8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids

8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802413871
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Publication date: 01/05/2016
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 902,174
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

TODD CARTMELL is a child psychologist who practices in Wheaton, Illinois. He received his doctorate from Fuller Theological Seminary and is the author of several parenting books, including 8 Simple Tools. His parenting workshops have been enjoyed by thousands of parents throughout the country. Visit Dr. Todd's website at www.drtodd.net and follow him on Facebook.

Read an Excerpt

8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids

By Todd Cartmell, Pam Pugh

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2016 Todd Cartmell
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-1387-1


Control Your Volume Knob

Daniel was a ten-year-old boy who sat down on the overstuffed blue couch in my office one evening, with sad, tearful eyes.

"I don't like it when my dad yells at me," he said.

"What does he yell about?" I asked.

"If I did something wrong," he explained, "like if I leave the basement a mess."

"So, do you leave the basement a mess?"

"Yeah, sometimes I do."

"Okay, sometimes you leave the basement a mess and you know that your mom and dad are probably going to say something about it, right?" I ventured.

"Yeah, I know." Daniel continued, "But I just don't like the way he yells at me and gets so angry. It makes me not want to be around him."

Inwardly, I cringed. Those were just the words I didn't want to hear. Yet another parent/child relationship was starting to become damaged because of a parent's angry communication style.

Later, when I had a chance to meet his father, Randy, I discovered something I had suspected all along. Randy loved Daniel very much. He did not want to hurt their relationship; in fact, he very much wanted to build it.

In Randy's mind, he was doing his job as a dad. Daniel had been asked to clean up the basement many times and was not responding in a respectful way to this simple parental request.

No argument there.

The problem was the way Randy was doing his job as a dad. Daniel had a lesson to learn, no question about it. In fact, Randy, Becky (Daniel's mom), and Daniel all agreed that he should clean up any messes he made in the basement. And while the tidiness level of the basement was not a matter of national security, it was an issue that needed discussing.

However, without intending to, Randy's style of communication had become more like a sledgehammer that destroys rather than a gardening tool that nurtures. He wasn't setting out to damage his relationship with his son and somehow didn't even seem aware that this is what was happening. But that is exactly what his communication style was doing.

I have heard some fathers try to justify a strong-armed or intimidating discipline style by implying that their role as a father and leader gives them permission to use their emotions in this way with their children. Unfortunately for these fathers and their families, not only are they misunderstanding the basic fundamentals of leadership and effective communication, they are forgetting that Paul tells us to treat each other with patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. And yes, that includes your family.

Luckily for Daniel, Randy made no such mistake. When Randy realized the impact his communication style was having on his son, he started to cry, right in front of me.

That's right, he cried. Tears trickled down his cheeks as I told him how his son was becoming afraid to talk to him when he was angry. This was never the father Randy wanted to be, and yet this is the father he was becoming.

At Randy's request, we wasted no time getting to work on how he could repair things with his son. The first step was for him to apologize for his angry communication style. Yes, Daniel had not responded properly to the requests to clean up the basement; we were not overlooking that. But that was not the most important thing. The most important thing was that Randy had been damaging his relationship with the son he loved so much. He told Daniel he loved him and was sorry he had hurt their relationship with his yelling and that he would make every effort to speak to him in a respectful way, no matter what the topic was.

The second step was for Randy to follow up on that promise and turn down his volume knob. Which he did.

You should have seen Daniel's smile two weeks later. It was one for the record books.

The basement was clean too.


Your communication style with your kids is REALLY, REALLY important. Not their communication style. Yours.


How would you describe your communication style? What impact do you think your communication style has on your kids' communication style?


If Unsure, Press Pause

My son Jake and I were recently watching a YouTube debate between two Oxford professors. The topic, a blend of science and philosophy (a favorite topic of ours), was whether recent advances in science have made belief in God no longer necessary. The debaters were John Lennox and Richard Dawkins, both professors and authors who are extremely intelligent and well respected in their fields. While holding markedly different viewpoints, both Lennox and Dawkins conducted their debate in a spirited, thought-provoking, and professional manner.

As we watched the debate unfold, something caught my eye. From time to time, Lennox would briefly pause in mid-sentence or between sentences and take a quick glance at his notes, obviously thinking of how he wanted to construct his thought, and then continue on with a well-crafted response or question for Dawkins.

He paused.

While Lennox's pauses were subtle, I recognized them because I have seen other experienced speakers use this technique as well. Whether listening to Hearts at Home founder Jill Savage deliver a keynote address to three thousand moms at a conference or to a pastor delivering a thought-provoking message to a modest Sunday-morning congregation, a brief pause communicates a positive message from the speaker to the listener:

I am in control of what I am saying.
I am not letting a momentary rush of adrenaline take over.
I am going to choose my words carefully, because what I am
saying is important.

On the other hand, I have had many moms and dads tell me that in moments of frustration they have blurted out hurtful words and made angry comments to their kids that they wish they could take back.

You do nothing around here.
You are always getting in trouble.

But they can't. Instead, those hurtful words or comments will echo around in their kids' memory. Words that were not meant. Words that do not reflect how Mom or Dad really feel. Words that were simply heated by an angry moment and escaped in a blast of frustration.

Words that could have been prevented.

With a pause.

I have realized there are a few things we, as parents, can learn from seasoned communicators like John Lennox. After all, we are communicators too. In fact, we are having some of the most important discussions of our lives, every day — with our kids.

Sometimes, the emotional rush of a frustrated moment puts us at risk for saying things we don't mean and will only regret. The Bible tells us, "The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." It is at these moments of frustration we need to do exactly what an expert communicator would do.


A pause may take only a second or two, but it gives your brain enough time to do a quick reboot while you ask yourself a few key questions or give yourself a few timely reminders:

What do I really want to say?
What is the best way to say it?
If I want my kids to talk respectfully when they are mad, then I
must do the same.
I want my child to copy my communication style, not me copy

These refocusing thoughts can make the difference between a discussion that ends well and one that ends worse than before you started.

We've all had a few of those.

If you would like to avoid this type of hurtful, unproductive discussion in the future, you need to remember one thing: to pause.


If you are not sure what to say, a brief pause can make all the difference between wise words and hurtful ones.


What are a few situations when pausing will help you be a more effective communicator with your kids? Why do you think pausing makes a difference?


Start with You

It is a chilly September Saturday afternoon and fourteen-year-old Colton and his dad are watching a college football game on TV. Mom is catching up on some work, content to see her son and husband spending some quality time together.


Ten-year-old Luci and her mom take their weekly trip to Luci's dance lesson. Luci listens to her iPod in the car and is excited to see her friends at the dance studio. Mom chats with her own dance mom friends during the lesson and leafs through an article from her new magazine. On the way home, Luci fills her mom in on a bit of relationship drama she learned from her dance friends and then settles back in with her iPod for the rest of the trip.

Perfect again.

Or maybe not.

Watching a favorite television show together. Taking your child to a music lesson or sports practice. Having dinner at your favorite pizza restaurant. Putting a puzzle together on a snowy winter day. These positive situations happen hundreds of times in most families in the course of daily life. But as described above, they are not necessarily transforming. While spending time together is great, it is only one part of the recipe. Just like chocolate chip cookies would be cruelly incomplete without the chocolate chips, we desperately need the second key ingredient.

That ingredient is you. Not your physical body — we already have that. Your kids need you. Your presence, your interest, your engagement. Your kids need to unmistakably know that you are more interested in them than in your magazine, the football game, or whatever the activity may be.

That's transforming.

And it starts with you.

How do you do this? It is not as difficult as you may think.

Engage first. This simply means that when doing an activity with your kids, you start talking before they do. When you engage first, you are showing your kids you are interested in them. You may like football, but you are really interested in them. You may enjoy playing a board game together, but it is their life you are really interested in. The key is in the fact that you engage first. This shows intention; you are not just responding to their comments — you are the one kicking off the conversation in the first place.

Ask questions about their opinions, thoughts, feelings, and current activities.When I engage, what am I supposed to say? Engaging questions can include just about anything as long as it is about your kids. If you were really into vintage hot rods and were at a classic car show with some unbelievable cars to look at, you wouldn't have much trouble thinking of questions to ask the car owners about how they restored their classic hot rods.

In the same way, when you think about your kids and the current details of their lives, it wont be difficult to come up with lots of things to ask them about. Here's a starter list:

Things that have happened, or might happen, that day
Current activities/sports
Favorite things to do
Things they would like to do someday
Anything that is challenging for them right now

Pick a topic and begin. As often as possible, make your questions of the open-ended variety (e.g., "What was something fun that you did today?") so you avoid ending up with a bunch of single-word responses. Your question may immediately lead to a meaningful discussion or you may hop around to a few different topics. Every conversation is different. Sometimes there is something going on and sometimes there isn't. But every time, your kids will know that you showed interest in them.

Warm body language (smile, eye contact, physical touch). If you really want your time to be connecting, make sure it comes fully loaded with plenty of warm nonverbal body language. It is well known that people actually pay more attention to your nonverbal communication than to the actual words you say. So put a little science savvy to work and season your conversation with warm body language, such as little touches, squeezes, and smiles.

The next time Colton and his dad watched a football game, Colton's dad used commercials and halftime to ask his son about sports/activities he might like to try someday. On Luci's next trip to dance class, her mom took advantage of the car time to ask Luci about her closest friends and how she handles the drama that can happen with fifth-grade girls. Luci didn't even turn her iPod on.

Same activities, lots more connection.

It starts with you.


When you initiate conversations with your kids, it shows them that at that moment, you are more interested in them than in anything else.


How does it make your kids feel when you initiate a conversation with them? How do you feel when someone shows interest in your life?


Be Easy to Listen To

Have you ever wondered what it is like to listen to you? That is kind of a scary question.

Gabriel was a young boy sitting in my office who, in typical nine-year-old fashion, told his mother what it is like for him when she corrects him.

Gabriel: "My mom is always yelling at me."

Mom: "I don't yell at him. Well, maybe occasionally I do. But if he listened better, there would be no yelling at all."

While Gabriel may have been guilty of some exaggeration in his use of the word "always" (i.e., I'm sure his mother doesn't always yell at him), his mothers response indicates that she was not interested in really hearing about what it feels like to be on the other end of one of her reprimands. In fact, you may have noticed how quickly she admitted yelling but then actually blamed it on Gabriel, who, by the way, is not responsible for Mom's choice to yell.

However, I cannot be too hard on this mother, as I have found myself in the same place on occasion. When I have asked myself this question — What is it like to listen to me? — almost immediately I realize I'm hesitant to learn the answer. Why? Because, truth be told, I like to think that when I talk to my kids, flowers burst into bloom, rainbows adorn the sky, and high in the heavens above, angels are belting out the "Hallelujah Chorus."

I don't really want to own up to the fact that I may:

Drone on and on
Be too critical
Overlook my kids' positive choices, or
Express my frustration in a counterproductive way

But I know that sometimes I do.

I always find it rather ironic when a difficult-to-listen-to parent complains their kids don't want to listen to them. I am guessing that if I were their child, I wouldn't want to listen to them either.

QUESTION:Who wants to listen to someone who is hard to listen to?

Answer: No one.

I have seen plenty of strong parent-child relationships, and I have seen my share of damaged ones. The strongest relationships all have one thing in common: The kids feel comfortable talking (and listening) to their parents. If you really want your kids to be able to talk with you about anything, then I have a suggestion for you: become an easy-to-listen-to parent.

"When should I be easy to listen to?" you may ask. My answer: Anytime you are saying anything you want your kids to be open to.

That means pretty much all the time.

During the easy topics and during the difficult topics.

Especially during the difficult topics.

It is during the difficult topics we tend to become less easy to listen to. Our volume level rises. Our tone becomes more intense. Before you know it, you are talking to your kids the way you would never want anyone to talk to you. Your communication style begins to shut down your kids instead of open them up. It pushes them away instead of drawing them near.

If you want your kids to want to listen to you, then take inventory of a few things:

Your volume
Your tone
Your choice of words
Your respectfulness
Your self-control

Notice the first three letters in each of the above items: YOU. Every word you say only leaves your mouth with your permission. You don't control your kids' responses, but you do control your words, volume level, and tone. As you read through the above list, what areas stand out as ways you need to improve? Can you imagine what your family life will be like if you make those improvements?

Remember a recent conversation with your kids that went awry and imagine how that conversation might have been different if you had made different choices with your words, tone, and volume. If you had paused when you needed to. Imagine the conversation ending with a hug and a smile instead of with hurtful words, angry silence, and a damaged relationship.

This is the kind of communication your family needs.


Excerpted from 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids by Todd Cartmell, Pam Pugh. Copyright © 2016 Todd Cartmell. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Tool #1: Talking

Chapter 1:  Control Your Volume Knob

Chapter 2:  If Unsure, Press Pause

Chapter 3:  Start With You

Chapter 4:  Be Easy to Listen To

Chapter 5:  Play a Game of Catch

Talking Tips and Reflection Questions

Tool #2: Listening

Chapter 6:  Listen First

Chapter 7: Listen to Understand

Chapter 8:  Listen Often

Chapter 9:  Listen to Everything

Chapter 10:  Listen With Your Entire Body

Listening Tips and Reflection Questions

Tool #3: Influencing

Chapter 11:  Remember Who They Are

Chapter 12:  Understand the Power of Your Words

Chapter 13:  Be a Fountain of Life

Chapter 14:  See More Than Meets the Eye

Chapter 15:  Find the Lesson
Influencing Tips and Reflection Questions

Tool #4: Connecting

Chapter 16:  Use Your Touch

Chapter 17:  Avoid the Time Trap

Chapter 18:  Get Into Their World

Chapter 19:  Learn Together

Chapter 20:  Have a Regular Family Time

Connecting Tips and Reflection Questions

Tool #5: Teaching

Chapter 21:  Emphasize Respect

Chapter 22:  Practice Positive Behavior

Chapter 23:  Teach Flexible Thinking

Chapter 24:  Find the Solution

Chapter 25:  Solve Problems On the Spot

Teaching Tips and Reflection Questions

Tool #6: Encouraging

Chapter 26:  Point Out Positive Behaviors

Chapter 27:  Point Out Positive Traits

Chapter 28:  Water the Whole Lawn Regularly

Chapter 29:  Look Past the Failure

Chapter 30:  Look Backwards Together

Encouraging Tips and Reflection Questions

Tool #7:  Correcting

Chapter 31:  Focus on Your Job

Chapter 32:  Help Your Kids Bounce

Chapter 33:  Make a Quick Response

Chapter 34:  Teach the Right Lesson

Chapter 35:  Teach the Right Lesson the Right Way

Correcting Tips and Reflection Questions

Tool #8:  Leading

Chapter 36:  Remember the Power of Your Example

Chapter 37:  Practice Your Faith with Your Kids

Chapter 38:   Do Right Right

Chapter 39:  Do Wrong Right

Chapter 40:  Be a Personhood Leader

Leading Tips and Reflection Questions

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8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
ksteml1 10 months ago
In the easy to read book, "8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids", author Todd Cartmell gives practical and feasible ways to build lasting relationships with your kids. This book was an easy read and provides parents with hands on examples and strategies to connect with their kids. While most of the book was common sense ideas, it helped highlight areas parents may struggle with or overlook. If you are looking for an easy-read and tools to connect better with your kids, this is a great read!
ksteml1 10 months ago
In the easy to read book, "8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids", author Todd Cartmell gives practical and feasible ways to build lasting relationships with your kids. This book was an easy read and provides parents with hands on examples and strategies to connect with their kids. While most of the book was common sense ideas, it helped highlight areas parents may struggle with or overlook. If you are looking for an easy-read and tools to connect better with your kids, this is a great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids, Dr. Todd Cartmell captures eight components of a solid foundation for effective parenting. Dr. Cartmell’s book is broken into the eight tools of talking, listening, influencing, connecting, teaching, encouraging, correcting and leading. Each section holds five short chapters that each introduce and explain a tip for implementing the tool. 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids is teeming with examples from Dr. Cartmell’s experience, both personal and professional. He also incorporates numerous analogies between concepts and everyday objects; the analogies help readers to quickly and clearly understand the concepts presented. The structure of 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids allows readers to study at the unique pace desired by each person. The length of the chapters caters well to readers who desire to think about a small amount of material at a time. Although I am not a parent, I found numerous tips beneficial in my career in administration. Leading others can be a challenging task; sometimes the behavior or choices of others can provoke frustration, irritation, or anger. Dr. Cartmell’s tips for parents are applicable for managers and directors as well. Suggestions such as pausing, affirming positive behavior, and providing constructive correction serve well in the workforce as well as in the home. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in order to write an honest, unbiased review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
freesamplequeen More than 1 year ago
8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids by Dr. Todd Cartmell Every parent wants to raise a great kid, but there are so many signals, rules, suggestions, books and other input coming in from all sides that it can be hard to determine how to do anything right by your kids. Setting out to raise them in God's design sure does help thin down some of that noise, but still leaves a parent struggling to sort through all of the input. Thankfully, books like "8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids" are available and written with God's plan for our kids in mind. I am glad to have stumbled across this book. Withing its covers, parents, grandparents, teachers and others caring for children will find many great things. This is an easy book to pick up and read because it is broken up into 8 Tools: talking, listening, influencing, connecting, teaching, encouraging, correcting and leading. These tools are further broken up into smaller bits in 5 chapters for each tool. These chapters average 3-4 pages, so they are short, quick, to the point and easy to read in the few minutes you find to sit down during the chaos of the day. I have enjoyed this book and learned so much. From the first chapter, which addressed talking, and grabbed me right away with the idea of controlling volume and talking to kids the way you want to be talked to. Many of these tools are vital for healthy adult relationships as well as those between adults and children. I have walked away with many nuggets of wisdom I am now trying to put into action. Dr. Cartmell writes from experience, training and real life experience. His words are relevant, contemporary and timeless. This is a book that should be a part of the parent training library for sure! * I received this book for free in exchange for my honest and un-biased review. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not compensated for them.
JustCommonly More than 1 year ago
"Every Word Counts." (67) Simple. Straightforward. Easy to understand. Easy to read. Yes, those are the thoughts when you see 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids by Dr. Todd Cartmell from a "book" perspective. With 8 "sections" (tools), and 5 chapters of average 3 pages each chapter for each section, simple is as simple gets. It is well outlined and points well presented. And once you read it, you will see it as so much more than a "book to read". 8 Simple Tools for Raising Great Kids, is simply as the title suggests. This book is designed with busy parents in mind, I think it can relate and apply to grandparents, teachers (in principle), aunts, uncles and anyone who have interactions with kids in general. Yes, it's about raising kids, but it's also about listening and teaching and communicating with kids today. With 8 tools of talking, listening, influencing, connecting, teaching, encouraging, correcting and leading, we as adults are able to understand the goals of parenthood and how we influence the youngsters in our lives. And in some ways, I see some of these tools reflective of relationships in general. Take tool #1, Talking. First chapter is titled, "Control Your Volume Knob". Now tell me that's not something that can be reflective on adult relationships as well as talking with kids?! Dr. Cartmell shared his wisdom in this area with insightful tools and steps that we can take for raising great kids, but as make us better adults. God blessed us with families, why not "pay it forward" with the blessings of the next generation - let His goodness shine through for generations to come? This review first appeared on Just Commonly Blog. NOTE: I received a complimentary copy of this book through Flyby Promotions for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. For my review policy, please see my Disclosure page.