SAY WHAT YOU SEE Handbook - 2012 NAPPA Gold Winner!

Who says children don't come with handbooks?

Read our award-winning handbook right here, right now, FREE on your PC or MAC, and tell us what you think. (Original 66 pages in English ¡o en espanol!)

"This book offers a simple strategy that all parents can use in explosive moments that can bring a calm and beneficial response. The strategy described in the book can also be used in other situations when your child is having difficulty and you are not sure what to say. I highly recommend it!"

— Rachel Macy Stafford,

SAY WHAT YOU SEE® is a short little handbook loaded with "Aha!" points that will open your eyes to what actually works with children. Get more hugs and more respect with this elegantly simple approach.

The paperback, Kindle Edition, and iBookstore versions of SAY WHAT YOU SEE® include the original content from the little yellow book below PLUS a preview section from our next book — the new Three Basic Needs tool for finding children's STRENGTHs quickly and easily.

INSTRUCTIONS: To read the original award-winning "little yellow book" online on your PC or MAC, just scroll down and flip the corner of the pages with your mouse or use the navigation arrows under the flipping book below.

NOTE: Throughout the text, direct quotes from Dr. Garry Landreth, the author's mentor, are indicated by a superscript "L".

Winner of two gold awards!

2012 Gold NAPPA Award Seal Gold eLit Award Seal

Kindle Edition
Free Kindle Reader App
Say What You See for Parents and Teachers: More hugs. More respect. Elegantly simple - Sandra Blackard




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Thanks, Sandy Blackard


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"If you’ve ever been confused as a parent or teacher about what to say or how to respond to your child, then this book is for you. It’s short enough to re-read again and again, which is lucky, because you’ll want to." — Dr. Lawrence J. Cohen, author of Playful Parenting


"SAY WHAT YOU SEE: An easy parenting strategy that really works." — Dr. Laura Markham, Aha! Parenting


"I just love your approach. It so simply and beautifully sums up what everyone is trying to say about positive discipline." — Tracy Cutchlow, author of Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science


"Great illustrations and excellent material...interesting and easy to read. I absolutely loved reading this book." — 2012 NAPPA judge, Dr. Stephanie Mihalas, NCSP, founder of The Center for Well-Being


“So concise. There’s more on each page of this little book than in all the other parenting books I’ve ever read.” — Teresa, Parent, Austin, TX

More Readers' Comments

Million Readers Campaign: Current total 4106

Our intention in putting the original handbook online to read free with PC or Mac is to make it available to parents and teachers around the world so that children everywhere are heard and understood, can see their inner strengths, and can experience their full potential. A million readers will go a long way towards accomplishing that goal! (Total is updated every couple of months, so tell your friends and watch it grow exponentially!)

All you need to do to join us is read the book and let us know. You can leave us a comment at the bottom of the page or buy any version of the book. Those are the numbers we will track. Together we can make a big difference for children everywhere. Thank you! -- Sandy


  1. I’ve received many inspired comments and SWYS stories by email over the years. Now you can leave me yours right here! I look forward to hearing from you.

    • I just read your book online (thank you for having it available for free!). It is so helpful. I took notes and will put it into practice right away with my children. Thank you!

  2. I’ve finally found a great philosophy of how to lead my children in a peaceful way. I must work on myself to improve my attitude to my girls because it really works. At this time however I am just at the beginning of this adventurous journey. Thank you for the website and the little book online. It helps me a lot.

  3. Jenny Fleming |

    Every time I remember to “say what I see” with my son or daughter, unexpected and wonderful things happen in our relationship. Thank you for so clearly explaining a way to be present with children.

  4. Parents, do not let the simplicity of this approach fool you. SWYS is the “how” of unconditional love. This empowered, empowering world view has the capacity to create world peace–one child, famly and one person at a time!

  5. I can’t count how many times I have heard “I wish your mom was MY mom” or “I wish my mom was as cool as yours.”
    Being raised with the SWYS method is the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Not only do I love and respect my mom, I love and respect myself! That’s something no one can take away from me, ever. I have always felt powerful and important, and I know that I am capable of anything. Plus, I love spending time with my family–my mother and sister are my best friends, and I love that we are, and always have been, so close.

    • Betsy,

      What a delightful comment to receive on Mother’s Day! I remember asking my mom, “What was your greatest achievement?” She answered, “You kids.” I know exactly how she felt.


  6. Thank you so much for sending me a copy of “Say What You See” It will be immensely helpful for the parents I am working with and I will be integrating the very practical, doable suggestions into the Filial Therapy I am providing, as well as referring them to your website.

  7. This is a wonderful book, thank you for putting it online for everybody to read!
    I really wish that you can reach the goal of 1 million people reading it by next fall.

  8. I’m interested to read this as I have had a training with Garry Landreth. Thanks for the great resource!

  9. This book has come highly recommended from experienced mamas. I’m interested in receiving the Kindle ebook. Thanks!

  10. I very much enjoyed your talk at the API meeting this morning, and read your handbook this evening- it’s fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m thrilled to have read it when my son is still so young.

  11. Shalini Tewari |

    Recently, I find myself sometimes going down the wrong path with my 2 1/2 year-old twins…setting rigid rules, getting upset and blaming, and allowing days here and there to pass without feeling the joy of being a very lucky mom. Today, I looked for help and I came across this quick and priceless read and have (again) resolved to become a more mindful parent. It takes a village even if it is a village of support coming through your computer screen one afternoon during naptime!

  12. Suzanne Gross |

    I can’t thank you enough for the information you’ve shared in this book. Anytime I have a particularly frustrating day with the kids, I just read it again and it lifts me up and gets me back on track. Instead of dreading what the kids will do next, I feel inspired to put SWYS into action again. You’ve made me a much better mom, but I do still slip back into my old ways sometimes. Any ideas on how to prevent this from happening?

    • Suzanne,

      We all slip back sometimes, but never back to the beginning. Once you’ve read the book and it strikes a chord in you, you will always hear yourself when you say or do things the old way that were simply invisible before. That’s a good thing and part of the learning curve. It’s also why do-overs are part of the plan. Do-overs allow you to be human, even to the point of “monster mom” yelling sometimes, as long as you go back later, explain that it wasn’t how you wanted to act, and then say or do what you would’ve done if you had had a clearer head.

      Especially for those of us who tend toward perfectionism, do-overs model self-acceptance for our kids – something they need to see. It gives them and us space to relax, knowing we can recognize and correct things that are over the boundary of who we want to be. “Owning” your reactions (not blaming your child for them) during the do-over conversation is crucial. You may not like what your child did, but your reaction came from your perception of the moment which was triggered by something you experienced or learned in the past, i.e. hot button. The proof is your ability to discuss the infraction later in a calm way by saying what you saw and coming up with workable CAN DOs for the next time. When kids learn our reactions are about us not them, they can let our reaction be our problem and focus on correcting their own problem – the behavior. (Read blog post Ending the Blame Game)

      To advance your parenting skills even quicker, what you want to check is where “slipping back” happens the most. Look for a pattern. It can be a relief to find it, especially when you discover that you are the parent you want to be most of the time, except for one or two “little” things! Is it the time crunch that gets you? Or maybe one certain type of behavior? Our patterns direct us to our own points of personal growth.

      • Suzanne Gross |

        Thank you Sandy, I do tend to be a perfectionist. I think my slipping back happens the most when I’m feeling tired, stressed or upset. If I don’t get a good night’s sleep or I have a lot going on, I can easily turn into monster mom. Thanks for reminding me that we all need do-overs and for showing me how I can turn these episodes into something positive for my kids. I think if I can become more accepting of myself, faults and all, that it will also help me to become more accepting of my children’s less than desirable behavior and to recognize the healthy needs behind all the drama.

        • Suzanne,

          You are right! Recognizing healthy needs is the key. I’ve noticed a lot of perfectionists like me lump emotional calm into the mix of our expectations of self. Learning to accept our naturally wide range of emotions is part of our journey. See that little word you used at the end of your comment – drama? Dead give-away. And of course your kids, or at least one, will pick up on your urgency to control emotions and try to prove to you that extreme emotions are valid. What better way than drama? Remember, children MUST communicate until heard.

          So the more you validate their extremes with matching vigor and expression (not sarcasm), the sooner their drama will drop off. It’s taking on an “of course you would feel like that” attitude and really understanding how a broken cookie or a torn paper could be the worst thing ever!

          If the child’s blow ups occur mostly at “last straw” moments, the child may have taken on a pattern of trying to control emotions, too. That’s even harder for a child than us, so the stress is even greater. Controlling emotions is not needed; controlling behavior is. Big difference. So finding appropriate ways or places for the child to fully and completely express all emotions is the best path to follow.

          One last tip. Play “stressed mom” or “monster mom” with your kids in the peaceful times. Act it out in the extreme and let them be “it” sometimes, too. When they are “it,” be sure to let them choose to be “monster mom” or “monster kid,” and take direction on how they want you to react. Then ham it up! You will get lots of giggles. But the best part is that in acting it out in play, they will see that monster mom, in play or in real time, is just the way you act sometimes, not who you really are. Likewise monster kid. This is an important lesson for all of us in life.

          Play acting also prepares you for a bigger step. In real time, when you are feeling stressed and about to blow up, instead of compounding the pressure by adding restraint, go the other way and meet your needs by mimicking your play acting. Start exaggerating your feelings – get purposefully dramatic! The on purpose-ness meets your need for power/control while the exaggerated noises and movements of monster mom validate your emotions. You innately know what you need and your emotions are guiding you, so go with the flow instead of swimming upstream. The laughter will help you and the kids regain perspective and return to SWYS, CAN DOs and STRENGTHs to effectively resolve the situation.

          Then, who knows, you might just realize you are already the perfect parent for your children after all!

          • Suzanne Gross |

            After reading your post, I had the opportunity to let my 3-year-old daughter do some play acting today. She was playing this game on the iPad called Snuffles. Snuffles is basically an animated dog that repeats whatever you say in a cute chipmunk-like voice. She was saying silly things to it and we were laughing together when Snuffles said it back. Then she started yelling angry things and laughing even harder when Snuffles said it back. Now, under normal circumstances, I probably would have told her it wasn’t very nice to say those things. But since I had just read your post, I kept my mouth shut and was able to appreciate how this game was helping her explore human emotions in a playful way. It was a great a-ha moment for me. Maybe next time I will even join in.

            Thanks again for all your words of wisdom. They are helping me greatly!

  13. Suzanne,

    Good catch! Far from teaching her it’s OK to yell angry things at people, by allowing her to yell in play, you helped her trade a taboo for a CAN DO. Now when she feels like yelling in anger, you can say, “You need to yell! You can get all that yelling out at Snuffles, then when you are calmer, we can talk about the problem.”

    Observing instead of judging allowed you to see her behavior in a new way. Now, based on what you saw, you can go back and and name a STRENGTH – social awareness. When you consider her choice of what to yell at, it shows she knows that yelling at people is not OK and yelling at a game is. At her age, it is enough to say, “You found something that it was OK to yell angry things at!” She will be so proud and glad you noticed.

    Congratulations on another SWYS success!

  14. Hey Sandy!

    Say what you see is really working for me right now. I’ve watched your online videos and enjoyed them so much, they were a lot of fun and most of all, they kept it simple. I was searching for a simple parenting style because my mind was bogged down with trying to figure out ‘what do I do now?’. Now I know what I can do. The funny thing is, say what you see is so simple, and yet I want to watch even more videos! Even though I already have the tools in my hands, I want to learn more! If you are ever putting up any of your other courses online, I would definitely be a customer. Thanks Sandy!

  15. Sandy, does Say What You See work with adults ?

    I understand it works with teens to, but does it truly stop from age 20 on ?

    Thank you for your insights.

    • I’m sorry, I have found the answer in your FAQs. Thank you 🙂

    • Tama,

      From your question about SAY WHAT YOU SEE working with adults, it sounds like you recognize the Universal nature of the Heart Model. Because the three parts are the core steps for connecting with others, creating cooperation, and building confidence, they absolutely apply to all ages and all situations.

      The examples in my book are about children, but to apply it to teens or adults, you simply modify what you describe. Toddlers get excited when you notice even little things they are doing, like picking up a crayon, because that is what they are focused on. Older children and adults don’t think about little things like that any more; moves like that have become automatic so it would be a jolt if you brought their attention to them. When you follow the focus of the person you are listening to and point out what is important to them, regardless of their age, you can connect on any level: DOING, SAYING, FEELING and THINKING.

      Thanks for reading the book and taking the time to leave a comment! I would love to hear examples of how it is working for you with children, teens or adults.

  16. Thank you so much for this wonderful resource. I am a mama to a darling 17 month old boy and we are on that exciting journey of being/raising a toddler. I am off to buy your book this minute. I have already read Parenting from the Heart by Robin Grille and I feel that your book will be the perfect follow on, or companion piece, for me. I feel excited to have another resource at hand that speaks so much about the kind of parent I hope to be. From Grille’s book, we have been (what we call) ‘naming feelings’, which is in so many words of course ‘say what you see’ and I can’t tell you the success we’ve had with it. After observing me interact with our son, some family members and friends have said ‘what is it that you’re doing here?’. As soon as we ‘name feelings’ with/for him, it’s like the anger or fear or sadness dissipates so quickly, but the joy, happiness and love magnify. I can tell that he feels understood and as a mama, that’s all I hope for between us at this tender age. We are so grateful for researchers like you that make parenting a hopeful and rewarding experience. Thank you!

    • Mrs_D,

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! I am so glad my book is helping you become the parent you want to be. That warms my heart. As you’ve discovered, raising a toddler can be a joyous adventure and easier than most people think when you are able to understand their communications. You mentioned that you have already seen how “SAYing WHAT YOU SEE your child feeling” can dissipate emotions like anger, fear or sadness and magnify others. What’s actually happening is that understanding and acceptance actually elevate any emotion to the next higher level. It’s always one direction, toward joy. I hope to hear more from you as you apply even more of the simple tools in the book.

  17. Julia Kurskaya |

    Thank you so much for your book, Sandra! Say What You See provides such a comfortable way of communication with children. I can see how the kids long to hear these words, how much they love them. You’ve put difficult things in simple words, in a way that is so easy to remember and that’s why – so powerful. Now I’m reading the book again with my pencil and it feels as though I’m reading it for the first time. It’s so interesting to see all the things that I missed.

    Your book is a very special gift to me. Surprisingly short, simple and nice looking :). I loved your pictures! Sending you much love in return. Julia and Masha (4 y.o.) from Moscow, Russia

    • Julia,

      It’s so heartwarming to hear that you found it valuable and comfortable. Children do long to hear those words from us, and it sounds like you are putting them to good use in building a loving relationship with Masha. It means so much to me that you shared your experience of the book with me…all the way from Russia!

  18. I just read through your booklet. Is there a forum where I can ask specific questions? Seems like whenever I try a new approach to parenting, I have a million questions. Right now I am wondering specifically how to get my kids to do their schoolwork without me nagging. I have been trying the “say what you see” approach today and my girls said, “why are you so calm and why do you keep telling us what our emotions are? Did you read a book? What’s the book called?” Ha-ha! It is definitely something I am not use to but I like it. It will take a great deal of practice as I am instinctively someone who asks questions to get results.

    • Laura,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I’m laughing with you about your girls’ responses.

      I answer questions asked in comments and on the blog pages whenever I can. You mentioned that this approach is new to you, and that practice and questions are what work for you, so I hope you will consider my Online Training Center – currently only $19.95 for permanent access. There are over 2 hrs of workshop videos presented in ~5-min snippets, a Q&A page, a mini-ecourse to carry you through, and more. It may be the kind of support you are looking for. And for more personal support, I offer a 1/2 hr free coaching call. Many parents are amazed at what we can accomplish during that time.

      Now back to your question: How to get kids to do their schoolwork without nagging. One of the things about Language of Listening that you may like is that it shifts the problem-solving to the child where it belongs, and moves you into a support role and out of the role of “getting kids to do things.” From your children’s responses to you I am guessing they are at least elementary school age, so the shift you desire may be a bit more challenging than if they were in preschool. If they have come to depend on you for motivation, your primary goals will be to reconnect them with their own self-motivation and help them discover what works for them in terms of self-management. Kids learn best from success, so STRENGTHs are the key. You can see what I mean in this post. It’s about working with perfectionist children, but applies to all:

      To start the shift, you need to: 1) announce the shift, and 2) clarify what your children want since wanting something is the true source of self-motivation. This sample dialog may help you get started:

      SWYS: “Girls, I have an announcement to make. You don’t like me nagging you about your schoolwork, and I don’t like it either. I finally realized why I do that – I forget that you actually want to get your work done, turn in assignments on time, and do well on tests.”
      STRENGTH: “I know you do, because I’ve seen how proud you are of your work when it is done well and turned in on time. You like that about yourselves, and here I am treating you like you don’t care about doing well.”
      Boundary: “That stops now! So our challenge is how to turn your deadlines over to you in a way that you will succeed.”
      STRENGTH: “Since you hate my nagging, you probably want to manage yourselves and deep down inside, you know you can.”
      CAN DO: “Must be something we can do make that happen in a way that works for us all.”

      Then brainstorm some solutions, try them out, modify them if they don’t work, and try again. The main thing is to get everybody on the same team, which you do by finding your highest mutual goal – in this case your girls succeeding in self-management.

      CAN DOs could include:
      – making a list together of what skills they need to succeed
      – letting the girls design their own time-management systems (reminders, calendar, check-sheets, timers, etc.)
      – finding out how they want you to help

      Helping your girls get what they want puts you on their side without nagging.

      Thank you for your comment and question. I’ll add this to the Q&A in the Online Training Center so even more readers can benefit. I hope to hear from you again.


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