Have a Question? Need Parenting Advice? Ask Michael Hawton

Over 100,000 parents have been helped through programs developed by family psychologist Michael Hawton. He has taught parents how to successfully manage their children’s difficult behaviour by teaching their kids self-control. His new book Talk Less, Listen More helps even more parents worldwide move beyond smacking, authoritarian control and being the ineffective ‘best friend’.

Family psychologist, parent group educator and father of two, Michael Hawton sees many parents experiencing a crisis of confidence in their parenting, due to the overwhelming amount of conflicting parenting information out there.

“As a community psychologist and a highly experienced reporter in the Courts, I have seen many parents who love their children but sometimes lack confidence in parenting their children’s difficult behaviour,” says Michael Hawton. “Parents have become paralysed, because they are not sure what they can and can’t do when their children misbehave. For example, they have been told not to smack and to be positive with their kids but then they then don’t know how to pull their kids up when they are misbehaving.”

While Hawton believes that positive parenting techniques have a place, they need to be part of a mix of strategies that parents can use.

Talk Less, Listen More offers parents of 2-12 year-olds new, easy-to-implement strategies to manage their children’s difficult behaviour and equip kids with essential impulse-control skills. Hawton says, “helping kids to develop their ‘mental brakes’ can develop their ability to manage their emotions and control their behaviour. These are important skill for young people to have as they mature. Research has shown that kids who can control their impulses do better in social and academic situations.” The methods in Talk Less Listen More also assist parents to focus on building their children’s resilience and maturity, by developing their children’s ability to tolerate frustrations and difficult emotions.

“This book provides parents with a fundamental understanding of their role as parents – they have a leadership role, and are not their child’s best friend. The book helps parents recognise the behaviours they want to stop, the behaviours they want to promote and ways for parents to connect emotionally with their children and build family bonds.

Many parenting models currently focus on what Hawton calls ‘outside In’ parenting, where the parent controls their child’s behaviour through external means, such as rewards and punishments, as seen in shows like, Super Nanny.

“The trouble is that ‘outside-in’ strategies put a lot of pressure on the parent to maintain control and be the bad guy. These methods do not always allow the child to develop the healthy self-control that they need as they mature toward adulthood,” says the Byron Bay based author. “We want our kids to mature and be able to cope with all of life, even its difficult bits, and we need to teach them these skills as children and give them time to practice them.”

So what should an exhausted parent do to manage the child who is being difficult or having a tantrum? Drawing from the latest findings in neuroscience and 25 years’ experience in his own practice with hundreds of families, Hawton’s methods in Talk Less, Listen More, provide an alternative he calls ‘inside out’ parenting.

“Kids definitely have the ability to apply their ‘mental brakes’ when they become upset so in Talk Less, Listen More I explain to parents how to teach kids about their emotional software and what parents can do to help their kids to use their ‘mental brakes’ and develop self-control,” says Hawton.

The journey to a more harmonious family life starts by helping parents to effectively deal with a child’s meltdown quietly and calmly by talking less and staying calm. Some difficult behaviour can be resolved simply by parents listening more to their child and paying closer attention to their child’s emotions.

Hawton’s methods work. Mother of two and Speech Pathologist, Nicole says, “I have been using Michael’s parenting methods with my children for almost 7 years. As a parent, it’s wonderful when you’re feeling totally at sea to have something to hold on to that works reliably. Using his methods has helped my kids keep the magnitude of their reaction more in line with the issue that has upset them. I also recommend it to parents frequently in my work as a speech pathologist when their child’s behaviour is a barrier to their development. It’s quite hard to get this quality of resources; this book is a real opportunity for parents to have access to Michael’s work no matter where they are.”

An easy-to-follow book, with examples from real family life, Talk Less, Listen More starts by discussing the current major trends and research in parenting and the major mistakes parents tend to make in the heat of the moment.

Using the fictional family – the Blooms – Talk Less Listen More explains what happens when parents try to implement new techniques, how to manage children’s resistance to change and how parents can stay calm under fire.

Hawton then outlines the new choices parents can make to better manage children’s difficult behaviours that help them to self-regulate. The book even includes a transition plan to help parents move their families from their current state to a more harmonious one.

Talk Less, Listen More offers parents a wealth of insight and effective tools they can implement immediately. If you want a more peaceful family life and better relationships with your kids, then this book will provide you with plenty of food for thought.

Michael Hawton has had a 25-year career in child and family therapy, which includes working as an expert witness in the NSW Children’s Court and for the Family Court of Australia, where he has prepared over 1,000 child welfare reports. He has trained over 6,500 family services professionals, both nationally and internationally, in how to manage children’s and teenager’s difficult behaviour.

ONLINE COURSE – Talk Less Listen More by Michael Hawton
from $29 http://www.parentshop.com.au/making-parenting-easier/

*based on the number parent workbooks sold over seven years


About Michael Hawton

Michael Hawton is a family psychologist, teacher, author and father of two. He studied teaching and went to Melbourne University where he trained to be a psychologist.

For most of his 25-year career he has worked in the area of child and family therapy. His career has also included working as an expert witness in the NSW Children’s Court and for the Family Court of Australia, where he has prepared over 1,000 Child Welfare Reports.

He lives in Byron Bay where he has raised two children of his own. Michael and his wife, Simone run the online parent resource company – Parentshop. Michael has trained over 6,500 family services professionals, nationally and internationally, in how to manage children’s and teenager’s difficult behaviour.

Michael currently travels around Australia to present professional development to family service professionals. His passion is to make a difference to the lives of children and their parents.

Signs your child may be struggling with change

As parents, we can sometimes watch anxiously as our children head off into new frontiers. It’s important that we give them positive messages about their ability to cope with the changes they are dealing with.

And while we should monitor how they are going, with older children and teenagers, it’s important to give them some independence and a sense of responsibility appropriate to their age. This kind of attitude will help build their inner confidence in their ability to cope with change.

Sometimes, however, there will be changes that our children struggle to adjust to. Or, there may be elements of the change that are causing undue distress. This is when we need to step in and take some action.

Signs your child or teenager may be struggling include:

  • Avoiding social situations, wanting to stay home and not go to school or participate in normalactivities
  • Persistent low mood
  • Sudden tearfulness
  • Withdrawing from family relationships
  • Problems getting to sleep, or regular wakefulness in the night
  • Loss of appetiteThe best way to assess whether you child is having difficulties adjusting to their new situation is to keep the lines of communication open. Ask how they are going in this area of their life and then really listen to their answer, in an engaged, non-judgmental way, without problem solving or advising.If your child communicates a worry or concern they have, try to tune in by saying words like, ‘You seem really worried about that’ or ‘I can see that must have been pretty upsetting for you’ and then let them say everything they wish to say. Try not to jump straight into problem solving, particularly if they
    are wound up.
    If, after really listening, you believe there is a problem that needs addressing, try to help them figure out a solution that they think they could try.

by Michael Hawton MAPS

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter to receive informative articles providing practical advice on behaviour management for families, educators and community service providers, as well as all our upcoming courses and relevant resources. The amount of emails you are likely to receive is between once a week to once a month.

Associations and Affiliations