How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk?

As parents, we think few things are more important than that our children are doing well. Fortunately, through the way we raise them, we can have a significant impact on their mental health. In order to be able to use that influence properly, it is important to know what works well in parenting. Joussemet et al. (2018) are currently conducting research of which the results are not yet in. Their description of their research is interesting anyway because it provides insight into some key aspects of effective parenting.

2 Types of mental problems in children: externalizing and internalizing

There are two broad categories of mental problems in children: externalizing (E) and internalizing (I) of problems. 

  1. In E, there is under-controlled behavior and negative emotions are directed towards others, for example through disruptive or aggressive behavior. 
  2. In I there is over-controlled behavior and negative emotions are directed towards the child itself, for example in the form of fears or depression. 

Effective parenting teaches the child a form of self-regulation that prevents both E and I problems. Clues to children's mental health are emotional and behavioral self-regulation and subjective well-being.

Training of parents

Despite parenting being a very important and complex task, most parents do not receive any specific training in raising their children. Most training programs that do take place are specifically intended for families where there are already problems. It is an interesting question what parenting training for the general population could contribute to the well-being and development of children.

3 Dimensions of effective parenting

The training program "How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk" is based on the insight from previous research that effective parenting consists of three dimensions:

  1. Structure: communicating clear and consistent expectations and consequences
  2. Relatedness: showing warmth, care and acceptance
  3. Autonomy support: showing attention and respect for children's own ideas, feelings and initiatives (the opposite of controlling parenting)

The research

Joussement et al. are currently investigating the effectiveness of this training program in a randomized controlled trial (RCT). The seven-week training is offered to parents of 5- to 12-year-old children in their local primary school. The mental health assessments of children are measured through a questionnaire (reports from parents, children and teachers) and were made before (T1) and post- (T2) the intervention, as well as at 6 months (T3) and 1 year (T4 ) -ups.

Learned parenting skills

The following table lists the topics in the lessons (click to enlarge).


After the training, the researchers compare the results of the trained parents with parents from the control group. They then look at differences in children's psychological problems (externalizing and internalizing) and the subjective well-being of the children. Results from a pilot study are encouraging but the results of the real study have not yet been published.


Are you a parent? In which of the three parenting dimensions (structure, relatedness, autonomy support do you have the most to gain? How could you do that?

Which of the examples in the parenting skills table would you like to try out for yourself?