1st Edition

What to Say to Kids When Nothing Seems to Work A Practical Guide for Parents and Caregivers

By Adele Lafrance, Ashley P. Miller Copyright 2020
    274 Pages
    by Routledge

    274 Pages
    by Routledge

    *Finalist for Best Overall Non-Fiction and Best Parenting & Family Book in the 2020 International Book Awards!*

    What to Say to Kids When Nothing Seems to Work offers parents an effective, step-by-step guide to some of the most common struggles for kids aged 5–12. Written by mental health professionals with over 30 years’ experience listening to kids’ thoughts and feelings, this book provides a framework to explore new ways of responding to your child that will help them calm down faster and boost their resilience to stress. 

    With a dose of humor and plenty of real-life examples, the authors will guide you to "build a bridge" into your child’s world to make sense of their emotions and behavior. Sample scenarios and scripts are provided for you to customize based on your caregiving style and your child’s personality. These are then followed by concrete support strategies to help you manage current and future situations in a way that leaves everyone feeling better. Chapters are organized by common kid-related issues so you can quickly find what’s relevant to you. 

    Suitable for parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of children and pre-teens, as well as professionals working closely with families, What to Say to Kids When Nothing Seems to Work is an accessible resource for efficiently navigating the twists, turns, and sometimes total chaos of life with kids.


    Part I.  1. A New Path  2. The Road Map  3. Potential Roadblocks  4. Staying on Track  Part II.  5. "I don’t want to…"  6. "I miss…"  7. "You love my sister more…"  8. "This is the BEST!"  9. "My tummy hurts…"  10. "I’m not talking to you…"  11. "I’m so bad/stupid…"  12. "You just don’t get it!"  13. "I can’t decide…"  14. "Don’t go to work!"  15. "I got a terrible mark…" 16: "I hate my life!"  17. POW! (Dealing with aggression)  18. "Don’t make me go to Mom’s/Dad’s!"  19, The "Do-Over"  20. "You’re too soft! & You’re too hard!"  21. "Why are you talking to me like that?"  Part III. 22. New Directions  23. Practical Resources  24. Recommended Readings



    Adele Lafrance, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, research scientist, and co-developer of Emotion-Focused Family Therapy. She offers workshops for the general public and mental health agencies worldwide.

    Ashley Miller, MD, is a child psychiatrist at BC Children’s Hospital and a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia where she is co-director of family therapy training for psychiatry residents.

    "What to Say to Kids When Nothing Seems to Work is exactly the guide that frazzled and over-extended parents need for handling tough moments with kids. This book allows us to analyze our own behavior and to see things from a kid's perspective, avoiding the knee-jerk response all of us parents later regret. Today’s parents are often stretched very thin and running on empty, and this book can be a great help." - John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work 

    "This is a book every parent should read! It is a down-to-earth, clear, and creative guide for those moments when all parents feel defeated and demoralized. And it's fun to read. It will help you reach for your best parenting self in difficult moments and keep that loving bond with your child growing." - Dr Sue Johnson, researcher, professor, and bestselling author of Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

    "Read this book so that you can learn to read your children, responding not to their words, manner, or behaviour, but to the hidden emotional messages they are sending you. Parenting wisdom for those who want to connect with their children on the heart level." - Gabor Maté M.D., co-author, Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers

    "Ashley Miller and Adele Lafrance have created a superb guide to parenting. Their guidance is grounded in well-established, evidence-based principles of parenting, offered in an engaging and enlightening way full of illustrative examples. They speak to the sorts of problems all parents encounter; most especially, those moments when children and adolescents don’t want to talk about issues in need of discussion. Their advice will surely prove useful across the widest range of parenting and co-parenting situations, from everyday matters through times of crisis. This book should be in every parent’s home." - Jay Lebow, Ph.D., ABPP, senior therapist, senior scholar, and clinical professor, The Family Institute at Northwestern, Evanston, IL, USA

    "Keep it simple. Reduce the outside chatter and reconnect with your instincts as a parent. That is what this book can offer. Full of scenarios depicting familiar situations with simple, doable solutions, this book provides gentle reminders on how to focus on what positive OUTCOMES you want. Practicing these thoughtfully written scripts will ease your mind and create long term skills that can be used in your day to day life. What a relief." - Mara St. Onge, founder of Blingja Concepts and author of Blingja, The Mindful Adventurer Ninja

    "I highly recommend this excellent resource to parents or guardians raising children of all ages. Dr. Ashley Miller and Dr. Adele Lafrance are both leading experts in their respective fields. Their experience is clearly demonstrated in this book, through their ability to break down complex situations, providing information in an easy-to-use format, and above all providing clear, concrete examples. This book helps us to understand different types of behaviour (‘building a bridge’), what to say (‘putting it into words’) and how to put it all together (‘getting practical’) - just what we need!" - Andrew Tugwell, MPH, director of Health Promotion & Prevention, BC Children’s Hospital

    "One might wonder how Ashley Miller and Adele Lafrance could possibly tell us ‘what to say when nothing seems to work’, since we can think of countless situations when we parents have that experience. They would certainly fail if they focused on each specific behavior and possible associated reasons for it and consequences to give. Instead, these authors focus on where we get stuck (our ‘knee jerk reactions’ and ‘common pitfalls’) as well as what we tend to overlook (our child’s mind along with our own) and present a way forward—a script that reaches into all manner of situations that are proving to be extra challenging. They show us how to build a bridge to the child’s mind, develop possible emotional translations for what we discover in our child, and put our discoveries into practical words that lead our child to feeling understood and being more willing to join us in a way that works for us both.

    Miller and Lafrance suggest possible scripts for a great many situations, while encouraging us parents to adapt them for our unique child and family. As a bonus, they offer scripts that might be of value in bridge-building with our partner too. After all, all family relationships are likely to become tricky and messy. This is a good book to take with us on our journey as we try to ‘get it right’ as well as to engage in the ‘do-overs’ that will certainly be necessary. This is a note of gratitude to these authors for their clearly written and oh-so-practical book for parents everywhere." - Dan Hughes, Ph.D., founder of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) and author of many books including Attachment Focused Parenting: Building the Bonds of Attachment (3rd Ed.)

    "In this wonderful book for parents, Drs. Miller and Lafrance share the fruits of attachment theory and neuroscience to respond to those parenting situations when things get tough. Blending their clinical experience with their own humble and relatable real-life experience as parents and (imperfect) human beings, they remind us that the most precious gift we can offer for children (and ourselves) is our unconditional loving presence. Not satisfied to stop there, they go on to share practical strategies and language that can be applied today, to rebuild and repair the bridge with our children, as well as with ourselves and our co-parent(s)." - Dzung X.Vo, M.D., author of The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress One Moment at a Time

    "Wisdom is scarce and even common sense is not that common, but both are to be found in abundance in this gem of a book by Miller and Lafrance. Offering both a conceptual framework and practical suggestions, this book provides much needed answers for how to respond supportively and constructively to a wide variety of potentially tricky interactions with children. From day to day interactions, to coping with difficult emotions or tough questions, to handling moments of crisis such as a child who experiences a loss - raising a child can often feel like walking through a minefield. Parents will find that the advice of Miller and Lafrance provides a uniquely effective map for navigating through it. The personal tone, rich vignettes, and charming illustrations make the book especially relatable and easy to read. This is surely one for every parent’s bookshelf!" - Eli R. Lebowitz, associate professor in the Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine


    "Given the rising trends of childhood stress, anxiety, and addiction, we need practical communication tools that will help nurture healthy, connected parent-child relationships. This book does just that! Read it, try the techniques, and enjoy the discovery of who your child really is." – Dr. Shimi Kang, MD, psychiatrist, author of The Dolphin Parent and The Tech Solution: Creating Healthy Habits for Kids Growing Up in a Digital World.