Story of Language of Listening®

My birthday is coming up. What I can say about my age is that I was 34 once and just beginning my parenting journey which led me from the Dallas area to Austin in 2000. Having raised two wonderful daughters, now in their early 30’s, I’m nearing the Grandma end of things, but not too soon, my daughter’s tell me.

So here’s my story:

My oldest daughter, Colleen, at age 4 had a fight over a toy at preschool, discovered she was wrong—the toy wasn’t hers after all—and lost all confidence in herself. Suddenly my independent little girl started clinging to my leg. With kindergarten just around the corner, I freaked out!


Luckily for me, I bumbled into the world of play therapy at a time when Dr. Garry Landreth, founding director of the Center for Play Therapy at University of North Texas, was just beginning to teach parents professional skills to use with their own kids in home playtimes.


I took his 10-week therapeutic course, discovered that the real problem was MY inability to connect with Colleen since the birth of her younger sister (a real eye-opener for me!), rebuilt our connection during the playtimes, and got my little girl back! That fall Colleen skipped off to kindergarten without looking back!


I had no idea that putting your child in the lead could be so powerful. It was like magic!


So I thought, why not try this with 3 YO Betsy? Week by week, her little “you can’t make me” rebellion disappeared!


The playtimes created such a deep connection that my relationship with both girls remained strong throughout their teen years, even though their friends fell away from their parents all around. In middle school both my girls separately commented about their friends, “Why don’t they feel understood? You understand me.”

The amazing things I learned along the way about how to stay connected with your kids, and best of all how to see them in a way that makes it easy to be patient (me, patient?), were so powerful in my life that I’ve been sharing them with the parenting community ever since, with Dr. Landreth’s permission.

My drive comes from this one thought, “Every parent should know this; you shouldn’t have to wait until you or your child need therapy to find out!”

In 2005 I simplified the approach into a three-step coaching model, started teaching my own version of the playtime class, wrote a little handbook by request called SAY WHAT YOU SEE®, and posted it on my website for parents everywhere to read free. (Consider it my year-round birthday present to you.)

I’ve done interviews, held parent and staff workshops, live and online, provided coaching for hundreds of families, coauthored a book for play therapists*, and now offer a Coaches Training Program so others can help me take this eye-opening approach around the world as quickly as possible.

If you are just beginning your parenting journey with me, you can start by reading my little online book, letting me know what it does for you, and if it speaks to you, passing the link along to others. So far it’s gotten responses that range from surprised and delighted: “This really works,” to tearful: “This changed all of my relationships, not just with my kids!”

If you’d like to know more about SAY WHAT YOU SEE and the Language of Listening® coaching model, I encourage you to take my Basic Coaching Skills Course there!

*Note: Because of my ability to simplify complicated concepts, I became coauthor of Child-Parent Relationship Therapy (CPRT) Treatment Manual, 1st ed, 2006. with Drs. Landreth, Bratton & Kellam, and several pages of my handbook are quoted(!) in Dr. Kellam’s book for parents called Parent Survival Guide. Both books are a big hit with play therapists who use them to train parents and both are available on my recommended reading page. You never know where your passion will take you!

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