even after a reminder there are times that he still doesn't do them. I have tried spending more time with him, but it seems that my time is now always split between him and his sister. With my husband in the military, it's like I'm a single mother and I'm seeing myself make some of the same mistakes my mother made. I don't want to do that.

Any suggestions or advice that you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

Frustrated Mother


Dear Frustrated,

Glad you enjoyed the parent workshops. We would love to return to your school to do another follow-up session. Please share your interest with your PTO president. The people in charge of those organizations are usually interested in feedback about the programs they offer and are often willing to follow the desires of the members.
You have taken on a sacred task, that of parenting. It is an art, and, as with any art, it takes time to learn the craft. Hold in your mind a vision of the parent you would like to be and begin by picking one area or behavior in which you can be that type of parent. Work on that one skill or area. When you are confident that you are being the type of parent you want to be in a particular area or behavior, move to another. Take them one at a time.

Be gentle with yourself and nurture yourself the same way you nurture your children. Celebrate your successes. Don't attempt to be the perfect parent. We all make mistakes. Mistakes are what we do along the way to learning how to get it right. One definition of a parent is "a mistake maker."

Give yourself credit for what you are doing and handling while your husband is serving our country. In many ways you are in a single-parenting mode. Do the best you can in the moment. When you make a mistake, note it, learn from it, and move on. One great thing about parenting is that you get lots of opportunities to learn the same lesson. You will see yourself growing slowly and steadily towards being the parent you want to be.
Best wishes,

Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman

Question: Meal Time

Hello Thomas and Chick,

I need some effective discipline that fits the "crime." I have a five year old who continues to make poor choices. Her eating habits are poor. Every time the family eats a meal, be it at home or out, her actions make mealtime a disaster. It's "I don't like this" or she takes two bites and it's "I'm full." All in a whiny tone. Or it's sour faces. I've tried setting a timer to no avail. I've pulled her food and sent her to get cleaned and off to bed. Nothing works.

In school, she doesn't follow directions or instructions. If her teacher has instructed her to not do something that she is doing, she disregards the warning and does it again.

Anytime the family goes on an outing or adventure, whether it's to a zoo or shopping, her choices land her in trouble. I have to tell her thousands of times to not touch things she need not touch. Or stop fighting or arguing with her brother.

I am married to a woman who has two children of her own. These problems have existed long before. My daughter has been rude, mean and bossy to my wife's youngest. It seems my daughter only thinks when it's beneficial to her. Otherwise, she doesn't seem to care if she hurts people, in the process, to get what she wants.

I haven't found anything to help me fit a punishment to any of these actions. I can’t find the right book that has the information I'm looking for. Please help.

Thank you for your time. Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
Struggling for a Discipline Answer


Dear Struggling,

You have included quite a bit in your e-mail and it would be possible to write book chapters on each separate issue. However, we will keep our reactions as brief as possible while still giving you some things to think about.

You asked if there is a good book that might help you with your concerns. We suggest you find a book on age-appropriate behavior for children, one that details information on ages and stages. Much (not all) of what you complain about is age- appropriate behavior for a five-year-old. Yes, it sounds like some of your daughter’s behaviors are on the extreme side, but do not lose sight of the fact that they are age appropriate.

Of course she doesn’t think of anyone else. That’s what five- year-olds do. They are ego centered. That is what they are supposed to be doing at five. To think of someone else or put herself in someone else’s shoes is not possible for her at this time. You might just as well be asking her to speak a foreign language. It is not possible at this age and stage of her life.

Picky eating, lack of table manners, and whining are other behaviors characteristic of this age child. Of course there are some things you can do about these behaviors, but the most important one is to not see your child as bad or abnormal. See her as a five- year- old who needs some help learning new behaviors.

All children have food preferences and things they don’t like. You are jumping to punishment and control as a discipline tool too quickly. Instead, structure in more choices that include food preferences she likes. Give her an option if she hates what she is having. A peanut butter sandwich is nutritious. Structure the environment so that there is NO food between meals.

If she eats two bites and says she’s full, tell her, “Okay, you can stop eating if you choose. And I want you to know that in 10 minutes we’ll all be done eating. There will be no more food until breakfast. If you get hungry you will have to wait.” She will get hungry and she will test you. Do not make her wrong. Do not make her bad. Do not tell her you told her so. Tell her you know she’s hungry, but there will be lots of good food at breakfast. She will whine and cry and test you. Do not cave in. Be empathetic and firm. Let her experience the consequence of her choice not to eat: hunger. Do not protect her from experiencing the consequence of her choice. No punishment for refusing to eat is necessary, just the natural consequence of being hungry. The cereal will taste great in the morning. Allow her to learn her own lesson.

None of the things she is doing are a “crime,” as you say. They are simply behaviors that need teaching and demonstration.

You might not want to hear this, but we’ll say it anyway. If you keep doing what you have always done with this child, you will get what you have always gotten. You cannot change the child’s behavior. You can only change your own. Look at what you can change about how you are approaching her and handling these situations. Stay firm and consistent, with love and caring. Allow her to make choices and experience the natural consequences of her actions. Hold her accountable with an open heart.


Thomas Haller
Chick Moorman

Question:  He Might Be Lying

I have a problem and I'm not sure what to do here.  Hoping you can help me.

My son David had his hockey team over for his birthday party and I had the parents. The evening was going well until all the kids decided to go two doors down to a home that is empty.  One child threw a rock and put a hole in the window.  A second kid threw a rock and put a hole in the window.  All the other kids confirmed later that my son had nothing to do with it. Four boys spent the night and I got the same story from all of them.

The next day one of the kids that threw a rock changed the story about my son and said that David asked all the boys not to tell on him because it was his birthday. Also, David apparently threw a rock up into the air and it fell on the window.

I have spoken to the other two parents and said I would hold David responsible and that the three boys should pay for the window. I also asked David to write a note and put it on the front door so that the neighbor can contact us.

So far, I don't know if David directly threw a rock at the window. He says "no" and his other friend is now saying that he did (why should I believe his friend now since he lied the 1st and 2nd time?).

My questions are:  How should I punish my son for throwing rocks and for potentially lying? He has lied to us in the past for other things.  How do I get him to stop lying to us and being destructive?

Thanks for your help.

I am hurt and frustrated with this.


Dear Hurt and Frustrated,

Punishment is not necessary here. What is needed is the implementation of natural consequences and making amends.

You may never know for sure if your child threw a stone or not. That isn't important. What is important here is that your child learns the lesson that when he is with people who are making poor choices, he is guilty by association. If he's in a car and someone goes into a store and robs it, he's in a lot of trouble. If the boys he's with are walking along destroying mailboxes and he is with them, he is in a lot of trouble.

These children, yours included, need to be held accountable. Yes, make a note and leave it. Yes, the children should pay for it. Yes, the children should face the victim and make amends. Have them tell the neighbor what they learned and what they intend to do differently next time.

What can they do to make it up to the neighbor, who will have to put time and effort into fixing that window? What can these boys do to compensate your neighbor for that time and effort? What will your son give back?

No punishment is necessary. Making amends is.

Hope this helps,

Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman

Question:  Ineffective Scout Leader

Good Morning Chick and Thomas,

Recently, my six-year-old son (and I) joined a local cub scout troop. My son is very excited about the experience and I am very supportive and enthusiastic, as well. His cub scout den is pretty small compared to the others in his pack. There is a total of three boys in his den.

My concern is as follows: The other two boys are out of control, behaviorally speaking. They are continuously disruptive, to say the least. Both attend the meetings with their mother. In our little group, if one of the moms tells her child to sit, he stands. If she tells him to stand, he sits. If someone else is talking, they spout out "My turn, my turn, I want to talk. I want to talk now!" They do this over and over, until it IS their turn to talk. When the den mother gives permission to talk to her son, he stares at the ground and won't say a word. This and other types of disruptive behavior continue throughout the meetings.

In response to this behavior, their moms will say things like, "If you don't stop, you'll lose a privilege." "If I have to count (to three), you'll lose a privilege"; "I've already asked you to stop doing that. If I have to ask you again, you'll lose a privilege"; "That's inappropriate. Please stop now!" This goes on over and over.

The moms do not actually follow through with a consequence for the boys. Instead they simply repeatedly threaten. It's making the meetings a real problem because the parents aren't handling it effectively. I want to say something to the moms that will get them to take control of their children's disruptive behavior. I prefer to do this considerately.

Any suggestions?

Thank you gentlemen.


Frustrated Father


Hello Frustrated Father,

This is an interesting situation you find yourself in. Our answer: Find a different scout troop for your son.

These other parents need many new parenting skills. They are functioning at a very low skill level. Even if they were receptive to coaching, which they may not be, you would have to invest considerable energy and effort to teach them how to work with children.

Sadly, many adults who take on coaching, scouting, or working with youth in a variety of other ways are not skilled at dealing with children. Parents in your situation often find it easier to teach their children how to deal with the dysfunctional adult than they do attempting to teach the unskilled adult to deal with children.

Scouting should be fun. If it's not fun, don't go. There is a reason there are only three kids in that section. It is the leader. We suggest you reduce the number of children in that group to two.

Best wishes,

Thomas and Chick

Question:  Unwanted Pregnancy

Dear Mr. Haller,

Please help! My daughter & niece are close and have lived in the same building their entire life. We just discovered that my 19-year-old niece is 5 months pregnant. She was in denial about the pregnancy, which is why we are finding out now.

My daughter looks up to her cousin as an older sister. How do I tell her about the impending birth of this baby? It is against all we have been teaching our niece and daughter. However, at 8 1/2 years old she has not been told about sex and all the horrors that befall teenagers who are having children before they are emotionally and financially in a position to raise the child in the manner one would hope for the child and young parent.

Please help me to know what to say to my little girl while keeping consistent with the message that this is not what she should think is acceptable behavior. She has not been told about sex in any way so I do not know what questions I might encounter. Perhaps you can point me in the healthiest direction for the sake of my daughter, my niece and the baby who is due soon. Thank you.

A Heartbroken and Frightened Mum



Hello Heartbroken Mum,

Your daughter may not have been told about sex by you, but by eight years of age she has learned plenty from friends, relatives, classmates, and TV. Much of what she knows about sex is probably inaccurate.

Your niece has blessed you with a wonderful opportunity to begin this sexual dialogue with your child. I suggest two books.

Sex and Sensibility
by Deborah M. Roffman
Beyond the Big Talk by Debra W. Haffner

Your niece has also provided you with the perfect opportunity to teach your daughter about forgiveness and not seeing people who make mistakes as bad. This is a time to see the child of God in the young mother who made a mistake. She could probably use a big dose of unconditional love right about now. That would be a good message for your eight-year-old to see and learn.

Babies are a beautiful occurrence in many ways. Celebrate the beauty here. Use it as the perfect time to teach your child many important lessons.


Thomas Haller

Question:  Allowances

Hello Chick,

I attended one of your sessions in Bloomfield Hills, MI and I enjoyed every minute of your presentation. I have listened to many people who present information on parenting and I think you are the best. I have your books and CDs and refer to them often.

I have one question: What is your opinion about allowances? I have 3 boys - ages 12, 10, and 7. How much, how often, should they be tied to chores around the house? Just wondering what would be appropriate for each of them.

A Fan


Hello Fan,

You are a sweet talker. And I appreciate the feedback. Thanks.

Thomas Haller and I have strong beliefs about chores.

We do not recommend you tie allowances to chores. Chores are something everyone does in the home because they are part of the family. We suggest that children be told: "Chores are a responsibility that comes with living in this house. We all have chores and we do them not to be paid, but because it takes all of us working together to keep the house and yard clean and fully functioning. Since you live here, you have responsibilities to fulfill. It's one of the facts of being a part of a family." If you pay children for chores, you deprive them of making a meaningful contribution to the family as part of their responsibility for living in that family.

The only exception to this is that you might want to pay for chores if someone wants extra money and is willing to do one of your chores.

We do not recommend you make children earn their allowance. Whatever amount of allowance they get, they receive for just being. Everyone who lives in the home needs some money with which to learn lessons. They get the allowance just because they are there. How much you give them is strictly your choice. We recommend you give different amounts for different ages and needs.

It is important that giving the child his or her allowance be done on a regular basis. Do it the same time every week. No exceptions.

Do not require children to save any of their allowance. This is their choice. It is a great, ongoing learning experience for them. They get to experience abundance, choices, decision making, splurging, economic depression, wasting, and saving up for something. They will learn to save and budget when they experience going broke and needing money.

Do not bail them out. If they spend their money, it is gone. No more money until next week.

When allowances are distributed, consider having a charity jar available for people to contribute to if they choose. Contribute yourself. When the jar reaches a certain amount, the family can decide together how to use it.

Hope this helps.


Chick Moorman

Question:  Fair Parenting

Hello Gentlemen,

My children's ages range from 4-14. We have difficulty parenting consistently to begin with and the age difference makes disciplining fairly seem "unfair" to my 14-yr-old. I add to that, my husband is much more lenient on our younger three than our first and continues this behavior. I have been and remain the "rescuer," which causes my son to feel guilty and my husband to become more angry, only now it's with the both of us. He will sometimes retaliate by saying "fine, I won't punish at all, he's all yours." I find it deeply offensive and hurtful to my son who is in his formative young man years. What advice can you offer?

Our other children are ages 4, 6, 8 yrs and the issues are eating healthy, misbehaving, i.e. the 4-yr-old will now repeat things the 14-yr-old says, like "duh-uh," which does not sound okay coming from a 4-yr-old, yet with a 14-yr-old it is not a capital offense. He does not swear and has never partied. He is a student in a gifted program and very interesting to be around, a little adult if you will. But he has not been through puberty and I suspect some of these "talk backs" are approaching, so with the younger three in earshot I'd like a way to discipline him.

My oldest son's other offense is too much computer time. It's 100 degrees here and no one plays outside. We wonder what everyone does?

I look forward to your reply.


Need Help


Hello In Need of Help,

Discipline does not have to be fair. It has to fit the person and the responsibility that was neglected or handled inappropriately. Expectations are different at different ages. Younger children are allowed leeway because they are less skilled.

Parents grow as they age and approach discipline differently as they learn more about parenting. What happened to a 14-year-old when he was 4 may not be the appropriate approach to a different 4-year-old now.

Approach the language "duh uh" as, "That is not how we speak in this family. Please use your words to communicate what you mean." This is the approach that must be followed by all.

The two adults need to agree on how to handle the 14-year-old's behavior together and stop letting the child separate the adults. That is too much power for a 14-year-old to have.

The last issue is the hardest one of all for parents if they have already allowed a child to immerse himself in video games. Is there really nothing else to do on hot days? No projects to get involved in? How about painting a picture on his bedroom wall or creating a sports theme room and letting him do it all his own way? Reading and writing are useful alternatives. What about getting an editing program for the computer and letting him make his own movie with the family's video recorder. There is more out there than video games. We as adults have to be creative and get the initial momentum going in a different direction and let the children run with their ideas.

The video game issue is one that many parents struggle with. Yet, structure, limits, other alternatives, and a firm resolve are all that is needed to solve this problem. Be consistent.


Thomas Haller

Question:  Intruding Step-Mom


I have been enjoying your parenting newsletters. Thanks for sending them to me free of charge. I don't have a lot of money for books so I appreciate it.

I have a son, 12 years old, and I am the custodial parent. My son's father has remarried and his new wife has no children.

How do I stop his step-mom from trying to be my son's mother? And there is another piece of this situation. My son is adopted from Korea so his step-mom thinks she can have him as her son, too. From what I glean from my son I think they are talking about me in front of him. And that talk is not positive either.

I am at my wits end with this. I would appreciate any input you can give. If anything, it really helped me to get this off my chest. Thanks for listening.

Real Mom


Dear Real Mom,

There is no way you can stop your son's step-mom from trying to be his mom. She is going to do what she is going to do no matter what you think or say.

It is important that you refrain from putting her down in front of your child, as he will need to have a positive relationship with her. And indeed you want him to have a positive relationship with her.

We suggest you talk with the father and tell him you have been hearing negative things and ask him to be more private with his remarks about you. If you can all agree to say nothing negative in front of the child—and this goes for all three people involved—it will help him immensely.

You may get his cooperation and you may not. We suggest that you all make an effort to do what is in the best interest of this child.

Best wishes,

Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

Question: Owning a Weapon

Dear Chick and Thomas,

I would beg to differ with your advice regarding owning a weapon. The shooting sports are a great way to bring a family closer together. My sons and I (and sometimes my wife) shoot skeet, trap, and use handguns, and military rifles. We also hunt duck, geese, deer, and pheasant. These activities have brought us together in the field and many long talks have developed due to the camaraderie of the shooting sports.

Please don't let your narrow-minded view about firearms ruin your otherwise wonderful newsletter. YES, keep your guns locked up. That is only prudent. But don't tell folks to get rid of their guns. They should educate their children about the operation and safety of guns. Knowledge of the use and function of an object makes it safer. That includes guns.

We don't turn our children out with a car without information or education. Guns are no different. If people taught their children about firearms there would be a lot fewer accidental deaths involving them.

Thank you.

Karl Hogue


Dear Karl,

Thank you for your reminder about the positive aspects of firearms. While the shooting sports are not our choice of a fun-filled family activity, we can understand how you and many other families could think differently.

We do support your call for gun safety and the supervised use of firearms. And we celebrate your efforts to be present with your children, engaging in meaningful conversation. That is critical whether we are shooting skeet, ice skating, or horseback riding.

Thanks for caring enough to communicate with us.


Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller

Question: How do I celebrate my child’s award?

Hey Chick and Thomas,

My daughter won a cool award at her school already this year. I know the accomplishment itself should be the reward. Still, I want to do something to let her know how proud I am. I want to celebrate in some way. Any tips on how I might go about this?

El Dorado Hills Mother


Dear El Dorado Hills Mother,

That is exciting. We see a small family celebration that honors your daughter's accomplishment as worthwhile. Perhaps take her out to dinner to acknowledge her award.

A few things are important to keep in mind here. First, during that celebration, lead a conversation that helps your daughter examine the connection between her behavioral choices and the award. In other words, what does she attribute it to? Help her see that it has to do with her effort, perseverance, attitude and behaviors. It was not an accident, good luck, or something she had no control over. She created it in some way. Help her get in touch with that.

Make sure you communicate that you are proud for her rather than proud of her. This is a subtle concept, but being proud for her keeps the focus on her. Being proud of her is about you.

Do a lot of listening. Let her talk about the award, telling all that she would like to share. Then ask questions about it and let her talk some more. Remember, this is her celebration and it is her turn to be the focus of attention.

Be careful not to overdo it. Remember, awards are not a measure of your daughter's worth as a person. She is loved and valued with or without the award. The award is merely a celebration of someone else's recognition of what you already know and appreciate.


Thomas Haller and Chick Moorman



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