How to Get Your Child to Open Up

“So Mom, do you want to play this game with me? You go first with the ‘I feel…’ part.”

“Okay…,” said distracted me to my eight-year-old daughter, who had been wanting to play a game. “I feel like eating ice cream.”

“I feel sad when my dad lies to me.”

Whoa. I stopped doing the dishes, while emptying the dishwasher, while making lunch, while cleaning off the counter, while changing the trash bag. We were playing a game, weren’t we?

Seeing the look on my face, my daughter said, ”Want me to read the instructions again?” And she continued without pause: “Talking about feelings hurts no one. If I say,’ I am angry,’ that doesn’t hurt you. If I say,’I am lonely,’ that lets you know me better. The secret is to start by saying, ’I think, I feel, I want.’ Ready Mom?”

I nodded.

But let me back up.

My daughter had gone to my desk in my pseudo-office in our living room. On it, she went to the *stack* of books (er…eight of them now) I am committed to doing reviews on. And she gravitated towards Liking Myself by Pat Palmer.

In case you are new to my single mom world, the summary is that her dad enjoys talking about me constantly when she is over there. It’s been almost seven years since my divorce and guess who was just in court again? Yes, me. This is one tumultuous divorce that keeps on giving.

“Okay mom, I’ll go again – but why don’t you come sit here with me? Ready?”

I nodded. Again.

And my little lovely says,” I want my mom to stop worrying about me.” Umm…okay? I can’t? I know you have it tough over there – so I’ll try not to? I pause for an eternity.

And then, my daughter and I have one of the best conversations we have ever had about feelings, desires, and goings on in her head – and in her heart. She reads the book, cover to cover, that Saturday.

Given our circumstances, I am constantly working on how to get her talking and get the “ouchies” out. But honestly, even if you don’t have such drama and want to help your child express him/herself, this is a great place to begin. This book made it so easy for us to talk (I would like to ask for a parent’s guide for when I’m floored though).

I could not possibly give this book higher marks if I tried. Liking Myself targets 5 to 9 years-olds in how it’s written (and obviously it works) and how it is visually depicted (the writing is printed like a kid or teacher write it neatly using the large lined paper I learned cursive on), with lots of simple sketches along the way (there are also books targeted to other age groups, like Teen Esteem).

Dr. Palmer is now in her eighties and these books have recently been brought back into print (thank goodness) by a friend, publishers, and fellow author, Dr. Louise Hart. This book has also been translated into five languages and the English version alone has sold over half a million copies.

I was also sent a second book by Dr. Palmer titled The Mouse, the Monster, and Me. It’s about being assertive (my daughter has no problem with this – I coulda used it when I was little though). The book is illustrated in the same manner – and I do recommend it as well – especially if your child’s assertiveness wanders into begging, whining, crying (“mouse behavior”), or hitting, shouting and sulking (“monster behavior”). The book helps kids ask for what they want and deserve (like respect) in productive and powerful ways.

Seriously, get the books. Links to purchase appear below.

by Expert Mommy, Swati Bharteey

by Expert Mommy, Swati Bharteey


  1. I can’t wait to get these. Anything that supports open communication with your kids has my thumbs up. I speak from the perspective of a divorced single mom myself, having you kids know someone is in their corner, who will listen to their feelings is so important.

  2. So glad to hear it Practical Mommy!! I was so amazed by this book – getting my daughter to open up without feeling like I’m putting her through an inquisition has always been such a challenge for me.

  3. I just ordered all three. What great timing. Who doesn’t want to work on these topics? I also ordered “What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety” (What to Do Guides for Kids) by Dawn Huebner which Amazon recommended along with the above titles.

    Thanks for the great review.

  4. Oh I’m so glad to hear that – you’ll love them. I am going to check out that other one you’ve just mentioned – sounds like it could come in handy for me!


  5. Sounds like interesting books with great value for mothers, I think I will order all 3.