Three Simple Steps. Can it really be so easy?

In a word: yes.

First off, I LOVE that this book makes many positive assumptions about children:

Your child is capable.

She wants to listen and learn.

He’s wired for empathy.

She wants to help.

He wants to feel like an important part of your family.

You’re on the same team.


Such a great place to start.

Kids don’t act like jerks on purpose, or to annoy you. There is always a reason they can’t manage themselves, follow directions, or meet your expectations. In fact, my agency, ZERO TO THREE did a comprehensive survey of parents and found that the science (what kids CAN do), and the expectations (what parents WANT kids to be able to do), just don’t match up. Check out the research and resources–it’s all very telling.

The next brilliant thing in this book is the elegant ALP process. Listen, I’ve been telling people to “‘Connect before you direct or correct,” for years, and while I stand by that advice, this advice is really better. They call it an “actionable, three-step plan.” Here’s what you do:

Attune: Let your child know you understand.

Limit set: Tell your child how it really is and briefly say why.

Problem solve: Explore better choices, and suggest ways your child can help solve the dilemma.

Genius, right?

At Hand in Hand, we have a similar process: “Listen, Limit, Listen,” because sometimes the feelings are BIG, so problem-solving has to come later. This book acknowledges that, and does a good job giving information about how kids’ brains work. It also offers solid examples directly from families: what happens, how to keep your cool, and why ALP will help.

There is nuance to this communication style, and it requires a bit of a paradigm shift. Julie and Heather take care to explain the whys and hows of this balanced approach. I was delighted to read an example Julie shared about a participant in one of her classes. A mom with a history of power struggles with her toddler had worked really hard to implement ALP and change her tone of voice, approach, and actions. Then one day, in the middle of a conflict with her, he said:

“Mommy, I feel like hitting you right now.” But he didn’t hit her. It was an incredible moment and she knew it–it meant he was expressing himself and he was resisting an impulse. She felt proud of him, and of all her hard work. This little boy was very young to have that level of self-awareness, but that’s what we’re going for. We want our kids to verbalize their feelings, to tell us how they feel, instead of acting them out. We want them to feel safe expressing all of their feelings to us. We are the parents; we can handle it. (My emphasis.)

I am so simpatico with this!

I wrote a surprisingly similar post about how excited I was when my son threatened to throw a bowl at me. But he was 7 at the time. I’m completely amazed to hear of a 2-year-old regulating himself like that. This stuff must work!

And bonus points for a thorough explanation of why the extremes, neither strict nor permissive, work. Even though I’ve read 100 articles about a balanced parenting style (and written them myself), this feels like a fresh take. With a eye to offering *just* the right amount of support that kids need to learn new skills, I found their naming of “over-helping vs. under-helping” really, well, HELPFUL!

I’ve always talked about scaffolding in my work, but you guys, THEY DREW CUTE PICTURES and it makes the whole concept so much more accessible. Reducing the scaffolding is like being able to s-l-o-w-l-y take off the training wheels. So smart.

In short: BRAVA!

This connection-based, commonsense approach is effective and easy to remember. Try it, I promise it will work.

Thanks Julie and Heather, this book is an excellent resource!

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Now Say This for review purposes.

Here’s my Amazon review: “I’ve written about, studied, and practiced good communication and positive parenting for 2 decades and while nothing in this book surprised me, what shocked me was its simplicity and elegance. The straightforward ALP process (Attune, Limit set, Problem-solve) will have you slapping your forehead like, “duh.” The examples are realistic and relatable, and while they don’t cover every single parenting dilemma specifically, the ALP process can literally be used anytime for any situation. All the latest brain science is in here and the tone is gentle and kind–to YOU as the parent–AND in examples for interacting with kids, too. If you’re stuck in the yell-regret-repeat cycle, STOP and order yourself a copy of this great book!”

Sarah MacLaughlin is author of the award-winning book, What Not to Say: Tools for Talking with Young Children and has been featured in The Huffington Post. She brings over 25 years of experience working with children and families to her coaching practice. Sarah is also mom to a 10-year-old who gives her plenty of opportunities to take her own advice. She works with families one on one, in groups, and through online offerings.