A Personal Reflection on Intergenerational Parenting

Blog post: Larissa Dann 29 September 2015 (updated 13 January, 2017)               Mum and Dad, London, 1960

“100 years after you die it won’t matter what car you drove or what house you lived in but it will matter how you raised your kids” (Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) bumper sticker)*

My father has a terminal illness.  My mother has advanced dementia. Suddenly, it seems my time with my parents is limited.  As I watch my children burst into life, and I see my parents fade, I begin to reflect. How did my parents’ actions, their living of their attitudes and values, their modelling, influence my raising of their grandchildren?

How to Help your Child to Behave Out of Consideration Rather than Compliance

Two drivers for children to do as we ask could be either: (1) Consideration for the parent (or another person) or (2) Compliance. Which motivator would you like to see influencing your child’s behaviour?  This article examines the difference between a child changing their behaviour out of either consideration, or compliance.  We also look at some ideas to help children learn to consider others, while maintaining their sense of self-worth: "How to help your children change their behaviour out of consideration, rather than compliance"

Saying “I’m disappointed” can Damage Relationships: Children and Adults


Respectful communication is the life-blood of all relationships. A subtle choice of words may either enhance or diminish family connection.  In my efforts to improve my relationships, one word I’m trying to avoid is ‘disappointed’.

Our Guest Posts on child/teen/parent websites.

I have been fortunate to have had blogs published on child/teen-focused websites. The most recent are below:

Teaching Children Skills to Peacefully Resolve Conflict

This blog helps you develop the peace making capacities of children.

Imagine two children fighting over a toy. The children are in a relationship with each other, and that relationship is not going so well. Our role is not to step in and judge (which inevitably involves ‘taking sides’), but to mediate, model and mentor.  (Of course, it is also to keep people physically and psychologically safe!)

Here is a step-by-step method of resolving disputes between children, based on the no-lose conflict resolution model taught in P.E.T.

Consideration or Obedience: Motivating Children to Change their Behaviour

In my opinion, two drivers for children to do as we ask could be either:

  • Consideration for another person, including a parent, friend, carer, sibling.; or
  • Compliance, obedience

Consideration comes from within the child (intrinsic motivation), while obedience is a result of factors from outside the child, usually rewards or punishment (extrinsic motivation).

What's the Problem with Time-Out, Anyway?

Lately, it seems parents and carers feel disempowered. We’re not supposed to smack, and now even time-out is being questioned.  So how do we discipline?  And what’s wrong with time-out, anyway?

Three Ways Our Assumptions Affect Our Relationships with Children

Imagine if our fundamental parenting principle was that children do not misbehave.  Imagine we were guided by the understanding that children behave simply to meet their needs. We would stop blaming.  We would not take their behaviour personally. We would know they were innocent and competent.  We would recognise that our disagreements with our children were a result of our needs conflicting with theirs.

Putting ‘Gentle Parenting’ into Practice: the Possibilities of Reasoning with the Very Young

When I hear people say “you can’t reason with a very young child”, or “the only way to make a young child change their behaviour is to reward or punish”, I feel deeply saddened. My experience as a parent, and parent educator, is otherwise.

The Trouble with Time Out

Children and discipline - a perennial issue. Discipline (the verb) can mean either ‘to teach’, or ‘to control’ (Gordon, T. 1989).  If we use discipline to control children, then we rely on reward and punishment to change a child’s behaviour.

Children and Play - Past, Present, and Future?

One of the best aspects of being a Mum is reading to my kids. As a family project, we decided to read some ‘classics’ together (well, I read to my children).The more books we read, the more I reflected on the differences between generations, in the way children entertain themselves.

Reasoning with a Very Young Child (1) - It's Really Possible!

Part (1) of the series: Reasoning with a Very Young Child

Reasoning with a child aged three and under? Is that really possible? Surely, they’re not developmentally capable of responding to reason? Aren’t punishments such as smacking or time-out, and rewards such as star charts, the only way we can only get young children to learn, and to change their behaviour?

My lived experience (and that of hundreds of parents I’ve met through parenting classes) is that yes, you can reason with children - from a very young age. And yes, it is possible for them to change their behaviour, without parents resorting to rewards or punishment.

You just need to give them the chance.

Reasoning with a Very Young Child (2): When Your Child is Unhappy

Larissa Dann: posted 29 June 2015                                                       Image from Shutterstock

Part (2) of the series: Reasoning with a Very Young Child

Very young children can respond to Active Listening and reasoning by becoming calm, and even finding a solution to their difficulty. 

Active Listening

Active Listening is the best way I have to show empathy, and is the first skill I turn to when my child is unhappy. Firstly, I have to recognise the cues and clues that my child is not OK. Often ‘naughty’ behaviour is simply a signal that things aren’t going well for my child.

I then need to remember that there is a reason for them to be unhappy. For example, they may need my attention, or something happened at childcare, or their basic needs (food, water, rest and toileting) have not been met.

Now, I need to listen to my child, so they can talk about their unhappiness. This will help me to understand what is happening for them, and help them to understand themselves. I try to guess their feelings, and the reason they feel that way. I put these into a statement such as “You’re feeling . . . because . . . ”. For example “Sounds like you’re feeling frustrated because your toy truck’s wheels fell off”.

Reasoning with a VeryYoung Child (3): When Parents are Unhappy with their Child’s Behaviour

Larissa Dann: posted 29 June 2015                                                           Image used under license from Shutterstock

Part (3) of the series: Reasoning with a Very Young Child

Giving your very young children a reason for your upset can help them understand and empathise with you.  They may even come up with a solution to help you (which may mean changing their behaviour).


When I am unhappy about my children’s behaviour, I need to avoid blaming or putting down my child with a ‘you’ message. Examples of ‘you’ messages might be: “you’re just being naughty”; “you’ve been told 1000 times” “you’re old enough to know better”.

Instead of ‘you’ messages, I need to use an ‘I-Message’ when I’m upset with my child. A three part I-Message looks something like this: “when . . .(describe child’s behaviour) I feel . . .(a feeling word) because . . . (describe how you have been affected) “. For example “When I see the toys on the floor, I feel concerned that I might step on them and hurt myself”.

Reasoning with a Very Young Child (4): When Parent and Child are Unhappy

Larissa Dann: posted 29 June 2015                                                 Image used under license from Shutterstock                  

Part (4) of the series: Reasoning with a Very Young Child

Understanding your own reasons for being upset, and helping your very young child understand a reason for their upset, leads to problem-solving where both of you are OK with the solution.

No-Lose Conflict Resolution

When I try my best I-messages (followed by Active Listening) and discover that both of us are still feeling dissatisfied, I need to try Problem Solving.

The Trouble with Time-Out

Discipline - the perennial parenting problem. Discipline (the verb) can mean either ‘to teach’, or ‘to control’ (Gordon, T. 1989). In our quest to parent effectively, to do the best by our children, ourselves and our family, we think carefully about the best way to discipline our child.

If we use discipline to control, then we rely on reward and punishment to change our children’s behaviour. 

This article questions the use of one of the most commonly used punishments - time-out. The majority of the parenting books we read, parenting websites, parenting courses, or parents we know, suggest time-out as a benign punishment.  Most schools and childcare centres rely on time-out to discipline children. 

During the years my daughter attended childcare we had several discussions around her fear of punitive time-out. Her distress, and my experience as a parent educator, drove me to investigate the effects of time-out.

Three Ways our Assumptions Affect Relationships with Children

Larissa Dann.                      

Here is a challenging idea: the way we think about children, and the assumptions we make about their intentions, will shape our response to them.  Ultimately, our presumptions influence our relationships. 


Subscribe to RSS - larissa's blog