The Parenting Project: Build Extraordinary Relationships With Your Kids Through Daily Conversation

The Parenting Project: Build Extraordinary Relationships With Your Kids Through Daily Conversation


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In a world full of many influences,  The Parenting Project shows you how, through the practice of daily conversation, to maintain influence in your child's life.

Are you losing the influence game with your children? If you want to direct your child's growth, then they need to get to know you. In The Parenting Project, parenting experts Dr. Amy Alamar and Dr. Kristine Schlichting show you how to talk with your children on a regular basis to gain their trust. In a time when kids have many things vying for their attention, you want to become  the go-to person, the one they turn to the most for advice and comfort. 

Sometimes it's difficult to speak with your children about serious subjects. That's why  The Parenting Project teaches you how to make a habit of it, providing you with prompts to help start potentially difficult conversations across a broad range of subjects that apply to everyday life. The authors have divided these conversations into five categories to inform your approach—Heart-based, Uncomfortable, Dangerous, Character, and Brave—because each type requires different strategies and "conversation starters." The book includes story after story of how parents have built extraordinary relationships with kids through the act of talking with one another, day by day.

With some help from Dr. Alamar and Dr. Schlichting, it will be become easier to open up conversations with (rather than at) your children so that when the big questions arise, your child will turn to you first.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781592338542
Publisher: Fair Winds Press
Publication date: 11/20/2018
Pages: 200
Sales rank: 1,186,541
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Amy Alamar, EdD, has worked in the field of education as a teacher, teacher educator, researcher, parent educator, and education reformer for over fifteen years. In her role as a teacher, Amy has taught elementary school, middle school, high school, and served as an adjunct professor teaching curriculum design. She has conducted significant research in the areas of constructivism, conversation, engagement in learning, utilization of multimedia in education and student stress.

Amy is also a contributor to the Disney parenting website, and a family resource specialist at Amy worked as the Director of Learning and Instruction at Gooru, designing and implementing digital curriculum for K–12 schools. Previous to that, she served as the Schools Program Director for Challenge Success at Stanford University where she oversaw programming for member schools and conducted professional development for middle and high school faculty and parent education presentations.

As an educational consultant and speaker to parent and faculty groups, Amy focuses on a wide range of parenting topics including student stress and wellbeing, raising digital natives in the information age, and parenting kids with character. She also conducts faculty development workshops that focus on engagement with learning, professional communication, and curriculum design. She was an invited guest of Michelle Obama at the White House for a conversation about kids’ health in 2016.

Amy is the mother of three children and resides in Avon, Connecticut, where she serves on the board of the Avon Education Foundation, dedicated to promoting and enhancing excellence in education.

You can learn more about her at

Kristine Schlichting, PhD, is an innovator, entrepreneur, expert problem solver, and change agent fusing together the principles of psychology, neuroscience, coaching, and wellness. She is the Chief Psychologist and CEO of Hopewell Health Solutions, a multi-disciplinary psychology group practice in Glastonbury, Connecticut.

Over the past ten years, Dr. Schlichting has “broken the box” of traditional talk therapy to develop a new model (i-Therapy™) for change, which is based on recent developments in neuroscience. Brain-based i-Therapy™ is active, dynamic, and collaborative; this therapy requires intervention, practice, and collaboration.

She holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Connecticut. “Dr. K,” as she is fondly known by her clients, is a fierce advocate committed to helping all children and adults reach their fullest potential. She is also a mother to a child with dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, and learning disabilities, so she understands firsthand the struggle many parents face.

You can learn more about her at

Read an Excerpt



"Can I talk to you?" my daughter asked one evening as I was finishing a work email. I didn't think much of it and said, "Sure." Then she said, "In private?" Uh-oh. I could feel my heart beating, hear the throbbing in my ears. What did I do? What did she do? What's wrong?

While my daughter happily participates in conversations, she rarely initiates them — and this sounded serious. I needed to finish my email but I was having trouble focusing. We went to her room and she sat on her bed and looked at me, eyes wide. We just sat.

Eventually, she shared that she had thought she'd done well on a few tests and assignments but that her scores were not what she wanted. She was disappointed in herself. I sat there, relieved. I care about her grades, but I was ecstatic that she cared about her grades. And I was thrilled that she came to me. "Okay," I responded. "What can I do?" A parent's natural instinct is to jump in and fix a problem, but I soon realized that I didn't need to do anything. I just needed to be there with her and help her think through her next steps.

In parenting, the goal is to raise an independent adult, and it's often hard to keep that in mind when you're in the midst of it, dealing with an adolescent. We want kids to do their own thing, take risks, and find themselves — however, we would prefer that they do it the way we want. But following parents' instructions every step of the way is not what growing up is about. While kids will not take the path we set out for them every time, we can still remain a strong influence in our children's lives. The best way to keep your influence in your child's life is to stay connected.


When you think back, how do you remember the experience of growing up? What were your concerns? Whom did you go to for advice or to talk things through? If you went to your parents, why? What solidified your relationship and how did they maintain that trust with you? Do you and your child have a similar trusting relationship? And if you didn't go to your parents, why not? What was the barrier? Have you created a similar barrier with your child? How can you start to break it down?

A child's job as she grows up is to push boundaries and try new things. We should expect kids to make poor choices and do things we'd prefer they not do. Our job is to keep calm and carry on. So when your child acts out, makes a mistake, or gets caught red-handed, it's your job to understand that her behavior is likely not a personal stab at you but rather part of the process of growing up. And while it's your job to help your child see the error of her ways by establishing logical consequences, be sure to talk with her about her decisions and their ramifications. This conversation provides her with context and understanding, and sets her up to make a different decision next time — or to at least better understand her choice and its likely outcome. During conversations about choice-making, acknowledge your child's feelings and perspective — her concerns, anxiety, anger, sadness. What drove her decision?

Teens and tweens often experience strong emotions that they are not prepared to handle in the moment. So acknowledge their feelings and realize that understanding does not mean you have to celebrate the emotion or the decision that resulted from it. Rather, you are showing your child that you are trying to understand where she is coming from.

Acknowledgement doesn't mean you have to refrain from punishing your child if she has transgressed. For example, if your daughter was angry and took the car out after curfew to blow off steam, then she should face the consequences — perhaps she should lose car privileges for a set period of time. But the consequence comes after you've discussed her feelings, her decisions, and healthy alternatives. The goal is to open a conversation so you can better relate- so you can understand why she reacted as she did and she, in turn, can understand why you are upset by her behavior.

If you develop a habit of conversation, you will maintain influence in your child's life, and she will have the opportunity to see things through your eyes. Sure, she will make up her own mind, but she will have the benefit of your perspective. We all come to conversations with our own unique viewpoint — and so do our kids. You might think you're simply making small talk, but then all of a sudden you're in a full-on debate. Don't assume your child agrees with your political or social views, and don't be surprised when your child argues vociferously about something that doesn't matter all that much to you.

Examine your own hopes, fears, concerns, and motivations so you have insight into your approach. Getting to know ourselves and our kids is the best start to understanding how we deal with conversations. Use the parent-child interview questions later in this chapter to share your views and experiences and to get to know your child. You'll start to notice patterns in your interactions, and you can use those patterns to replicate what works well and to adjust what doesn't. For example, if you tend to approach conversations with an open question and your child responds, continue doing that. And if you start conversations with a strong opinion and your child shuts down quickly, try a gentler tactic.


If you want to be an influencer in your child's life, you need to invite your child in and listen to him. We can't just tell our kids our values, we need to illustrate where our values come from and share the stories that fostered those values. In establishing a strong bond with your children, you increase the chance of them coming to you with the good, the bad, and the ugly. You want them to celebrate their wins with you and share their funny experiences, but you also want them to come to you when the going gets rough.

When we are in the midst of a discussion, especially a heated or emotional one, we can overthink and overreact — or we may underthink our response, suggesting we are not as invested in the topic at hand. While you're trying to balance overthinking and underthinking your next decision, your tweens and teens are defining themselves in every moment, also overthinking and underthinking their decisions.

At the same time, adolescents are trying to hold steady in the face of all the emotional and physical changes they are experiencing, as well as handle intense peer pressure. Kids are constantly balancing the desire to stick out and to fit in, both at the same time. This can feel like an impossible task, so do your best to empathize with your tween or teen, and understand how emotionally loaded some of his responses may be.


Find time with your child and let him know why you want to sit down together. You can say something along the following lines: "I'm reading a book about conversations and how important it is to have them with your kids. It's a project with a few activities to get us talking. I am so excited to start having more conversations with you and really learning more about who you are. In the first activity you can ask me lots of questions, and I will ask you questions as well. My hope is that it will be fun and we will both learn a lot." Then share the book with your child and the directions for the first part of the parent-child interview. Take notes as the two of you talk, and then debrief together.

Directions for child: Find time with your parent so you can learn more about him or her. Understanding your parents as people helps you see where they are coming from and why they think and feel as they do. Choose five to ten questions from the list that follows, then ask your own follow-up questions if you have any. Take note of what interests you. After getting answers to the questions you've chosen, take a break and return to the list later or on a new day. When you have finished interviewing your parent, let him or her interview you. Share with your parent(s) what you learned about them, and, after they interview you, talk about what you learned about yourself.


What is your earliest memory? What was your childhood like?

What were you good at in school?

What were your weaknesses?

Did you participate in activities or clubs? What were they?

Do you still do any of the activities that you did when you were my age?

What would you say your current hobbies or interests are?

Who lived in your home when you were my age?

Did you feel the rules were fair or unfair in your home when you were my age?

What person were you closest to when you were my age?

What kind of jobs have you had in the past? How did you get them?

What do you find most difficult about your life?

What do you find most enjoyable about your life?

What would you consider your greatest strengths?

What would you consider your greatest weaknesses or challenges?

If you had three wishes granted what would they be?

What do you daydream about?

What persons, ideas, or forces have been most useful or influential to you in the past?

When are you happy?

What would you like to do more of?

What would you like to do less of?

What do you want to change about yourself?

Directions for parent: Now it's time for you to interview your child. After asking five to ten questions, take a break and return to the list later or on a new day. Come up with your own follow-up questions if you have any as you go through the interview, and take note of what interests you. Feel free to do this over a few days if you want to get through the whole list. Share with your child what you learned about him/her, and talk about what you learned about yourself.


What is your favorite thing in your life? What gives you joy?

What is the most frustrating thing in your life right now? What is your greatest challenge?

What is your favorite/least favorite subject in school? Why?

Overall, do you like school?

How are your relationships with your teachers?

What are your relationships with your classmates like? Describe someone you like, and tell me why. Describe someone you don't like and say why.

Do you get into arguments or fights with other kids? How do the fights usually start and end?

Do you have a girlfriend or boyfriend?

Do you ever get into trouble in school?

Do you worry about school?

If you could change one thing about school, what would it be? How could you make this happen?

What is your earliest memory?

Are the rules in our home fair or unfair? Why?

Who understands you best?

Who do you best identify with at home? What are some things you have learned from this person?

If you could change something in our home, what would it be? What are some ways to make this happen?

If you were to describe yourself to a someone who did not know you well, what would you say?

What would you like to do in the future? What are your plans to achieve these goals?

What makes you happy/mad/sad/scared?

What do you worry about?

How do you feel most of the time?

Complete these sentences:

The most important thing about me is ...

The most important thing in my life is ...

The best thing in my life is ...

The worst thing in my life is ...

My greatest strengths are ...

My greatest difficulties or challenges are ...

I daydream about ...

If I had three wishes granted I would ask for:




If I could change one thing about myself, it would be ...


You and your child should both take some time to reflect on what you talked about in your interview by responding to the following prompts:

Have you learned anything new about yourself?

Have you learned anything new about your child/parent?

What were your favorite questions to answer?

What were the most interesting things you learned about your child/ parent?

Was there any part of the interview that felt awkward or challenging? If so, what was it, and why do you think you felt that way?

What were you excited to share?

What did you resist sharing?

Share these answers with each other and think about new questions to ask about the other person's answers. These questions are merely springboards to deep-level conversations and continued sharing.

Parents: Don't be afraid to be vulnerable with your answers and reveal things that are important, embarrassing, or sensitive. You are modeling for your child how to develop a bond with another person. This is an important skill to develop and replicate in any long-term relationship. You are helping your child learn how to create a strong foundation for a relationship.

As you review the way you responded to the interview, consider your own conversational strengths and challenges. Think as well about the right environment for your conversations. Take a moment to consider:

* When is a good time to talk with your child (time of day, before/after eating, during another activity, etc.)?

* Are there environmental supports that help create a sanctuary for talking and sharing (such as blankets, soft lighting, a quiet space with no TV in the background, etc.)?

* What factors make it hard to talk with your child (approaching a difficult subject, disclosing personal information, learning new things about your child, facing disappointments, etc.)?

* What do you do well when you talk with your child (make eye contact, listen, move the conversation along, open up, etc.)?


It s important to know the way you are likely to react in different situations. Of course, each situation is unique, but identifying your typical reactions can help you have better conversations. For example, if you tend to respond impulsively, you might work on developing some phrases to fall back on, like, "My knee-jerk reaction is ... But give me some time to consider" — and make an effort to think through your responses more. Alternatively, if you lean toward processing your thoughts and your child appears to be looking for a more immediate response, you might work on ways to respond that buy you time to think things through. Also, knowing how your child is likely to react will help you time conversations and tailor your responses for true engagement rather than just talking at one another.

Are you calm and even-tempered most of the time? A relaxed approach can help you ease into conversation. If you find you are quiet during conversations or are too mild-mannered, work on modeling vulnerability and openness. By using the conversation starters and prompts in Part 2 of this book and opening up to your child, you create a framework that he can apply in his own life to create meaningful connections with others. Research shows that these deep connections create lasting happiness in our lives, and this is the legacy we all want to leave our children.

A subdued reaction or consistently laissez-faire attitude can signal to your child that you are not concerned or that the topic at hand is not as important to you as he might want it to be.

Do you tend to get anxious easily or are you quick-tempered? This can mean you are passionate and care very deeply, which your child likely picks up on. But an outsized reaction on your part can also trigger arguments or stifle conversation. If you worry about this or find it happening, realize that you need time and space to process the conversation, ideally before you engage.

Sometimes you don't have the luxury of taking a time out or finding a quiet spot. In those cases, look within yourself and talk through your mood as best you can. Remember to take breaks if you feel overwhelmed or emotional.

Think before speaking and check any need you have to control the situation. It is important to have a space for your child to unwind and come undone at times, and this is an uncontrolled reaction. It's important that your child knows he can come to you and trust you. If you overreact or judge quickly, you may unwittingly signal for the child to stop the conversation before it gets out of control. Know yourself, and if you tend to overreact, or if certain situations trigger a strong reaction or anxiety, identify your tendency and work on it when you're feeling in control.

How quick are you to offer an opinion or judgment? Sometimes advice can be helpful, but it can also stifle your child. Avoid offering your thoughts right off the bat (don't worry, you can and should offer your opinion once you've heard your child out). Most importantly, listen. You can't know what your child is thinking, but you can listen to what he tells you and try to interpret as best you can. Ask clarifying questions. Once you're engaged in conversation, your child might even ask for your opinion. If you do feel the urge to share and can't stop yourself, be sure to frame it as your opinion and say that you simply feel compelled to share it.


Understanding the way you and your child learn will help you engage in conversations more fully. Are you able to simply sit and listen, or do you prefer to be active, walking, knitting, or cooking? Do you ask questions when you're confused or just gloss over things you don't understand?


Excerpted from "The Parenting Project"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
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

Foreword Kenneth R. Ginsburg, M.D., M.S. Ed. 9

Introduction 13

Part I I Talk/You Talk: From the Casual to the Difficult 16

Chapter 1 Getting to Know You 19

Chapter 2 Types of Conversations 37

Chapter 3 Making the Project Work 51

Chapter 4 Conversation Starters and Strategies 65

Part II Let's Talk: Common Concerns That Come Up Every Day 82

Chapter 5 Opening Heart-Based Conversations 85

Conversation Starters and Prompts:

Emotions 99

Family 99

Friendships 100

Intimate Relationships 101

Loss and Grief 102

Self Love 102

Trust 102

Chapter 6 Navigating Uncomfortable Conversations 107

Conversation Starters and Prompts:

Diversity 117

Divorce/Separation 118

Fear 119

Gender and Gender Identity 119

Sex and Sexuality 120

Chapter 7 Braving Dangerous Conversations 125

Conversation Starters and Prompts:

Alcohol and Drugs 137

Assault and Harassment 138

Cutting Behavior 139

Driving 139

Minor Vices 141

Suicide 141

Chapter 8 Nurturing Character Conversations 147

Conversation Starters and Prompts:

Actions and Behavior 159

Education and Life Skills 160

Healthy Habits 161

Humility 162

Identity 162

Integrity 163

Social Media and Technology 163

Spirituality 165

Chapter 9 Fostering Brave Conversations 169

Conversation Starters and Prompts:

Advocacy and Empowerment 181

Bullying and Being Bullied 183

Emotional Health and Anxiety 183

Independence and Transitions 184

Mental Health 186

Taking Risks 187

Vulnerability 188

Conclusion 191

Suggested Resources 194

About the Authors 196

Index 198

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