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Wise Counsel Interview Transcript: An Interview with Sarah Chana Radcliffe, M.Ed., C.Psych.Assoc. on Raising Kids without Raising Your Voice

David Van Nuys, Ph.D.
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Dr. David Van Nuys: Welcome to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by CenterSite, LLC, covering topics in mental health, wellness and psychotherapy. My name is Dr. David Van Nuys. I'm a clinical psychologist and your host. On today's show, we'll be talking with Canadian psychologist, Sarah Chana Radcliffe about how to raise your kids without raising your voice. Sarah Chana Radcliffe is a registered member of The College of Psychologists of Ontario, Canada.

Over the past 30 years, she has counseled thousands of parents, couples and individuals in her full-time, private practice in Toronto, Canada. She practices emotionally-focused therapy for couples, process experiential psychotherapy, energy psychology, EMDR and cognitive behavioral therapy for parents. She's the author of "Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice". Now here's the interview. Sarah Chana Radcliffe, welcome to Wise Counsel.

Sarah Chana Radcliffe: Thank you so much for having me.

David: Well I have in front of me a lovely copy of your book, which is titled, "Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice".

Sarah: Indeed.

David: I love the cover; the cover art is really great.

Sarah: I know. I was really happy with that too because it shows the results. If you manage to raise your children without raising your voice, you have this beautiful relationship, which is shown on the cover there.

David: Yes, there's a photograph of a mother and her daughter, and it looks enough like the picture of you on the back that I actually thought it might be you at first.

Sarah: Yeah, people have said that, but no, it's not me.

David: OK. Now I'm always a bit suspicious of people who give advice to parents and have no kids of their own. So what credentials do you have in that department?

Sarah Chana Radcliffe: Well I do have six kids of my own.

David: OK, I guess you're well-qualified then.

Sarah: Yeah, well sort of. You can never have too many because you never have other people's children. My six kids might have been born with those 'easy' genes that make me look like a parenting genius. Whereas somebody else's kids could have those 'difficult' genes, those inborn characteristics, which would make anybody feel so helpless and frustrated, even though they're very good as parents. I always have a lot of sympathy for parents because I have a mixture of genes in my kids.

David: That's an interesting point that I would not have thought to raise. And I'm a father of four myself, and I would say that all of my kids must have had those 'good' genes. Although the teen years were a bit challenging, the early years certainly were very smooth.

Sarah: That's 'good' genes. It is a combination of 'good' parenting and 'good' genes. But you can have pretty good parenting and if you have those challenging genes, the child will still be difficult, but he'll be less harmed by you as a parent. The worst combination is challenging genes and an unskilled parent; in that way, the child is going to be twice handicapped by his internal environment and by his external environment.

David: Sure, well we've jumped right into it here, but while we were on the topic of credentials, I wanted to give you a chance to say a little bit about your training and licensing background and so on.

Sarah: OK, I have a degree in psychology, and I have private practice in psychology, which I've been doing for about 30 years, helping families, parents, children and couples and individuals. And I had the good fortune of starting my career before I had children, in a clinic for children with learning disabilities, as it was called at the time - although perhaps today, it would be called a clinic for children with ADD or ADHD.

I was trained as a parent educator at that time - even though I knew nothing personally about it - by one of the top parent educators at the University of Toronto. And so with that training, I began to run the parent education component of the program. I was also the coordinator of that program for many years.

So that started me, in the 1970s, actually at the beginning of the movement in parent education. There were really just a few books out at that time. There was Thomas Gordon's book, "P.E.T..: Parent Effective Training".

David: Yes, I do remember that. I had totally forgotten about it until you just now mentioned it.

Sarah: Yes that was one of the first texts that we used. And there was a book put out on transactional analysis type of parenting. It wasn't "I'm OK, You're OK", but it was in that department of parenting. There were a few books, but hardly anything. So I kind of grew up with the parent education movement, and eventually read everything that was out there.

But meanwhile, I was working with individuals in psychotherapy and seeing that so much harm can come from a childhood that is characterized by faulty parenting, like when people are really wounded and then they spend the rest of their lives trying to unravel that. So those two parts of my work came together that way.

David: Yes, I remember the analogy of drowning babies in the river. Do you want to spend your time pulling babies out of the river, or go upstream and stop the person who's throwing the babies into the river?

Sarah: Exactly right.

David: So you decided that it would make sense to work upstream.

Sarah: Exactly, and I became really motivated to help prevent those kinds of problems, and then maybe one day we wouldn't need psychotherapists at all. I don't know if we can go that far, but prevention is so important and that's what I'm really interested in right now.

David: Now maybe you've already answered this question, but I wanted to ask you, how did you come to write this book? You had all this background in education and experience, what was the catalyst that finally pushed you to write your own book?

Sarah: I think a part of it was I looked at other people's books on parenting for many years, and I thought I know so much about this field, I really ought to put it down one day. And some things that I saw that were written actually annoyed me, upset me or frustrated me, and I just one day said, that's it, I'm writing my own book, and sort of got to it that way. So that's how I got into writing originally.

David: Well good for you, that's great. You evidently have your own strong ideas that run counter to some other people's ideas, and I noticed that your second chapter is titled "A Parenting Philosophy". So what is your philosophy of parenting?

Sarah: Well you might have noticed in there also that I have a whole long list of what you can and cannot do in parenting, and that's part of my philosophy. There are many factors outside of a parent's control, for example, the birth order of a child and how that might affect the child; or, the experiences the child has outside the home at school, on the block in his neighborhood, in his community; and the teachers the child has, and so on. The other parent is a factor that you actually can't control much as you might try to, and the extended family. So there are a lot of environmental factors.

I think the genetic factors are huge, maybe accounting for maybe 50% of the child's personality issues. And somewhere in there, there's a role for the parent - it's a significant role, but it's a smaller role. And then within that place, even with whatever we can do, we cannot ensure so many things that parents really think they can control like high self-esteem.

Can a parent really give a kid high self-esteem? Or, can a parent really make a child happy? I'm going to say a parent can't give a child a high self-esteem, cannot ensure the child will be happy - what if a child is born with those depression gene, for example - and cannot keep the child safe. You can't control the world, you can't make sure there won't be war or famine or catastrophes. You can't make sure those teachers will be good etc.

There are many things out of our control, so we have to do what is in our control. And in our control is our own mouth, what we open our mouth and say, and our behavior, what we do - that's in our control. And the outcome is not in our control. A good parent is not a person who has a good child; a good parent is one who does good parenting, and the way the child turns out is the result of all of those kinds of factors that I've been mentioning.

David: I love the realism of your approach. There's nothing 'Pollyannish' about your view of it. And I think you're so right, as I hear you speak about how many factors really are out of the control of the parent. And maybe it leads into something that I was wondering - you could look at a lot of books on parenting, but the titles would not be about raising one's voice, and the title of your book is "Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice". So how does that come to play such a central role for you that it becomes the title of you book?

Sarah: Well actually I had a great opportunity to attend a workshop. The name of the fellow escapes me at the moment, but his workshop was 'How to Get on Oprah'. And so I guess a lot of aspiring authors and people who had a message went to this workshop; it was really well-attended. And he spent three hours trying to get us to summarize our message, and I had already written the book, but I didn't have a title for it. And as I distilled and distilled, I actually came up with that title after the book was all written - I thought, bottom line, this is what I'm trying to tell you here.

At the end of his three-hour workshop, you had to be able to write it on the back of a Chinese fortune cookie strip; you know, the thing they stick inside of fortune cookies. It had to fit in there; it had to be concise at what it is you're trying to say. So this is what I'm trying to say: If you do respectful parenting, you're going to be helping your child the most. And if you do, basically, disrespectful parenting, you could be wounding the child the most. Although you can't make sure that your child is happy, there are certain things you can do to pretty well ensure that you're going to make your child miserable.

It's easy to ruin a child by doing merely poor parenting, by venting your anger inappropriately, by disregarding the feelings of the child and all kinds of things that have to go on when you're shouting at somebody. Shouting is a toxic kind of communication that has the power to destroy marriages, parent-child relationships, and every relationship there is - it's very toxic. So I figured, let's take that out and put some other stuff in, and then we would be OK.

David: Well I have to slip in here, has Oprah called yet?

Sarah: No, I never pursued that. I just used that workshop to get the title of the book and that was it. I hope she will call. I hope she's listening to this today and realizes how important this is, and calls me right away.

David: Yeah, me too. She hasn't called me either, but we can always hope. You know it's just about impossible to go to a supermarket or even walk down the street sometimes and not hear somebody yelling at their kids. And so some people listening to this might even wonder if it's possible to raise children without raising their voice. Is this a realistic goal for everyone? I guess I come from a middle-class background where it's sort of understood that you don't do that. But what about people who don't come from that kind of a background?

Sarah: You mean do you think they would be more handicapped once they knew about it?

David: I don't know. I'm just wondering is it a realistic goal for everyone.

Sarah: I would say that no, it's not. However, if somebody puts it on their agenda and works towards it, what the result would be is that they will yell hardly ever, which would be fine. If you want to go yell once a year, I'm sure that's not going to ruin anybody's life.

What I usually ask parents is how often do you think you can yell and not ruin your child's life? Would it be like once a month, once a week or once a day? Some people are yelling in the morning to get the kid out the door, in the evening to get them to do their homework, and at night to get them to bed. So they'll be yelling all the time and that will cause significant harm to the child.

So yeah, if you end up yelling once a year after you've studied the book, and really have done the few little things that I ask people to do there, then no harm done - I'm going to say don't worry about it too much. Although I prefer that if somebody is going to yell that they don't add any verbal content to that. There are different kinds of yelling. Let's put it this way: The reason why yelling is so damaging is because it comes with a face. Have you ever tried to yell with a pleasant face?

David: I can't say that I have, no.

Sarah: If you could put a video camera on the mad face and blow that up very large, you would see what it looked like to a small child. So you see this face that looks like 'I want to kill you'. It has a horrible look, and all that the parenting might be thinking is 'why did you spill that juice', 'how many times do I have to ask you to go to bed'. As a parent, you're usually not thinking 'I want to kill you', but the face looks like that, and then the voice comes with that as well.

And then when we add everything together - the face, the volume and words - the words would be something that you could leave out. For example, you could open your mouth and just make noise, right? That would be better than if you started a bunch of verbal abuse, but once the adrenaline is running, sometimes we're inclined to do that, then we say a bunch of horrible things. So there are three different levels of harm that could be done with yelling and they all go together - if you don't yell, you're not going to get any of them.

David: Well I think one of the things that you're getting at here is that as parents we have sometimes more power over our kids emotions; I know you were speaking earlier about how little power we have in some ways. But particularly, very young children and toddlers can interpret our emotions in a stronger way than we intended. And I have to share a story with you that doesn't necessarily put me in the most favorable light.

But I have twins and when they were little, one of them was coming towards me in the upstairs hallway. I can still picture this so clearly; he was in his little jammies, with the little integrated feet and all. And I don't remember what he was doing that had me upset, but I remember I said, 'no', just very firm, and he fell over backwards as if he had been shot. It just stopped him dead in his tracks and he fell over backwards. And of course, I felt horrible; I felt so guilty. But I hadn't really rebuked him before that and it just came as such a shock.

Sarah: Right, well that kind of gives you a hint as to how serious it is for kids. You didn't mean anything by it, and we generally don't. You know, your story is very poignant, as if you shot him, and so that's what it's like for a kid. They depend on us so, so much. Loud, harsh rebuke hurts them much more than we can imagine.

David: I'm going to share another story here, just to drive the final nail in the coffin of what a terrible parent I've been. My daughter and I were at the beach - and she was maybe two or three, again, in this toddler stage - and we had built a little fire at the beach. And so it was time to put the fire out and we put sand on the coals. She was barefoot and she started to want to dance in the area where the hot coals were, and wasn't responding to the verbal stuff. So I just gave her a little slap on her leg, again saying 'no' - I didn't spank her, but it was just a quick little thing. She fell down on the ground and said, 'my daddy killed me, my daddy killed me'.

Sarah: Isn't that something?

David: Then she went to nursery school and she told her teachers and everybody that her daddy killed her, and then the teachers had to call us in for a conference.

Sarah: That's beautiful. That must have taught you a lesson. But the children feel it so deeply, and you're just giving us proof, the final nail, as you said. That's not unusual. Your kids are only unusual in that they show you so clearly. But a lot of people's kids would just absorb it inside themselves where it will fester and cause all kinds of psychological long-term consequences.

That's another thing people don't realize: In the short run, a raised voice seems to get some instant results, which they really appreciate. You ask nicely and nothing happens, and finally, you're screaming and the kid gets up and runs to do whatever you said. So you think it works, but it comes with so many side effects. The more you use that in the short run, the more discipline problems you're actually going to have, because you have more behavioral problems the more you use anger as your primary tool.

David: Sure.

Sarah: You also have more neuroses. If you have a kid who wets the bed, twirls his hair, bites his nails, or blinks his eyes, he'll do a lot more of that the more you use a loud voice, a scary presentation, or anger in any of your own styles. Sometimes, some of us are not so dramatic; we just give nasty, cold looks and that can do as much damage as a loud voice.

David: So what tools do you recommend, other than yelling, angry faces etc.?

Sarah: Well I have five tools. If a person learned these five tools, it would really see them quite well for their two decades, let's say the 20 years of raising a child. These five tools reduce and eliminate the need for anger, if you follow them; you'll find yourself getting angry when you step outside the tools. Do you want to hear the five tools?

David: Yes, definitely, that's why we're here.

Sarah: Well the first one is called the '80/20 Rule', and this one is to lay the foundation; this one is to prevent misbehavior. Parents who use this particular communication style will find that they're kids are usually cooperative. So even if a child was born with those difficult genes, he'll be more cooperative, if you're using the '80/20 Rule'. And if they're born with the easy genes, it will be just like a dream; it will be perfect. This rule says eight out of 10 of your communications need to feel good to the child.

Now I just want to go over a couple of examples of what feels good and what doesn't feel good, or feels bad. So things that feel good are the things that would feel good to you and me also, like a joke, joking around, smiles, compliments, gifts, praise, treats, acts of kindness, helping, touching affectionately, words of love, greetings, affectionate names, those kinds of things.

And most of us know what feels good; the problem is we don't actually know what feels bad. People think that when you have a child - because your intention is to help a child - then because your intention was good, what you did was good, and that is, it felt good to the child. In fact, most of what we do in parenting actually feels pretty bad, so that our 80/20 is not achieved because we want eight of 10 of our communications to feel good.

But in the bad feelings, there's the yelling, so that one might be obvious. All signs of anger, a mean look, a cold face, withdrawal - all of that we can understand readily feels bad. Criticism feels bad, but some people will think if you gave constructive criticism that's good for the child. Maybe it is good for the child and maybe it isn't, but it feels bad. All criticism feels bad; criticism just gets people's backs up. And what feels bad are versions of criticism like complaining, lecturing, nagging - these are just longer or more intense criticisms - sarcasm, put downs, and insults.

But the thing that people really don't realize that feels bad is just asking a child to do something - so any instruction actually feels bad. And you can test that out because if you have a relationship with a spouse and it consisted entirely of instructions - the spouse would say, 'would you please do this, honey; darling would you mind doing this; and could you do this' - but that's all, it was just instruction, eventually you'd punch that spouse in the nose. People don't like to be told what to do even if they're told nicely; it's just a human characteristic of ours.

David: Boy, you are so right. You're really connecting for me. I think it comes more naturally to be on the 80% side when they're toddlers, when they're real cute around two, three, four or five. I wonder if as parents, we don't forget to do that as children get older, particularly, as they approach the teen years. Maybe we don't feel as comfortable or know how to deliver those positive messages as consistently.

Sarah: I'm going to say again that I don't think that is the problem that most people have. I think what happens is the negative ends up taking over. It's not that we don't know how to, or maybe what you said, we forget, which is probably closer to it. We start getting business-oriented, like if we're trying to get the kid out the door for school, and that may involve a hundred instructions in the morning, from 'get your clothes on' and 'eat your breakfast' and 'where's your school notes' and 'get ready and let's go' - all of those are instructions.

And then all of the instructions about doing your homework and clearing the table and having your bath and getting off the computer and getting to bed - almost everything we say to a child could almost be an instruction, so that our ratio could be 2/98. Not that you're yelling; it's just that you're giving instructions all day long and there's not enough time that you haven't put in that joking, that complimenting, those affectionate words, the back rub, all of such, you just left it out.

So I call that--imagine you have a bag of sugar and you wanted to be sprinkling it all the time in a way because the side effect of it is that you'll have less behavior problems. That's not the only reason to do it because that 80% positive nurtures the child in a million ways. It's really, really good for a child to have so much about love and positive attention, experientially that the child really feels that it's there.

It empowers you as a parent because the more the child likes you, the more they want to be like you, the more they want to accept your value system or what you have to offer them. The more they want to please you and the less they want to displease you or disappoint you. And the more you are nice to them that you feel good to them, you feel 80% positive, the more they'll like you.

On the other hand, the more they hate your guts, unfortunately, the less they'll take anything good from you. They won't want to be anything like you. They won't care whether it please you or disappoint you anymore. The more negative you are to a child, the less parenting power you have which is why this 80-20 rule is what I call the foundational rule.

David: OK. Well, that certainly makes a lot of sense. Let's go on to rule number two.

Sarah: Yes, OK. Now, rule number two, it's not so much a rule, it's a technique. It's called emotional coaching and it actually is part of your 80 % positive in the sense that this is a scale that John Gottman talks about that builds emotional intelligence in children and that is linked to better mental health and better academic performance and better physical health, but also, better behavior. It's basically a very simple tool that means you name the child's feelings before you do your regular intervention.

So let's say the kid wanted some cereals, it's not in your cupboards and he's a little catty, he throws himself down on the floor and he kicks the screams that there's no cereal there. A lot of parents would just come in and say, "OK, OK. I'm going shopping this afternoon and I'll get you more cereal. There's nothing to cry about. Stop crying." Like kind of try to solve the problem. Of course, other parents might say, "Stop that screaming right now, that's completely unacceptable" being to deal with the behavior.

So you don't want the parents doing all those things until they can name the feeling which is sitting like an elephant in the room right in front of them. The kid is, after all, emoting big time where the child is screaming and kicking and yelling and emoting so the parent would name that feeling first. You don't have to be Freud here to maim that feeling like underneath everything, the child is probably very disappointed. But on the surface, he's really mad so you just look at what's going on on the surface and if he looks mad, you say, "Wow, you're really, really upset that cereal wasn't there, the cookies weren't there. Oh, gosh, I can understand that because I'd be upset, too, if I was looking for something that wasn't in the cupboard. That is upsetting" and you just start with that.

The main trick with emotional coaching is not to use the word "but" right after you said it, but it's period, pause then get on to the next part of whatever you want to do, whatever other intervention you want to do next. It could be "I'm going to go shopping this afternoon and get you whatever" or it could be "Remember how we talked about earlier showing how to express your disappoint? This isn't the way." It could be a lot of different kinds of interventions but you do the naming of feelings first.

Kids have feelings like all day long. They're having trouble with their siblings and they're having trouble with you and they don't like their food. They don't like their clothes and they don't want to do their homework. That feeling is going on all day long. When you name their feelings, you make them emotionally more intelligent but you also become their best friend because you really understand as opposed to being a cardboard figure as a parent where the whole game is to get away from your punishment or something. You become a real person to them because you understand.

When you have a hard day at work and you tell somebody about that and they listen and name your feelings, you'd feel like "Oh, that was so great!" Isn't that what those psychotherapists and counselors, "That's what we do, it's naming people's feelings." They're paying big dollars for that because nobody would do it free for them. It's really a good thing for parents to do this for a child.

David: Yes, yes. It really makes a lot of sense from several points of view and I love the way that you talk about it. We all want to be seen, we all want to be understood and psychoanalysts talk about it in terms of mirroring. I like your use of the idea of emotional intelligence and growing emotional intelligence on that way.

Well, let's move on to the third technique.

Sarah: Now the third technique is actually a discipline technique, but it is a totally 'good feeling' discipline technique. Discipline means teach; you want to teach your kid. They come into this world and you want to teach them how to use a knife and fork, how to speak nicely even when they're upset, and you want to teach them how to just take care of themselves and function well in this world.

So there's a lot of teaching that we have to do. And sometimes parents are so intent on teaching that they neglect the methodology, like how they're going to teach, and they ruin everything because they're just focused on 'I've got to teach'. Now the CLR method lets you teach in a way that will strengthen relationships. It's also part of the 80% positive, and it is extremely powerful with no negative side effects.

So in CLR, the 'C' stands for 'Comment', the 'L' stands for 'Label' and the 'R' stands for 'Reward'. Now I just want to say a note about labels and explain how the three steps are used. The rule in family life has got to be no negative labels can ever be used.

Now a negative label would be a word like 'lazy', 'selfish', 'careless', or 'stupid'; things that are mean. So these may be very accurate when a child is misbehaving: he may be too wild, that might be a label that fits him; or maybe he's being too noisy; or he's teasing his brother and he is in fact being mean; or he won't share his candy, so he is, in fact, being selfish. Just because the word is accurate is not a good reason to use it.

A label helps a child develop a self-concept. The child, in the first 12 years of life, is in a brain wave motion that is pretty good as a hypnotic client. He's close to a hypnotic brain wave and the major hypnotists will be the parents. So when we say things to a child in those first 12 years, particularly - but even from the first 20 years - it could have a lifelong impact; and the more times we say the thing, the more likely it is. But there are things we may say once, which accidentally just drop into the kid's brain and reside there.

Our labels help the child to see who he thinks he is. So you wouldn't want a child to think that he was a brat, for example, or that he was obnoxious, a mean person, or anything like that. And a lot of people these days know that you shouldn't use a label like that, but they will still use the label in a different grammar.

So they won't say to a child, 'you're mean'; they'll say, 'you know what you're doing right now is mean'. What parents like this don't understand is that the only word that gets processed in a child's brain in that sentence will be the label 'mean' - the grammar goes out the window. So whether you say 'don't be mean', 'that is mean' or 'what you're doing is mean' is all the same as if you've said to the child, 'you are mean' because the child only takes it that way.

So having said that we'll say that positive labels have the same kind of power, but in a good direction. So if you tell a child that she's quite an artist, she may take that to heart, and have more confidence in her artwork; or, if you tell her that she's very cooperative, she may become more cooperative.

But you cannot just throw those labels out in the middle of nowhere; they're meaningless to a person. If you walked up to a person and say, 'you're the greatest' - well actually parents say words like 'you're the greatest', 'you're the most beautiful', 'you're the most artistic', 'you're the most wonderful'. It's key to understand that those are global praises that just mean 'I love you'; they're not really real.

But if you want a label to have educational power and become attached to self-concept, then you can use it right after the child has demonstrated the kind of behavior that the label describes. So let's say the child who is normally fighting with a sibling is now playing for a few minutes nicely with the sibling, and that's the behavior that you would like to see more of all. So when you come by and you comment, 'I see you guys are playing nicely together right now', that's your comment, that's the 'C' part of the CLR method. And then you could say, 'that's quite cooperative of you', and that would be your label.

Let's just do a different one: A toddler is always rough with the baby and what the parent wants to see is the toddler being gentle with the baby, or being kinder and soft around the baby. So instead of saying, 'don't be rough, don't be rough', and using that label over and over, the parent takes the toddler's hand and just asks the toddler to gently stroke the baby, and then says, 'oh, you're touching the baby so softly', and that would be the comment. 'That's so gentle of you' would be the label.

And then if you're really teaching something, you would throw in the third step, the reward, but just a few times, and then you would send that reward out. So it's only there just a little bit to say 'this behavior is really important to me'. You can say, 'you know what, I think you deserve a nice story from mommy right now. Mommy's going to read you a special story because you're touching the baby so gently'. And you would do that just a few times and then send that reward out, and you would maintain the behavior with comment-label, comment-label.

So you're looking for the behavior you want, instead of focusing on the behavior you don't want, and you may have to set it up even. Like I said, the mother here takes the toddler's hand and helps the toddler do the behavior she wants him to be doing, and then she uses comment-label-reward. Those three steps practically ensure that the child will be doing this more and more. So that's what I mean by disciplining and changing the behavior through a method that uses three 'good feeling' techniques to help the child want to do the desirable behavior more and more often.

David: OK, now I've lost my hold on step three. Was all of that the third technique?

Sarah: It was all part of the CLR method: comment-label-reward.

David: OK, now that's three things, but you said you had five.

Sarah: No, comment-label-reward is all part of the third step.

David: OK, good, that's what I needed to understand. So now what's number four?

Sarah: OK, if all else has failed, there is a place in parenting, a very small place in parenting for something that looks more like regular discipline. Now remember I gave you that list of 'bad feeling' things when we looked at the '80/20' rule, but I didn't even mention discipline in there. But discipline of the traditional type where you get a negative consequence is always 'bad feeling'.

And since you only have 20% of communication that could be 'bad feeling', of that 20%, about 80-90% is going to your instructions - it doesn't leave you much space to use 'bad feeling' discipline. However, let's say you want to get a kid to stay in bed at night, and you're very nice to this child, you use the '80/20' rule, and you also use emotional coaching. You sympathize with him; of course he doesn't want to go to bed, he wants to stay up all night and you understand that. And you've used the CLR method a few times when he has gone to bed: You've told him that you like when he goes to bed, he's very responsible, and you use that label. You gave him rewards, but for some reason, this kid is still popping out of the bed.

It's the last resort, but you can use something that is called the '2 times' rule. The '2 times' rule is an anti-anger rule; you have to use it this way. When parents want something for their kid, they'll say it 10 times - 'get off the computer now; turn off the computer now; how many times do I have to tell you' - and they'll be screaming, right?

They'll start screaming around the third or fourth time because who has patience to ask anybody to do something three or four times. So then that trains the child to know that they don't have to listen to mom or dad when they're speaking normally, you listen when they've got smoke coming out of their ears, they're red in the face and they're hysterical, and that means they really want you to do something now. And because the kid does it then that actually causes the parent to use that anger more often because the parent gets reinforced for the anger.

Now the '2 times' rule says you get very serious on the second time because most of us are not yet angry by the second time. If I say get off the computer and I come back a few minutes later and the kid is still on that computer, I'll say right then on the second time, 'I asked you a few minutes ago to please turn the computer off, and if it's not off by such-and-such time - it could be by the time I count to 10, or by the time I come back to this room in two minutes - then I'm going to turn off the computer and such-and-such will happen to you' - that means 'such-and-such' will be a negative consequence.

You say this right away on the second time of anything. So if a kid comes in and drops his coat on the floor, and you say 'could you please pick that up and put it away', and the kid says, 'yeah, in a minute'. A minute passes and the coat's still there; you have to go right now and say, 'I asked you about a couple of minutes ago, honey, please put it away because if you don't I'm going to put it away and such-and-such is going to happen to you'. And the 'such-and-such' is going to be a mildly annoying, negative consequence.

Actually in the book, I talk about two levels of consequences for two levels of misbehavior. I used the example of policeman who is arresting somebody for speeding, which is considered in our culture to be a normal adult misbehavior, normal for a age group and a lot of things that kids do, you know really nasty behavior but they're normal for their age group.

So for that, we get a ticket and a policeman will give you a ticket for speeding that would be looked about a $100 ticket which should be annoying enough that you won't speed more and when he gets it to you he doesn't say much, he just writes on a piece of paper and gets it to you and says have a good day or something and he drives off, he is fiery, not angry when he does this.

David: That's what we hope for. Sometimes they are.

Sarah: And then you become the category in all day along these guys and you know, they could give you a lecture about how dangerous the behavior is so or they can take away your car or your license or something which would be even a large of a consequence but they take away your money which is an illogical consequence but you like your money and you don't want it to go.

Now, if you're mad at the policeman and you spin mistake he takes away the ticket from you, you take him in the shielding tone, you can mere and step in the head of, you know, you made over something, that's a jail level offense, you know, you and I aren't allowed to treat a policeman like that and so if a child treats the parent like that, that's also a jail level offense and if when he stops you for speeding, you are actually driving a stolen vehicle of a murdered kidnap victim in the truck, that's no longer considered normal for your age group and a jail level offense.

So there are certain things that kids can do that are beyond the pale like things that are very distractive or very dangerous or illegal or immoral or something that will also be jail level offense. So that kinds of explains how to distinguish between those things and...oh also once the policeman is giving you a ticket, there's another way to go to jail.

If you decide the policeman to go on and I can just pull out the ticket off the window, you never pay it, right, eventually you can go to jail for not paying tickets, and so there we have to have a system that when a parent hands out a consequence even the two times rule, that has to be the parent's opening move just like the police officer's opening move is the ticket, but if you don't like the ticket worse things can happen and you can go to jail.

So what a skilled parent knows how to use a 'two times' rule. They will have very few occasions on which they actually have to use it, after the first month of using it, OK? They probably won't have to use it again for the rest of the 20 years of raising the kid because the child understands a ticket really is coming or jail level thing did happen etc. and they just don't put themselves in that position anymore.

David: OK, well before we run out of time here let's be sure to get the fifth rule in.

Sarah: Yeah, the fifth rule is the relationship rule. This one is meant to ensure that your child will have successful loving relationships throughout his or her life. I used the word ensure I'll only backtrack you can't really ensure anything but that's in your control but it will help your child have love throughout his or her life.

The relationship rule teaches the child how to handle frustration and upset in such a way that he won't push other people away from him which is, I think that most people and our culture currently don't know anything about.

So for constantly alienating our so called loved ones and people have children who grow up and don't talk to them anymore, who don't come to visit them with the grandchildren and so on because the way the parents handle the child showed that talks of communication could happen and usually children will withdraw from that and you could lose your entire relationship.

The relationship rule is a little bit different, it says I do not give, nor do I accept, talks or communication, or we could in another way, I only give and I only accept respectful communication. So the parent merely have to be able to say to the child, look, I don't slam the door on you, don't slam it on me, OK? I don't raise my voice to you so don't raise yours to me and I don't roll my eyeballs at you, don't make faces at me etc. but the parent must be mature enough that the parent isn't doing all of that, right? So you can't teach the kids. It's a two way thing here, its like some parents in our culture now who have gone to parenting courses are sweetest pie to their children and their kids are abusive back to them because the parents think, make it a two way thing. That's like you know, you have to know how to set boundaries in a healthy relationship.

You have to stop people from walking all over you, mistreating you because you know that thing we teach people how to treat us. So parents want to give the child the message, you know I only accept respectful and loving communications from you, this is I will only give you that, and the child goes out and says that to other people as well so that the child says, 'hey, you know there's somebody who is mistreating them, I don't accept that, I don't accept people mistreating me.'

So the child won't choose people who will be abusive to them as their significant other so they will get into trouble that way. And a child won't be abusive to people so they won't lose relationship that way. So the relationship rule is key. There's five steps that are outlined in the book that teach parents how to teach the relationship rule.

David: Well unfortunately we are going to need to wind down. Your book is chock full of information and I would really recommend that people get it in order to go into more detail on each of these steps such you've outlined as well and say many other great tips that you have in there.

Now I have to say, would you consider adopting me?

Sarah: Sure.

David: I would love to be raised by you and then the other thing I need to ask you, do you see the super nanny on TV by any chance?

Sarah: I saw it once or twice.

David: Only once or twice, just quickly, your take?

Sarah: You know what I do, I didn't form a strong enough impression although the only thing I do remember thinking is that she solve the problem but the parents didn't learn the principles. This is a process-oriented book but once you've got these five processes, you won't actually need anybody to tell you what to do in any situation because its always going to be one of these five things and that's it.

David: Well that's an excellent close right there. So Sarah Chana Radcliff, thanks so much for being my guest today and wise counsel.

Sarah: David, make sure that people also know about my website because that's where I am writing some extra support for them.

David: Sure, I will put that in the notes but you can also... people will find it on our show notes on Wise Counsel podcast website but go ahead and tell us what is the website address.

Sarah: It is and parents have questions on anything where you know, we're there to answer and to WEM, lots of information there and support for people who are trying to implement the five steps.

David: Wonderful, I am glad you got that in there and so thanks again for being my guest.

Sarah: Thank you for having me.


David: I hope you enjoyed this interview with Sarah Chana Radcliffe as much as I did. I think one of the reasons that made it so easy for me to speak freely with her is that she is a fan of both Wise Counsel and my other podcast series Shrink Rap Radio. You can imagine how satisfying it is to know that along with the many regular folks in our audience, there are professionals of Sarah's caliber who find these interviews of value.

There are many topics in Sarah's book that we didn't have time to get into, such as specific advice for dealing with teenagers. We heard her five basic rules but in fact the book offers over 50 solutions to everyday parenting challenges. Their title is Raise your kids without raising your voice and her website is packed with resources and can be found at


David: You've been listening to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by CenterSite, LLC. Until next time, this is Dr. David Van Nuys and you've been listening to Wise Counsel.