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Will you? Go with your own intuition and ignore advice that doesn’t ‘sit’ well with you. Small children need to feel loved and secure; leaving them to cry for long periods of time does not produce secure attachment. Download Book 1, ‘Being a Parent’ FREE right now!

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There are twelve books in the Parenting Skills Online series. Register with Parenting Skills Online and you can download the first book, ‘Being a Parent‘, completely free of charge.

Illustrations by Jessica Mahony and Cathy Balme

Each of the books has been beautifully illustrated by Jessica Mahony (jessicamahony@hotmail.co.uk), while the website illustrations have been professionally drawn by Cathy Balme (cathybalme@btinternet.com). Parenting Skills Online is extremely grateful to Jessica and Cathy for their unique work in this production.

COMING SOON…
Parenting Skills Online is going audio! If you’d prefer to listen to the e-books, you can choose this option very soon. In the meantime, you can download Book 1, Being a Parent, as an audio version FREE right now!

Book 1 – Being a Parent

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Being a parent is about the most important job we do as an adult and book 1, ‘Being a Parent’ looks at the feelings we experience and the way we parent our children. We soon find out that we may unconsciously start parenting in ways handed down from our own parents or we may consciously do it very differently.
Renowned family therapist, Virginia Satir, emphasised in her book, Peoplemaking (1985) that people expect to be good parents just because they are able to conceive and give birth. Nothing can be further from the truth, particularly if your own childhood was lacking in some way.

We do the best we can with what we have available but we need to be aware of what we are doing in terms of listening to our children, allowing them to express their feelings and acknowledging them. This enables them to become self-sufficient adults with high self-esteem, capable of good decision-making throughout their lives.

We look at the pitfalls of parenting, whilst understanding the need to encourage children to take responsibility and make their own decisions. We give a gentle reminder that our roles change as parents as our children grow older.

You’ll also be introduced to Building Bridges, which are activities which you can do alone or with your children and other adults in the family. Practice makes perfect and these exercises will help reinforce the content of the books. Some of them are thought-provoking and may stir up memories from your own childhood but without doubt, they will increase your awareness.

Book 2 – Feelings

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So what do I do with my feelings? It’s a very good question and this book examines this whole subject and how to feel good about ourselves. Many people don’t feel good about themselves and this stems from being told off as a child for saying how you felt.
Do you ever remember being told, ‘not to make a fuss’, ‘don’t be silly, you’re not hurt at all’ or ‘you’re just tired’? Could you imagine another adult saying something like that to you now? How would you feel? Probably not too good!

A lot of us were told these phrases, and many similar ones, when we were children and assume that it’s alright to repeat them parrot-fashion to our kids. If our feelings are not acknowledged, we can feel disrespected and dishonoured and, in some cases, feel really bad about ourselves. Furthermore, we learn not to trust our feelings, which are vital to our survival in the world.

In Book 2, ‘Feelings’ teaches us that it is alright to express our feelings and children should be encouraged to do so, and as adults, so should we. It’s also a book that gets us to value ourselves and how to do that.

Book 3 – Labels

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It’s important to help our children feel good about themselves and this depends on their sense of self-worth. There’s an expression which really sums up labelling a person: ‘If you label me, you negate me’.
Do you ever find yourself chastising your children by calling them names? The child will quickly know that you’re not pleased but will they understand exactly what they’ve done wrong by being labelled?

It is far more useful to describe the unacceptable behaviour than ‘label’ a child ‘good’, ‘bad’, lazy’, ‘clumsy’, etc, which do nothing to tell the child what he/she has done wrong. Labelling a person can make them feel hurt and resentful and even less likely to change the behaviour or be more co-operative. Also children trust and believe their parents and if they are given the same labels for long enough, they become more ‘good’, ‘bad’, lazy’, ‘clumsy’, etc to fulfil our expectations of them.

This book explores ways of getting the message across without criticising and making a child feel insignificant.

Book 4 – Whose Problem Is It?

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Bearing in mind everyone has needs which need to be met, it’s important to know whose needs are greater at different times. Sometimes, in an effort to get what we want, others may see our behaviour as unacceptable, but it’s a good idea to look at four factors determining how accepting we are.
If we are feeling tired and irritable, sometimes it doesn’t take much to push our buttons but if everyone is happy, there’s no problem. However as human beings we all have the same needs and behave in ways to get those needs met, which is a normal and healthy situation.

For people who don’t get their needs met, they may resort to more extreme behaviour. While there’s nothing wrong in wanting your needs met but the behaviour can become undesirable or inappropriate and this can be seen negatively.

So it’s more useful to look at the behaviour in terms of whether we find it acceptable of unacceptable. In that way we are not labelling the child or the behaviour but looking at our own needs at the time. ‘Whose problem is it?’ teaches you how to identify who’s needs haven’t been met and how to deal with such situations.

Book 5 – Being a Helper

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Book 5 introduces readers to the art of listening. When your children have a problem, it’s very easy to jump in with advice, suggestions and opinions but sometimes children just need to be heard. We often feel as if we have to ‘fix’ things for our kids but often it’s more useful to just be a listening ear.
There are some important points about helping people and Book 5 describes in detail the whys and wherefores of using this skill. As well as demonstrating that you care, it’s necessary to understand what the child is experiencing without the need to jump in and take over.

As we show acceptance, it’s important to trust that our children can help themselves and may just need a little assistance to do so. Being straight, consistent and congruent is another essential ingredient so the child knows where they stand and to do this, communication needs to be clear and honest. This book really moves towards building a relationship as an ally to your child in their time of need without having to solve their problems for them.

Book 6 – Introduction to Listening

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This book introduces the benefits of learning to listen and how to start the ball rolling in enabling your children to talk about issues that maybe bothering them. Importantly, it also looks at what may get in the way of listening and why sometimes we find this hard to do.
Acknowledging a person’s feelings when they are upset is possibly one of the most useful things you can do. However, a lot of times, we try and fix the problem, offer advice, distract or give an opinion and this can make the matter worse because the feelings are stuck inside with nowhere to go.

Someone who encourages us to express our feelings is a person we’d find more understanding and helpful. Having feelings acknowledged has the effect of helping us to actually let go of them and move onto whatever is lying underneath. This in turn, enables us to become clear and solve our own problems and is something that children need to learn to do.

Book 7 – Reflective Listening 1

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One of the most useful skills a parent can learn; reflective listening is a mixture of skills which includes silence and good attention. Book 7 also introduces paraphrasing, reflecting feelings and reflecting hidden meanings.
We train children to think clearly whilst at the same time teaching them not to express their feelings. However, with children, the ‘surface’ problem is rarely the same as the underlying one.

Reflective listening helps you check with the speaker to make sure you’ve really heard and understood what they meant. It also gives them a feeling of safety in being understood and allows them to continue speaking to explore the problem further.

People in the counselling professions are taught to look beneath what is called the ‘presenting problem’ and reflective listening allows the speaker to open up and trust that their disclosures will not be judged in anyway. Book 7 is the first of two books which teaches you to become an expert listener and is extremely useful, not just with your children but with friends and family too.

Book 8 – Reflective Listening 2

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Many old patterns and beliefs get in the way of listening to others. We learnt over the years to switch off at times, doubt and judge others and spend time working out what we were going to say when it was our turn to speak. All this prevents pure communication taking place.
Some of us find it hard to deal with feelings, both our own and those of other people. Even so, it is often our best intention to help when you know a person is in distress but often these responses are unhelpful and at worst quite detrimental to the situation.

Sometimes we resort to criticising, labelling, diagnosing, praising, advising, diverting, being logical or reassuring. However these methods do little to make the person feel understood.

Book 8 explores patience and the tone of voice we use when trying to help people, and also, to be aware when not to use reflective listening. Primarily, those times are when your own needs have not been met or you’re too involved in the problem yourself.

Book 9 – Needs and Wants

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Many parents give up a lot of their own pleasures and pastimes when children come along and, mothers particularly, put the family first and themselves firmly last. It’s important to value our own needs too, get ourselves looked after and receive help and support from others in order to be able to continue giving.
We look at the difference between needs and wants and the way people behave in order to fulfil them. Parents’ needs are as important as those of the children or indeed anyone else.

We all have basic needs to love and be loved, to laugh and play, to have peace, quiet and safety, and to be respected, valued and cared for. Everyone’s needs are 100 percent important and there are ways to get everybody’s needs met without anyone losing out.

Behaviour to get needs met is learned unconsciously from our parents and other adults around us. Very broadly speaking, this behaviour usually falls into two categories; behaving submissively or aggressively. The more desirable behaviour is to be assertive.

Book 10 – Sharing my Feelings

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Being open and honest are possibly the most important factors in family communication. Sadly however, it happens rarely due to the fact we are not encouraged to say how we feel as children. If we are scared to tell the truth we will justify lying to save ourselves but being open and honest allows other people to trust us and feel safe with us.
Have you noticed how little children do not know how to be dishonest? ‘From out of the mouths of babes…’ as the expression goes, however they stop doing that when they are ticked off for being blunt and then learn to keep things to themselves.

Although we yearn for closeness in our relationships, we are taught not to trust people; ‘don’t talk to strangers’ we remind our children. Young girls learn to be suspicious of young men in case they ‘only want one thing’ and boys are taught not to express their feelings, which alienate them from each other.

Basic relating skills, like communicating our feelings with openness and honesty, and valuing our own and others’ needs, could be considered basic survival skills. Book 10 enables you to examine and practise these skills.

Book 11 – Challenging

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There comes a time when we do have to deal with unwanted behaviour without blaming and shaming. Book 11 gives step-by-step guidance to using the ‘4-part I challenge’ which encourages the desired change from your child without resorting to attack and blame.
When we challenge unacceptable behaviour, we want to do it while remaining friends with our children. Encouraging high self-esteem in our children should always be at the fore-front of any action we take, therefore despite pointing out behaviour we don’t like; we still want them to feel good about themselves.

There are four steps to encouraging co-operation; describe the offending behaviour, state the effect it has on you, tell them how you feel about that effect on you and ask them to help you with solving the problem.

When you behave congruently, your children will learn to do the same; it’s all in the style of communication. Book 11 also explores the hypnotic effect of language.

Book 12 – Being Firm and Gentle

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The last book in the series looks at styles of parenting and the effectiveness of each. It also looks at possible causes when the 4-part I challenge doesn’t work. We bring in the ‘soft no’, which is another alternative.
What are the possible causes of the ‘4-part I challenge’ not being effective? This particular skill may not work if it was your problem and not the child’s or if you were not being congruent. If you behave aggressively rather than assertively you may not get the desired result either.

When all else fails, you can save energy with the ‘soft no’. This skill can be used when you really don’t want to negotiate and you just want them to do as you ask. This can be used in potentially dangerous situations or when you’re just too tired to be bothered.

Finally, we conclude with reaching agreements with your children and then making sure they stick to them. This could be regarding simple issues such as leaving lights on, to more serious things like coming home later than agreed.

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Featured Book
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The last book in the series looks at styles of parenting and the effectiveness of each. It also looks at possible causes when the 4-part I challenge doesn’t work. We bring in the ‘soft no’, which is another alternative.
What are the possible causes of the ‘4-part I challenge’ not being effective? This particular skill may not work if it was your problem and not the child’s or if you were not being congruent. If you behave aggressively rather than assertively you may not get the desired result either.

When all else fails, you can save energy with the ‘soft no’. This skill can be used when you really don’t want to negotiate and you just want them to do as you ask. This can be used in potentially dangerous situations or when you’re just too tired to be bothered.

Finally, we conclude with reaching agreements with your children and then making sure they stick to them. This could be regarding simple issues such as leaving lights on, to more serious things like coming home later than agreed.

Book 12 – Being Firm and Gentle
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