Science has shown that the best way to help our kids become independent, confident, kind, empathetic, and happy is by talking with them. But while we may know that what we say to our children matters, we may not know exactly how to get started or what to do to encourage honest, open and thoughtful communication.

Here to help parents learn the secrets of effective communication is speech pathologist, Rebecca Rolland.

This episode will help you to understand just how powerful language can be and teach you to actionable techniques for fostering authentic and natural conversations with your children, no matter their age, that can lead to the development of a strong and secure attachment bond.


Rebecca (00:00):

I think that’s the thing is that realizing that these things, these everyday occurrences are, you know, fodder for conversation and you don’t need to make up something amazing or, you know, think of the best thing to say.

Dr. Sarah (00:17):

What we say to our children matters. But just as important as what we say is the way that we say it. And also what we don’t say, joining me to discuss how parents can make small tweaks to effectively communicate with their children is Rebecca Roland. Rebecca is a speech pathologist, writer and Harvard lecturer. Her latest book, The Art of Talking with Children will help you to enrich your interactions with your kids while strengthening your parent child relationship. Language has such an incredible power and learning to move past parenting scripts into authentic and natural conversations with your children can lead to the development of a strong and secure attachment bond.

Dr. Sarah (00:59):

Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast, I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights. So you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.

Dr. Sarah (01:33):

I’m so excited today to welcome Rebecca Roland to the podcast. She’s a nationally certified speech and language pathologist and the author of the book, The Art of Talking with Children. Thank you so much for being on today.

Rebecca (01:46):

Yes, thanks for having me.

Dr. Sarah (01:48):

So I was, I think this is such an amazing book and I’m so glad that you are sharing this kind of like insight with people. Can you, can you talk a little bit about how, like the story behind this book and how you got into this work?

Rebecca (02:01):

Yes, definitely. So it’s really a combination of a memoir and a guidebook. So I wrote it kind of with three hats in mind. So I’m the mom of two kids. I have a five year old and a 10 year old. And I’m also a speech pathologist and an education lecturer. So really in writing this book, I found that I knew a lot you know, about speech and language about parenting and communication from research, but I didn’t find almost anything about this in the actual parenting books, you know, about how we can actually have these richer conversations or deeper conversations with kids. And so I kind of found there was this big gap where as a mom, I wanted to do this, but I didn’t see a lot of models out there for how we could learn how to do this or how I could even apply what I knew. So that really inspired me to write this book.

Dr. Sarah (02:51):

That’s awesome. And so, yeah, what are some of the things that you felt were gaps that you noticed?

Rebecca (02:57):

Yeah, so a few things first is I felt there was a lot of focus kind of on the negative side. So a lot of the discipline behavior management, what to, you know, how to stop your kids from doing certain things, which I obviously understand, I have, you know, a very active five year old and I do stop from doing things, but there was this big emphasis on kind of what not to do or how to prevent things from happening. I also felt like there was a very scripted kind of approach of like, don’t say this, say that instead, you know, try this, say these words. And I feel like that comes from a good place. Like we wanna help figure out what to say, but I felt like it just wasn’t suited to every person. Like it’s so individualized your relationship with your child and your family. And so I didn’t feel like for me, that, that kind of script really worked. Like, it felt like I was more robotic than anything else. So I wanted something that would kind of have an overall framework, but that would kind of work with each family and say like, your individuality is a good thing. It’s not like you should just say these words and be done with it.

Dr. Sarah (03:58):

Yeah. And I think it’s so interesting. You say that. Cause I think in the, in the social media parenting and the information culture and everything kind of being distilled down to these like soundbites, we do, we are inundated with parenting scripts. Like it’s something I can contend with all the time with parents.

Rebecca (04:17):

Oh yeah, sure. Yeah, I contend with it all the time too. My whole feed is full of them. Yeah.

Dr. Sarah (04:20):

I know. And like I get the, I get them like I use them.

Rebecca (04:24):

Sure. Yeah. Yeah. I know.

Dr. Sarah (04:26):

But I always think it’s so important to give the “why” behind it or to give the parents information like that allows them to then translate it into like the way they normally speak with their kids, because that authenticity is actually more important than the words we say in the first place.

Rebecca (04:43):

Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. I mean, I think there’s nothing wrong with those scripts. I’m not gonna say, oh, it’s bad, but I do think it’s just, it’s not enough in some ways, like it’s a good starting point, but then it’s like, well, what do you do with that for your own life? You know, when would you say that? When would you not say that? You know, it just it’s, so it’s so important to really listen to yourself and your own family, for sure.

Dr. Sarah (05:02):

Yes. And so like you write about this concept of like rich talk. Can you explain a little bit about what that means and how parents can take that concept into their communication with their kids?

Rebecca (05:15):

Sure. Yeah. So I think about it as kind of an overall framework. So how can you have deeper conversations with your kids in ways that actually works for your life? And I really, it distilled into three components. So I talk about the ABCs of rich talk and A stands for adaptive, meaning that you’re kind of going with the flow of your child. You’re being responsive to what your child seems to want and need. And that might mean in the moment. So if your child is sort of in a bad or shut down mood or something like that, you might notice and say, okay, I’m not gonna pry as much. I might kind of take a more gentle touch, something like that, but even over the long term. So if your child is say 11 or 12, and they’re not as interested in having face to face conversations, maybe you notice that in the car, you know, long car rides or long walks or doing something active, they open up more.

So you’re kind of adapting to that style as well. B stands for back and forth. So this is really just noticing the balance of talk between yourself and your child. So this might mean talk, or even if you have a very young child, even, you know, gestures pointing where they’re looking, cause you’re thinking about letting your child have some space to respond. And we often, I think some can get caught up in saying things and kind of being really mindful about what we are saying, but not paying as much attention to what kids are saying back. So really thinking about the fact that it is so important to do that back and forth. And C is the child driven. So meaning that you’re starting with what’s on your child’s mind or even what your child notices, if you have a young baby, so maybe your child’s pointing at a dog and you start to talk and have a conversation about that dog or maybe your child is worried about something and you start from there. It’s not to say that you should let your child do whatever they want it’s but it’s really just a style of focusing on what’s on your child’s mind at the moment and really branching out from there.

Dr. Sarah (07:15):

I love that because I think it really holds space for the child as an individual person in this two way dialogue, like exactly, you know, and it models for them and reflects back to them. Like we are thinking about your interests. We are waiting to hear what you have to say, and then we’re holding your thoughts in mind.

Rebecca (07:33):

Yes, definitely.

Dr. Sarah (07:34):

They matter.

Rebecca (07:35):

Definitely, and I think also just to help them actively listen as well. So encouraging them to say, okay, well you’re going, maybe if you have a child who wants to talk all the time, you’re saying, well, you’re going to also hear how it feels to be listened to, and you’re gonna try to do that. Listening yourself.

Dr. Sarah (07:50):

Yeah. There’s so much, it’s so funny how we talk about communication. We often think the, you know, the presence of language versus the white space or like the absence of language, that also is a big part of communication.

Rebecca (08:08):

Definitely. Yeah. It’s funny. Cuz I often have had parents say like, oh, you focus on talk and I guess I should just talk as much as possible. Like I know I need to be like talking, talking, talking and I’m like, well, yeah. I mean it’s important to talk for sure. But yeah, it’s equally important to have the silences and the downtime and to notice kind of when works best for which one. So I think that’s a great point for sure.

Dr. Sarah (08:29):

Yeah. That’s interesting. I just had a session today with the mom who was, you know, her, child’s having some regulation issues. She’s a young toddler who gets really stimulated really easily and we’ve been working on strategies to help them sort of meet her needs more effectively. And the mom was saying, how she’s this? She came up with this completely on her own, but she was telling me like, Hey, when she comes home from school, I know she’s had a really long exhausting day holding it together. And I usually that’s when I come at her with like, how is your day? And what’s going on and, and talking so much. And I’ve been, I’ve been just giving her more space at pickup time and in the car ride home. And I, you know, I connect, I say some things and then I just, I’m quiet with her and it’s been going really well for them. And I that’s, there’s like kind of some permission parents have to just say less sometimes. And I think that’s the, the A in maybe your ABC of like being that it’s like attunement almost.

Rebecca (09:33):

Exactly. Yeah. I think that’s so true. And it’s funny cuz I noticed that with my own kids in the car, I think we’ve now kind of said, okay, well yeah, we’ll say hello, you’ll get in the car. And then in some ways, yeah, after a few minutes it’s like, oh I’m really hungry or, oh Jimmy pull my shirt or, oh, you know, so you do hear what’s happening with their day often if you pull back, I think that is so important. But you know, you don’t always need more and more questions.

Dr. Sarah (09:57):

Right. And like it’s true. It’s like if we start the questions, they might be asking the wrong ones. Right.

Rebecca (10:03):


Dr. Sarah (10:03):

Have this sort of silence, not like awkward silence, but just like stillness, then there’s space for them to bring forward the things that might be on their mind.

Rebecca (10:15):

Exactly. And I think too, just to realize that sometimes it might be like an immediate physical need. Like if it’s I’m really hungry, you know, no matter what you do, you’re not gonna have a really great conversation until, you know, they have a snack or whatever it is. So even to hear that and to say, okay, we have to get this need met before we can really dive into anything I think is really important to notice too.

Dr. Sarah (10:39):

Yeah. So how, like what are some strategies that parents can use beyond the ABCs? Like when you’re, you know, what does it actually look like when you, when you practice it?

Rebecca (10:49):

Yeah. So I actually have some other strategies of like how to make this work. And I talk about the 3 E’s, which is the first is just to expand on what your child is saying. So if you have like a young child say and they say just something, give a really basic example, they say green robot and they’re pointing at their favorite toy, which is a green robot. And you look at it and it’s on the floor and it’s broken. And you say, oh, you know, you’re expanding on what they’re saying. They look like they’re upset. But they’re maybe not able to talk much. And so you say, oh, I see a green robot. It looks like something’s wrong with it. You know, should we take a look and see what might be wrong? So you’re actually, you’re starting with what they’re interested in or what they’re worried about.

And you’re kind of expanding, giving them language or maybe giving a suggestion of what might be on their mind. And then the second E is exploring. So you’re actually going beyond what you see in front of you and trying to think about possible, you know, solutions possible predictions, you know, looking into the future, things like that. So in that example you might say like, well, let’s see, you know, what would happen if we put batteries in it or what would happen if we unplugged it and then plugged it back in, you know, or what do you think is wrong? So kind of helping your child actually explore the possibilities there and the last E is evaluate. So meaning that you, whatever you do, you try to find a solution or whatever it is. And then you think together with your child, well, how did that go?

You know, so you’re not necessarily judging, but you’re really starting to think, well, did we fix it? Should we have tried something else? You know, what could we try the next time? So in that sense, you’re always kind of navigating with your child whatever the situation is, and you’re helping raise their self awareness by thinking through, well, how well did our strategies work and bringing a compassionate eye. So I talk a lot about mistakes and how we can sort of play with mistakes and be really compassionate towards our own mistakes as a way of evaluating, but not necessarily judging in that self critical way.

Dr. Sarah (12:55):

Oh, I like that. Can you talk more about how parents can like use that self-compassion towards themselves to model this for kids?

Rebecca (13:03):

Definitely. Yeah. So I actually, there’s something I brought up in the book, but I still use, which is having a daily mistake conversation. So it actually started when my daughter was in preschool and the teachers told us that she was having a really hard time with mistakes and that she was blaming her mistakes on everyone else so she would trip and she would say, oh, this person, you know, tripped me. Or she would, her block tower would fall. And she would say, oh, this boy made my block tower fall. So she’d actually blame her own mistakes in other people. And I think she just was really sort of had a really hard time making mistakes and owning up to them. And so they said, well, what could you, you know, can you try to help her with this? And so it was interesting because I actually started almost on accident.

I came home and I had forgotten to bring an umbrella. So I was completely drenched, you know, and she was like, oh, look at you. You’re so wet. You know? And I was like, oh yeah, that was, that was my mistake for today. You know, I forgot my umbrella. I was totally wet. I can’t believe I did that. But you know, that happened, I didn’t realize it was gonna rain and next time I’ll bring an umbrella. And you know, I said, well, what was your mistake for, for today? And she’s like, I don’t have a mistake, you know, of course. But then we actually had sort of a daily conversation at dinner where each of us would bring up something that we did. That was a mistake. Whether or not it was sort of small and playful or something bigger, but talk through kind of in a compassionate way.

Well, why did we make that mistake? You know, what were we thinking? And then how could we, how did we try to fix it? So we’re sort of talking through our own strategies and then brainstorming out loud. Well, what can we try the next time? So always with this kind of compassionate and optimistic lens of, well yeah, that happened, but you know, I was distracted or there was a reason and I can try to fix it next time. And sometimes it was really silly and small things, you know, to kind of get her started. Like I pushed the elevator button and the wrong button, you know, and I went up instead of down or something like that. And she actually really found that fun. It was kind of a game between us for a while. And I think really allows for the sense of, well, I can make mistakes and I can own up to them and talk about them and not feel ashamed of them. So yeah, that was really fun.

Dr. Sarah (15:13):

That’s so, that’s such a beautiful little strategy. It’s like a fun game and it really normalizes and neutralizes like the, the shame around mistake making and like, you know, I think kids are so prone to thinking of us as these, you know, omnipotent, omniciencent, all powerful, perfect beings. And like, we don’t always do the best job of dispelling them from that niche. Like we sometimes do kind of play up to this like perfectionistic and like, you know, our kids see us do these what to us might feel really easy things, but to them are like, I could never do that. Right. And to see us struggle to see us own the struggle narrate the struggle not in a like amplified or fake way, you know, you don’t have to like put on a show for your kids. Like, you could be really honest, like you, like, I think a lot, like sometimes is, you know, I hear people in the Instagram world talking about like, you know, you know, scribble outside the lines and then get really upset about it. It’s like, but your kid doesn’t need you to do that. They need you to, when you spill the tomato sauce on the floor, be like, Ugh, man, I really wish that hadn’t happened. Like I was really hoping that I wouldn’t have to clean up this big mess and Ugh, I’m disappointed now. And like, we don’t have to manufacture mistakes because you’re human and they really happen.

Rebecca (16:40):

Exactly. And I think that’s the thing is that realizing that these things, these everyday occurrences are, you know, fodder for conversation and you don’t need to make up something amazing or, you know, think of the best thing to say. I mean, yeah. We have mistake talks where it was like, oh, I pressed in on this email and I didn’t mean to, and luckily there’s an undo function now, you know, that kind of thing. So, you know, things that actually do happen in your daily life and you’re like, well, yeah. I mean, that’s something we can try to repair. And I think that does go into repairing as well. So you talk through kind of, how did I try to fix it? So you’re sort of modeling that use of strategies to kind of get over whatever it is you are facing.

Dr. Sarah (17:18):

Yeah. And I think this is very helpful for mistakes, which helps for perfection is like can counter and perfectionism. But also that there, we can go right into like interpersonal stuff. Right? Like other people and feelings and what do we do when we make a mistake that hurt somebody else? Yeah. Or that disappoints somebody else. And or when we get mad at somebody, how do we reconnect? Like I think language is really important there.

Rebecca (17:42):

For sure. Yeah. I think especially even the empathizing taking other people’s perspective you know, a lot of kids I’ve seen, seen don’t necessarily understand why the other person got angry, you know? So I said this thing, and this person got mad, you know, but they don’t quite know how to fix it because they didn’t quite understand what happened. So I think being able to talk through, well, let’s take that person’s perspective. Like what did they, what do you think they thought when you said that, you know, or what might that have been interpreted as I think is really helpful for a lot of kids to realize like, how is this, how are my words being taken by other people?

Dr. Sarah (18:16):

Yes. How could we facilitate those kinds of conversations?

Rebecca (18:20):

Yeah. I mean, I think a lot of times I talk about storytelling conversations, so kind of helping tell stories of other people and even of yourself. But for example, if you see someone who seems like maybe they said something in the grocery store and it was mean, and so, you know, your child says, oh, that person’s mean really talking through with them. Well, let’s imagine what that person might have been going through. You know, maybe it’s a teenager and they’re working at the grocery store, but they don’t really wanna be working at the grocery store, you know? And so they wanna be outside playing. And so maybe they’re feeling upset at that and they’re taking it out on other people, you know? So having a compassionate eye towards other people and imagining these stories, I think giving the benefit of the doubt can help kids kind of see the world first in a more optimistic light, but then also start to understand, well, yes, people have all of these different lives that aren’t exactly like mine. And they might do things I don’t like, but not necessarily because they’re bad people, but because they’re having whatever challenges they’re having.

Dr. Sarah (19:22):

Right. Which is a hard concept for young kids. I think kids tend to, they’re more concrete, right? If someone does something mean that’s a mean person, if someone does something bad, that’s a bad person. If someone does something good, that’s a good person, but, but you know, obviously we we’ve slowly and methodically. We want to help them stretch their capacity to have more nuance and, you know, flexibility in their thinking. And it helps move away from that like victims, villain, narrative too. Which I think like, I’m curious what, what your thoughts are about that, but like, I feel like that comes up a lot for kids.

Rebecca (20:00):

Definitely. Yeah. So I think that is like the bad person, the good guy, the bad guy, a lot of that black and white thinking is something so many kids do. And I think it’s developmental to some degree, right? So kids are very concrete and think like this one thing means the whole, you know, the whole person is labeled that way. And I do think it’s helpful to talk to kids about that. And in part it’s done, I think from even the way you choose your language. So, and rather than talking about people, we can talk about actions, you know, this person that did this thing you know, and starting with the person and then saying, well, what kind of choices did they make and why do we not like, or we like those choices or things like that. So kind of getting away from bad person, good person and saying like, well, this is a, you know, thinking that well, people are fundamentally good mostly, but we want to think about, well, people don’t always do the right thing.

They don’t always make the right choices. And let’s think about why that might be. And especially for kids who are concrete, bringing it to them as well. So helping them think through like, are there times when maybe you didn’t make the right choice, but you know, you regretted it later, you felt like, oh, I fixed it. You know, you stole somebody’s block because you were angry at them, but then, you know, you can apologize. You can give it back, you know, what are ways that you can help when you made a choice that you didn’t like?

Dr. Sarah (21:17):

Yeah. And even going underneath the choice to the feeling, cuz I think some, especially for kids, like sometimes taking the block, isn’t like a premeditated choice. It’s an impulse. And so helping kids also think about like other people’s actions as maybe an impulse, like, well, what do you think he was feeling that made him do that thing? Which also, I think takes it even a step further of like, not only do our actions, not just to label who we are, but that our actions are influenced by something that we don’t always have control over.

Rebecca (21:51):

Exactly. Yeah. And I think even sometimes kids don’t, can’t even tell. So I think even talking about facial expressions, body language, all of those things like, well, did he seem really excited or maybe overexcited? Like what did his body look like? Was he jumping all over the place? You know? So helping kids kind of figure out, especially from, you know, reminiscing, figuring out in the past, well, what was, how did that all unfold and helping tell that story I think is really important.

Dr. Sarah (22:16):

Yeah. And that’s such a valuable skill for them to build, like that’s gonna serve them for life and their ability to like, like you were saying, like take perspective, have flexible thinking, give people the benefit of the doubt. That’s gonna help their ability to like resolve conflicts when they’re older and not like hold grudges or become really like, you know, cut people off because they just can’t tolerate that.

Rebecca (22:41):

Exactly. Yeah. And I think everyone’s still in the empathy, developing process, adults included sometimes it’s can be hard, you know, to, especially when you get really set in your ways or you’re really upset at someone, it can really be hard to empathize. So I think even to model times when it’s been hard for you as an adult to empathize, I think can be important for kids to hear.

Dr. Sarah (23:00):

Yeah. And I feel like that’s so much more effective in the long run, like planting these seeds of like reflective functioning, like your ability to reflect on your own internal experience and the experience of others. Like that’s the root of empathy. Like making somebody say, sorry, or making somebody share their toy when they don’t want to, that’s not actually doesn’t teach reflective functioning. So it just teaches like resent. Like I have to abdicate my need to please somebody else because someone else told me I had to like it’s we have to think of the, what, what is the core elements of what we’re trying to teach and how do we like reverse engineer it rather than just follow some rule.

Rebecca (23:44):

Exactly. Yeah. And I think too, also in that example, especially thinking about, well, who is this serving? Like maybe it serves you more than it does serve the child in the sense of like, if you get the child to say, I’m sorry, well maybe you feel better because you know, you’ve done that, but it doesn’t feel it doesn’t necessarily help in the long run. So really serving the child is like, well, how can we start to unpack what happened here as being yeah. Helping them and do that more independently when they’re not with you. I think that’s really the goal.

Dr. Sarah (24:13):

Yeah. I think that’s really helpful to think about too, cuz I, this comes up a lot. I’m, I’m sure it does in your work as well. But like I, you know, I think parents feel very strongly that it’s their job to teach their children how to share and how to take turns and how to apologize and how to say please, and thank you. And those are all important things like I’m all for manners and you know, respect. But I think we sometimes teach the outcome, not the process of getting to that outcome. And then we skip that little, that very important meaty part of like learning to think about the other person’s experience. And so what you’re describing feels like a much more effective strategy takes longer. We could teach a kid to say, if you do this more long term investment in their language and their patience and their ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and ability to tolerate discomfort and you know, there’s the empathy at the end of that path.

Rebecca (25:21):

Exactly. Yeah. And I do think helping kids see, I mean, I, I love the example of school I visited. They say they don’t want kids. They’re not going to force kids to stand in line or like to stand and sit quietly for a speaker. And I was like, well, how, how do you get them to be quiet? You know, because if you, you want them to be quiet when there’s a speaker coming and they say, we talk about what we want the speaker to feel and we want them to feel respected. And then we say, well, how do we get them to feel respected? Or how do we help them to feel respected? You know? And we, there’s certain things like there’s behaviors we can do that will probably help a person feel respected. Like we can sit quietly or we can raise our hand when we’re, you know, when we wanna talk and things like that. And I think that that’s a really important way kind of a shift in thinking of kind of starting with, well, how do we want people to feel, how do we want to feel? And then what behaviors can help us get there? You know, rather than saying, well, let’s start with the behavior and then, you know, well the feeling will come somewhere at the end.

Dr. Sarah (26:16):

That’s brilliant. What school is that I wanna send my kids there.

Rebecca (26:20):

It’s actually the Atlanta Speech School, it’s a, somewhere it’s right in Atlanta, the heart of Atlanta. So it’s a great school.

Dr. Sarah (26:27):

That’s awesome. This all makes me think too about like, you know, resilience building and like, you know, we’re talking about empathy. Sure. Well, let’s reverse engineer empathy. If that core bit of that skill is to put yourself in another person’s shoes and think about how they feel and how you would wanna feel. And that’s like the core of empathy. How do we reverse engineer resilience when it comes to language?

Rebecca (26:54):

Yeah. So I think there’s a couple things. One is that really helping kids set their own goals and start to celebrate themselves and celebrate partial progress. So to feel as though, well, yes, say you had a setback, you know, and rather than saying, well, that was a setback I failed, let’s say, well, what, what did you manage to do? What were you able to do in that setback? So, you know, I tried to run a mile and I only made it half a mile. And then I, you know, I gave up or I got tired, you know, so I failed, you know, and I feel like that’s something that’s, you know, really easy to say and say, well, okay. But you know, let’s look at a year ago, so you can start to track, help kids track their own progress. You know, were you even able to run at all?

Did you even have an idea that you wanted to run? You know, and they might say, well, no, I didn’t even, I hadn’t even tried at that point. So it’s like, well, let’s see how much further you got, you know, in a whole year you managed to do that. And then let’s talk about, well, what do you want to do in the future? So kind of helping turn the judgment and the sort of the goal setting from you as the adult and helping put it onto the child. I think that that is really key in resilience because they’re obviously going to have failures, but if they’re not attempting and celebrating their attempts, it’s gonna feel hard. You know, they’re gonna see more of the failure than the positive part of the, of the effort.

Dr. Sarah (28:16):

Yeah. That’s so great. I like that idea too, of like breaking everything down because you know, when we talk about, I mean, I work with kids who have anxiety and we like, you know, they don’t wanna start something because it feels too terrifying. And so we like break it down into much, much more tolerable steps and we work at kind of learning one at a time. But the same idea, you know, outside of the realm of anxiety, I think works in the much, the same way. Like when you look at something that unmanageable, like I could never climb Mount Everest, it’s just too big. I could never ride a bike without training wheels. It’s just impossible. And I keep falling down every time I try. And it’s like, how do we break that into so much smaller pieces? So that each little piece feels like a real genuine intrinsic success.

Rebecca (29:07):

Exactly. Yeah. And I like too, just, I know a lot of parents have like those height charts where you’re like, oh, look at how far you actually physically grew. But I think you can apply that same concept to a lot of these skills that you’re breaking down. Like, well, let’s look, what were you able to, how much further could you get? Or what skill are you developing? And let’s actually draw it or show it or so make it visible in some way. So kids are actually able to see their growth. I think that’s really, especially for kids who are concrete, I think that can be so helpful.

Dr. Sarah (29:36):

Ooh, I love that so much better than like a rewards chart or like a sticker chart, like this idea of like a child, like draws out the whole process that they imagine they might have to do in order to get to a certain place. And then it’s not about rewarding each step. Cuz the idea is that the reward comes from the sense of accomplishment when you actually

Rebecca (29:58):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Dr. Sarah (30:00):

But they can see it cause it can feel

Rebecca (30:03):

Even like a checklist, like you can check off like, oh I did these three things and I just have one more before I can get there. That kind of thing. I think if, be useful.

Dr. Sarah (30:11):

Which also I think helps with the executive functioning skills too.

Rebecca (30:15):

Soh for sure. Yeah. They’re all interwoven I think. Yeah, definitely. These kind of charts or visual depictions are really helpful for that too.

Dr. Sarah (30:22):

Yeah. Which I, like, I know we’re jumping around, but that makes me think of like kids who have like learning differences or ADHD or other like neuro divergent minds. Like think sometimes for those kids, they see kids at school where certain things come so easy for them and they struggle with remembering to turn their homework in, even though they did it or like, you know, being able to sit still in their chair for long periods of time and they look around and they’re like, everybody else can do this. And I can’t. And so like creating these sort of like really tangible ways of breaking down a difficult task can actually help them be more successful at it.

Rebecca (31:02):

Exactly. Yeah. Actually it’s funny cuz I’ve worked with a lot of kids with executive function challenges and sometimes we actually do a really visual depiction of, well what is sort of the ideal and often coming from the child, not from the adult, hopefully but even things as basic as like for older kids, like, well what does a clean locker look like? So you actually clean your locker and then you take a picture of it and you post it on the inside of the locker. And then you look at, you know, then you have a real contrast of like here’s the messy locker, that’s the current state, but then this is actually what it could look like. So it’s not just an imaginary, like clean your locker, which for a lot of kids, if they have language challenges or executive function, they don’t really know where to start.

It’s like, well that’s, that’s that seems overwhelming. But if you have kind of this model or this, you know, graphic of like, well, this is what the ideal is or this is what I wanted it to be. Then you can start to organize yourself. So I think having those, and you can do that with language too, of like, well, what would it look like? Let’s make a, you know, an actual list of, you know, books need to be here. This needs to be here and even breaking it down, like that can make a ton of difference for kids who, you know, have trouble with the more abstract things like that.

Dr. Sarah (32:08):

Yeah. And I think that’s a really good example of kind of meeting a kid exactly where they’re at rather than having, you know, you know, we need to adjust our expectations and not just for neuro divergent kids, like all kids, like each individual child is going to be able to do or not do certain things at different points at different stages. And so we wanna kind of know each kid and their own individual place with development and trying to like help them feel like, okay, this is where you are right now. And that’s perfectly okay. And then if this is where you are saying, you wanna go, how do we break that down into really simple, doable things that have like a really concrete goal, like pace taking the locker example. Like if you want your locker to look like this, we here, we cleaned it together.

We found a spot for everything. We’ll take this picture and we’ll put it here so that you can see where everything goes. And then, you know, you can come up with the plan for like, should the pencils go in this little pencil cup? We have all these notebooks, where should we put them? And then there’s a spot that those go in and it’s like, you’re, you’re helping kind of break it really down into these like bite size pieces and like trying to think of an example for like an even younger kid, but just like having, you know, we want them to clean up their stuff. Is their sock bin accessible to them? You know, are, do, do the things, do they are the hangers low so that they can put their shirt away? Are the drawers really hard to open? Like we wanna think about their environment, like what’s getting in their way from accomplishing some of these goals and how can we help them, you know, make things, their environment a little more accessible to them.

Rebecca (33:56):

For sure. Yeah. And I think to recognize too, just to be questioning and curious, I think sometimes, and I, this happened to me as well. We can get so upset or kind of triggered when something doesn’t happen the way we want, like the room isn’t clean or like the shoes are all over the place that we don’t necessarily take the time to say, well, I wonder why that’s happening every single day like that. You know? And so you can, it’s easy to kind of get in pattern of just nagging or say, like I told you again, can you not do this? You know? And it happens again and again. But I think making some of those small changes and even just talking with the child of like, well, what is it about this that is difficult? And maybe it is that like all the hooks in the closet are already taken, so they don’t really know where to put it.

So they throw on the floor or, you know, whatever it is, there could be, it could be there in a rush for sure. But there might also be these kind of environmental things that you can do and talk together about to make it, you know, easier for them and make everyone kind of reduce the nagging and feel like, well, this is a more, you know, connected situation also that kids feel empowered. Cause oftentimes they do want to, you know, show you, they can do things, but it feels like, well, in that moment, it wasn’t happening.

Dr. Sarah (35:04):

Right. I love how that’s like a really collaborative problem solving approach to it too. Like I feel like it brings the child in rather than it’s like you versus the child. Like I gotta get you to clean your room and then the child’s gonna like dig their heels in versus it’s like, Hey, here are here. We are. As a team looking at this problem, the messy closet, how are we going to, how are we gonna tackle that together? How are we gonna make that easier to, you know, successfully accomplish.

Rebecca (35:33):

Exactly. And I think that really does get to the fact that it’s more about the goal, you know, and this is about the fact that here’s this problem and I’m not taking it personally. Cause I think it is really true that we can take it so personally and like, oh, you’re disrespecting me by not cleaning your room or you’re showing me you don’t care about me. And, and that it’s possible that that is agreeing to that. But usually not, you know, usually it is just a matter of there’s something else going on, whether it’s they’re busy, they’re tired, whatever. So I think it really does remove some of that emotional overlay and makes it more about the actual issue.

Dr. Sarah (36:07):

That’s yeah. I think that can be so helpful for parents. Just take the pressure off. We don’t have to make everything a teachable moment. In fact, when we don’t try to make it a teachable moment, we end up teaching a lot more because we are modeling this, the problem solving.

Rebecca (36:21):

Yeah. And I think even modeling like your own emotion at that point to say like, you know, for me, like I come here, I see this messy closet and I just start to feel frustrated, you know? So this to me feels frustrating. So I wanna fix this situation. I want you to help me fix the situation. You know, I think can be such a more, you know, a poor, positive way to model that than to just act out the frustration, you know, to talk about how you are feeling in an authentic way, but to really show them well, that’s why I’m coming to you with this conversation.

Dr. Sarah (36:52):

Yes. Yeah. And then there’s that realness, right? Like I’m a person I don’t like this.

Rebecca (36:58):


Dr. Sarah (36:58):

If I’m feeling this way, I wonder if you’re also having feelings like that.

Rebecca (37:02):


Dr. Sarah (37:03):

It being messy. It’s frustrating for you too? And so you just wanna close the doors and not deal with it.

Rebecca (37:07):

Exactly. Yeah. So I can kinda create a cycle of like it’s messy and then it just gets messier and I can see that being frustrating for you too. So yeah, exactly.

Dr. Sarah (37:16):

Yeah. And in general, like I’m looking through this book and I’m like, this is, there’s so much in here. Like, and, and I think you do such an amazing job of like giving people lots of different entry points for each topic. Like you, you know, the way that you do the, the graphics and the way that you kind of break things down. Like, can you, like, if people are coming at this book, like how do you picture parents reading this book?

Rebecca (37:40):

Yeah. So I definitely wrote it with busy parents in mind. I realized that it’s pretty big and I know that not every parent or most parents don’t have time to sit and read a whole book straight through. So I really made it so that there’s each topic is an area where I think it’s really important for kids to develop and that conversation can help. And so I created each chapter around a certain topic, so you actually can pick it up. So you’re interested in play and how to help your child with creativity. You can pick it up and just read that chapter or you can pick it up if you’re really interested in confidence or an empathy and say, well, that’s, that was great. I’m gonna stop, I’ll try out some things and I’ll come back to another chapter. I also have these tailored tips by ages and stages. Cuz even though the principles I think go throughout the ages, it’s obviously so different to talk to a two year old versus a 12 year old. So I really start to try to break it down too, just to give some models of, well, how could this look? What would this actually sound like for each age range?

Dr. Sarah (38:42):

I think that’s so helpful. I feel like this book is gonna give parents a lot more nuance. Like if you are a parent who goes on Instagram and sees scripts and are like, you know what, I keep trying these scripts and they’re not working for me for my kid. Like this is gonna, this is like all the back story to that single square on Instagram. Exactly. That people need more nuance to.

Rebecca (39:02):

Yes. Yes. I mean, I actually, I often read those scripts and I think, well, yeah, that’s a great idea. Like these are all, there’s a lot of things that have come out of the research that have validity to them for sure. But yeah, but then it’s sort of like, well how do I actually make that work in my life? And what are some yeah. Principles if maybe not those words, but what other things could I think about and why? So that was the idea is to really help expand beyond that.

Dr. Sarah (39:24):

Yeah. And I think too, like this, just the whole idea of like thinking about the way we use our words with our children, like that mindfulness of like our own language. Like I see that being beneficial to like ourselves as well, like our own self talk. Like we often talk to our children if we pay attention, our inner voice probably sounds a lot the same. Like if we’re really sort of sharp and critical and paying attention to all the negative, are we also doing that for ourselves? Like how do we talk to ourselves? Like there’s a lot in there.

Rebecca (39:59):

Yeah. Oh for sure. Yeah. And I think that I noticed that as well. And it was funny writing this book I think was kind of a journey and humility in that sense as well of, you know, I did have a lot of self-reflective component and even the mistake talk that I was mentioning, I realized in doing that like, oh, I do tend to really harp on my own mistakes and say like, oh, I shouldn’t have done that. Or, you know, and so actually I thought that was really helpful for me to take some lightness into that conversation too, to say, yeah, all these things are happening and we’re gonna talk about them openly and kind of laugh at them if possible. So I do think it’s really a reflective process and I hope that the book kind of opens up that journey for parents too, that it’s both components, it’s teaching your child, but it’s also thinking about your own self as a communicator, for sure.

Dr. Sarah (40:45):

Yeah. So if people wanna check this book out or learn more about the work that you do, how can they do that?

Rebecca (40:51):

Yeah. So I have a website is just rebeccaroland.com with two C’s and two L’s. I also have a weekly newsletter. So I’ve started sending out kind of weekly tips, stories, questions from parents that I answer. And they can find that on the website as well. I’m also on Twitter and on Instagram. So Twitter is Roland_RG and Instagram is just Rebecca.G.Roland.

Dr. Sarah (41:16):

Amazing. So the book is called The Art of Talking with Children: The simple keys to nurturing kindness, creativity and confidence in kids. I am so happy that I have a copy and I’m like really excited for this, this book launch.

Rebecca (41:29):

Oh thank you. I’m so excited to be here.

Dr. Sarah (41:33):

All right. Well have a great day. Thank you so much. Yeah,

Rebecca (41:35):

Thank you. That was wonderful. I appreciate it.

Dr. Sarah (41:43):

If you enjoyed this episode and want to learn some additional language substitutions that you can make to build your child’s resilience, growth mindset and distress tolerance, check out my free guide, Fostering Resilience from Birth–with actual phrases you can swap in during your day to day interactions with your child.
This simple and straightforward guide will help you to strengthen your child’s intrinsic motivation and will help you model self-compassion, which is a key building block for teaching your child to have compassion for others to get this free guide and many others go to my website, drsarahbren.com and click the resources tab. That’s drsarahbren.com. Thanks for listening. And don’t be a stranger.

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64. Moving beyond parenting scripts: Fostering deep, authentic and connected conversations with your kids with Rebecca Rolland