Hi Cathy, I’m married with five children under the age of ten and we have had social services in our lives for just over a year because of the behaviour of some of my children. I would like to thank you personally because without your books, I would never have had the confidence to improve the way we deal with our children. I would never have heard of the 3R’s (Happy Kids) which works and is a wonderful way to deal with children. I hated the thought of the naughty chair or step. Now with the 3R’s put in place my home and family is very much calmer and more enjoyable. Before long we will be able to say goodbye to the social workers and move on as a family for a better future. Thanks to you and the 3Rs!
Pause For Thought: Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes, they forgive them.
Dear Cathy, I am a TA working with a 7-year-old boy – W – who suffers from ADHD and has shown very challenging behaviour. After replacing his computer time with board games his interest in activities has grown. He is calmer and more focused. He is using a routine I introduced – few work sheets in the morning, 15 minutes reading and some time spent in class. The school wants to get W back in class for the whole time. Do you think it is advisable to start each school day with some time in class rather than with worksheets? I would like to hear your comments on his behaviour. Best regards
CG: Dear Anne, Well done, you are doing a fantastic job by the sound of it. Your routine and methods have found a way in so that W can learn. In respect of the computer – children with ADHD often react badly to screens even for short periods – computer, TV, playstation etc. So you were right to replace this with a board game. In respect of reintegration into the classroom, this should be done in short periods at the same time each day. Routine is essential for a child like W… First thing in the morning for registration and first thing in the afternoon are good starting points. Registration is a controlled environment and W will be less tired and therefore less likely to react badly. This needs to be done as part of his IEP with the SENCO, class teacher, parent and anyone else involved aware. It is very important that children eat and drink regularly at school, particularly so with a child who has ADHD. Is W having water at regular intervals throughout the day and a small snack at morning break? If not his sugar levels will fall; he will become dehydrated and his behaviour and concentration will suffer. Lastly, can I suggest you revisit my book Happy Kids? I think you will find some chapters very useful now you are a TA to W. Very best wishes Cathy.
Hi Cathy, thanks for your helpful advice. I saw the school counsellor about W and what I got to hear touched me deeply: Little W struggles to come to terms with his father being in prison. He is overprotective towards his mother and constantly worries what she s doing while he is at school. He sees himself as ‘the man in the house’. His mind is so busy with all those thoughts, that he is pre-occupied on many mornings. His counsellor told me that little W is mentally tired of all the contradictions in his head and can’t be forced or disciplined on bad days. She also told me my task was to keep him occupied and comfortable rather than force him to learn. I find it a little sad that I was not told of his background in first place. It would have helped.
CG: Dear Anne, I guessed it was something to do with W’s home life, and yes, it is a great pity that you were not given this information at the start. Had you been the TA for a child I was fostering I would have made you aware and given you regular updates. I do not agree that W should just be kept occupied at school. He needs to learn and school is a safe and constant factor in his otherwise turbulent life. If I was working with him I would say something like: ‘I know you have a lot of things going on in your life. I know you have lots of worries, which I understand. But it is important you learn so you can get a good job and a nice home and car, and do all the things you want to.’ On a bad day he will reject this and say ‘couldn’t care a F… about my future’ or similar. But the message will be going in. In his quieter moments W will think about what he would like to achieve, via a good education, compared to what his parents have. On a practical note, it may be he is having contact with his father in prison which could tie in with very bad days. Sadly this child is typical of so many I see. Cathy.
Cheer me up because I had an argument with my brother about something and then I said to mum I hate living at home and she said well leave then at least it will be quiet without you. This is all true.
CG: Disagreements are part of normal family life. We all disagree with our loved-ones sometimes, and say things we later regret. Your mum was hurt by your rejection of the home she has lovingly provided for you. Parents aren’t saints; we just try to do our best. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we don’t. Sons and daughters aren’t always saints either, so I suggest you all apologize and make up. Cathy.
Inspired by your books I have taken up a volunteering position with special needs children at a local primary. I am working alongside the SENCO who only sees the extremely challenging children in school. Applying your 3R method, I have already managed to turn around two children in relatively short time. The school has been so pleased with the methods and my work that they have offered me a paid position. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a child who was completely out of control, enjoy listening, taking turns and behaving well. Some of the children have never experienced boundaries but soon learn that you do not set boundaries to get them into trouble but because you care about them.
Hi Cathy, my step-daughter (aged 3) came to live with us recently and she is taken out by her biological Nan once a week. She always comes back with expensive gifts which she shows to my son. This upsets me as I can not do the same for him every week as we’re a low income family.
CG: Dear Alison, foster carers are often put in the same position in respect of gifts and their own children and foster children. Natural families who are not parenting their child or children can sometimes feel guilty and over-compensate by buying expensive presents and rarely disciplining the child. This is especially difficult when the family, like yours, has other children who receive a normal amount of gifts, attention and discipline. Have you tried talking to your step-daughter’s Nan about this? If not I suggest that is the first step. You could say that not only is it causing a problem in your household but also her granddaughter is coming to view her (Nan) as the provider of gifts which is detracting from the true relationship she should be having with her. I have had to say something similar to the parents of children I’ve fostered. When the parents/grandparents realize that showering the child with gifts and giving in to all their demands is not helping their relationship they often cooperate. No one wants to be seen simply as the provider of material possessions. Talk it over with your partner and see if you can approach Nan. Let me know how you get on please. Cathy.
Hi, I am 12 years old and a foster child in a family I like very much, but they don’t always understand me.
CG: Dear Julia, there will be times when your foster parents don’t understand you just as you probably don’t understand them sometimes. My family and I are the same – it is part of normal family life. My advice would be to talk to them and tell them when you feel they do not understand your position. Good communication is essential in any family but sometimes we forget to talk to our loved ones and just assume they will know what we feel like. Talk to them and explain your worries and I am sure it will help. Cathy x
Dear Cathy, I have a 4 year old daughter who goes to nursery. She stays with my parents during week days as my hubby and I work. We visit her daily after work and bring her home at weekends. I am worried as follows: She is very stubborn and wants things done her way. She interrupts by screaming when my mum is talking to us or even visitors. When we attend family gatherings she will not answer when people talk to her. Is this normal for 4 years kid to behave? Really appreciate your feedback.
CG: Dear Lee. Please do not worry. Much of your daughter’s behaviour is normal for a healthy intelligent child of four. Although I agree that some boundaries need to be put in place. Make sure your parents have the same rules and expectations of behaviour as you and your husband do. If there are two sets of rules it will be very confusing for your daughter. Talk to your parents and find out what they expect in terms of interrupting when an adult is speaking etc. and make sure you are working the same way. I suggest you read my book Happy Kids and follow the 3 Rs. The technique I describe works wonders. Re your last point about not always speaking to people; that is normal. Your daughter is simply exercising her choice, or possibly she may be a bit shy. I wouldn’t force the issue. You can encourage her to talk to family members but don’t force it. Best Wishes Cathy
Dear Cathy. I am 14 years old and I am reading Damaged. My family and I have been fostering for 1 year. We have a little boy but he really annoys me. Because I’m the youngest so he thinks he can play me round.
CG: Dear Keeley, You will see from reading Damaged (and my other books) just what children in a fostering family have to put up with sometimes. However, there is a lot that can be done to help you: first you need to make your mum aware of how you are feeling. It is important. She will be so busy with fostering and running the house that she may not realise just what an effect fostering is having on you. Please tell her. Because the foster child takes up so much time often the natural children in the family get second place. As parents we don’t mean to do this, we just assume our own children are okay and concentrate on the foster child and all their problems. Your family needs to spend time alone – just a small time but on a regular basis. Also most fostering agencies now run a support group for the natural children of foster families where you can mix socially and discuss any issues you may have. Check out the one in your area, but first and foremost tell your mum how you feel. Cathy x
Hi Cathy, My daughter of two and a half years has started telling fibs. She smiles and laughs like it is a game. I would like to nip it in the bud if I can.
CG: Dear Barbara, I agree it is better to stop this behaviour before it becomes a habit, although I think she could simply grow out of it – as you say it is like a game; there is no malice behind it. However, like you, I would want to ‘nip it in the bud.’ I suggest you explain to your daughter that the problem with fibbing is that you won’t know when she is telling the truth; then if she persists, prove it by using a bit of psychology. I suggest the following: The next time she asks for something e.g. a sweet or TV time refuse it and say, ‘No, I don’t think you really want it.’ She will erupt and say, ‘Yes I do!’ You say, ‘But how do I know you do and it isn’t a fib?’ When she says indignantly, ‘It’s not a fib! I really do want a sweet/TV/go to the park.’ Say, ‘Oh, I see, well in that case you can have your treat, but you need to stop fibbing otherwise I won’t know when you’re telling the truth, will I?’ A few times of this and it will stop. It also works with older children whose lying runs deep. Cathy
Hi Cathy, I have been reading your blog and came across the one about the smacking ban. I posted a while back that I was going to stop giving my three girls light smacks and I haven’t smacked them since. However I was wondering what you would suggest when taking away privileges doesn’t work? My children don’t seem to care about this, especially my 4 year old, Katie. She understands why she is being told off but when I take away something e.g. TV time the following day she doesn’t make the connection. This sparks off a tantrum. Also, taking away TV time punishes my other children who can’t watch the TV either because Katie would be able to watch it. I was wondering what you suggest?
CG: Hi Nikki, Well done for not smacking. I have a few suggestions regarding your daughter’s behaviour. Have you tried rewarding her good behaviour? It may seem obvious, but so often bad behaviour is attention seeking which works because we react to negative behaviour and tend to assume good behaviour. That is okay – good behaviour should be the base line, but if a child is going through a particularly challenging time it is worth placing emphasis on the good behaviour as well as sanctioning the negative. The reward doesn’t have to be much, just a simple ‘Well done! Good girl,’ is enough. And don’t forget to praise your other children as well or you’ll have them playing up. Make sure sanctions are immediate and appropriate. Stopping something the same day is far better than the following day if at all possible. If it has to be the following day then tell the child why they are losing the treat, explain it was because of their unacceptable behaviour the day before. Obviously other children in the family should not be punished because one sibling has done wrong, so if you are using withdrawal of television as the sanction then the child who is being sanctioned should be withdrawn to another room, while the other siblings watch television. It made seem harsh but it is unfair to punish all siblings because one has done wrong; the children will see it is unfair as well. Let me know how you get on. Best Wishes, Cathy
I really wish you had written Happy Kids when my children were younger; mine are 24, 18, 14, and 11 now. The three eldest are boys my youngest is a girl. I could relate completely to the teenage section i.e. messy bedrooms, taking an hour to do anything they are asked! I really enjoyed this book. You explained everything so simply and easy to understand.
I have passed on your book Happy Kids to the parents and carers I work with and they have said they find it very helpful and have used many of the strategies mentioned. Keep up the good work!
Pause For Thought: Your children need your presence more than your presents. Jesse Jackson
Hi Cathy, My husband and I adopted a little boy over 2 years ago he has just turned seven. Although we have made progress in some areas of behaviour, the biggest challenge we face is his behaviour around other children. He is the only child in the house so he has children to play but they get fed up with his control. I am constantly having to explain sharing and taking turns (which is not much fun for the other children to listen to). I also take him to the park but even there he tries to control everything. I have found your book a HUGE help in understanding how and why he tries to control us at home. I have been able to help him learn acceptable behaviour and for me to stay calm! I have read your book over and over again. Thank you,
CG: Dear Suzanne, I think you are doing a great job with your son. Well done, and how wonderful that he has found love and stability with you and your husband. Only children, whatever their background tend to take longer to share control with their peer group for the obvious reason that for a large part of the day – at home – they don’t have to. This is nothing unusual and I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on his early year’s experience, although it will obviously form a part of his behaviour. First and foremost children of his age need love, warmth, stability and firm boundaries, all of which you are giving your son. My advice would be to continue as you have been doing – emphasizing sharing and playing nicely with this peers. I know it can appear repetitive but the children he is playing with won’t mind as you are teaching fair play. If he erupts when he has company then use the 3Rs as you have been doing. One child I fostered had to spend quiet time away from his guests until he eventually learned to play nicely. Good luck, and let me know how it goes. Cathy
Dear Cathy, I’m halfway through reading Happy Kids and have already tried the 3R’s technique with my 3 year old son D. I recently extended his time at Nursery and although he has been enjoying his time there, I’m finding he is very difficult to control in the mornings and evenings. He has started pushing me and I feel this is his way of getting back at me for being gone all day. I’ve been following your 3Rs technique and it has been working. It makes me feel a lot better than just getting stressed. The naughty step has never worked with D as he thinks it’s a really fun game and after work I don’t have the patience! I’m going to stick with the 3R’s technique. I’m much happier and confident that I can handle him and we enjoy our mornings / evenings together. Since applying this technique it makes my time with D enjoyable instead of manageable, so a very big thank you! With love,
Update: I haven’t needed to use the 3RS technique the last couple of nights as D is magically doing as he’s told straight away – after using your technique for just 3 days! I hope he stays so well behaved, but if he tests the boundaries again I know what I need to do!
Cathy, I am a step mum to a 6 and 7 year old who live with their mother. The 6 year old has come to my house with bite marks and bruises over her body and her mother has admitted to doing this. The mother has mental health problems. I’m concerned for the child’s safety and the child wants to live with us but the mother will not let us have her in our permanent care. I am not very confident in social services. What do you suggest my approach to all this should be. Please write back. Many thanks.
CG: Dear K. I am very concerned by what you have told me and it is essential you or your partner inform the social services immediately. Like you I am worried for the safety of the child. Please do not delay in phoning your local social services or if you prefer the NSPCC – 0808 800 5000. When you have spoken to the social services or the NSPCC I should like you to email me to put my mind at rest. Thank you. Cathy
Hi Cathy, I’ve just finished reading your book: Happy Kids. The 3Rs work on my son and my kids in the nursery school. Thank you so much! Kind regards,
Dear Cathy, I thought Happy Kids was excellent. I could relate to many of your examples and realised how I could/should handle some situations better. I have now implemented the 3 R’s with my daughters and pleased to say I do notice the difference. With best wishes and many thanks.
I have begun reading your book Happy Kids and have started putting into practice the 3Rs with my children. I have seen some encouraging results already!
Hi Cathy, I have nearly finished Happy Kids and am intrigued that some of the psychology and strategies you use are similar to the ones I used when I trained my puppy, although I never had the problem of him rushing to answer the phone! My children are proving a bit harder to train and I have struggled with finding something to use as a sanction. The sanction which has worked with my 4 year old son is his bike. I took it off him the other day and put into the garage. Initially I told him I would take it from him for 10 minutes when he was misbehaving but he kicked me so I told him it was gone for the rest of the day. Then he called me a “dick head” so it was gone for the rest of the next day. I know it’s only supposed to be 10 minutes each time but he was out of control and extremely abusive. However, having put the bike away, I had nothing to use as a sanction for the next day. When I asked him to have time out he refused and followed me everywhere, aggressively calling me names. Also, My 12 year old daughter has become fussy with food and now refuses to eat beef. She is a real animal lover I think this may have something to do with it. I am using the 3Rs with her but she can be stubborn and controlling and pushes me as far as she can. She does not like giving in and always has to have the last word. For example, I told her to go to her room, and she refused. So I told her if she didn’t do as I said I would take 20p off her pocket money. Have you any ideas? Thanks,
CG: Hi Catriona. It has been said by some psychologists that training young children and puppies is very similar. It sounds to me that you are doing a good job; persevere with your strategies. It is early days yet. In respect of your 4 year old son, putting the bike away for the whole of the first day was right, however, I would suggest bringing it out first thing the following day. As soon as he is awake (before the chance of any negative behaviour), make a big thing about getting the bike out and that he will be able to play with it. Ideally take him with you to get the bike out, or be with him when he gets the bike out, or let him see you get the bike out. By doing this he will feel he has a fresh start to the day and that he really wants to keep his bike for the day and the only way to do this is by being good. Of course, by reinstating the bike you can use it as a sanction again, if necessary. In respect of ‘time out’ you did right in removing yourself from the room as he wouldn’t go to his room to allow a cooling off period. If he follows you try to go somewhere he can’t follow you. Toilet maybe? Re the name calling. If he persisted and it was more than a burst of anger then I would impose another sanction e.g. loss of TV time. In respect of your 12 year old daughter. Many girls give up meat temporarily when they realise where it has come from – i.e. live cuddly animals. One of my daughters did and I did at a similar age, although my daughter ate sausages because they didn’t look like meat! As long as she is eating a healthy diet I wouldn’t make an issue of it. In fact, the least said, the soonest mended. I would make no comment but simply serve something different. There are a lot of alternatives to meat, and ready made meals that don’t use meat. Re her behaviour, yes, at her age stopping pocket money in small chunks is a suitable sanction. Keep going and let me know how you get on. Best wishes Cathy.
I am a huge fan of yours. I have a daughter who is 5 next month, and I am a single parent. We have a very strong bond and we just adore each other, and do all sorts of exciting and enjoyable things together, such as going to the theatre, and going on holiday. The trouble is I spend a lot of the time worrying about her, especially now she has started school. My family have commented that I over compensate for her father’s lack of involvement. I try to be a mixture of different roles, a mother, a father, a playmate. I feel guilty if I am not full filling those roles. We have a great social life with lots of friends who also have children, and live in a close knit community, so she isn’t short of play mates, but I would like her to be a bit more independent in her play sometimes, to ease the intensity of our relationship. Selfish though it may seem, I need a bit of me time, and to catch up with things as I work as well! Sounds awful, but I would like a happy medium.
CG: Dear Kathryn, I speak from my heart (and experience) when I say single parents often over-compensate. We try to make up for the absence of the other parent, and feel guilty for being unable to provide a two parent family. We feel that whatever we do is not good enough and beat ourselves up if we fall short of our targets and playing all roles. Don’t. It is clear from your letter that you are doing a fantastic job in parenting your daughter. She will grow up into a lovely young lady; someone you can be proud of, and it’s thanks to you. Allow yourself some ‘me time’. You need and deserve it. It is great that you have a supportive family and community. I think now your daughter has started going to school she will gain more independence and autonomy as her world widens. I cover this in my book Happy Kids. Her new found independence will not detract from the strong relationship you have with her but will be another step towards her growing maturity. Your dedication to your daughter during those important early years has set her well up for the future. Now you can start to concentrate a bit more on you. Cathy x