Helping to make life 'calmer, easier and happier' for parents, teachers and children everywhere

Success Stories

TNLC London
Helena Bonham Carter I A parent's story I JR testimonial I R & H testimonial
TNLC London
We are delighted that Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton are so willing to share with others what brought them to “Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting”. Read what results they have been getting from putting our parenting skills into practice:

Extracts from Helena Bonham Carter’s recent press coverage:

The actress has a son Billy, seven, and two-year-old daughter Nell with her partner Tim Burton. She recently admitted she has been having lessons on raising children as she finds it hard to juggle her acting career and home life.
In 2010 she was able to limit her actual time on movie sets so she could focus on the parenting class she’s taking back home in London.

Bonham Carter said that on her home front, she found instinct wasn’t enough when it came to parenting. The actress said she grew weary of “becoming this policewoman, this negative being and nagger” when dealing with her children, especially her son, so she sought out some therapeutic assistance of her own.

“The parenting bit is much harder than the acting bit,” Bonham Carter said.
“You just never know what to do. The parenting class has been really useful.”
Helena Bonham Carter’s kids are “lapping up” the new parenting skills she’s learned since taking classes.

What did she take away from the experience?

“There are some basics that are so helpful. Every child knows what they want; it’s our job to tell them what they need. There’s a liberalism that we’ve sort of just plodded with; it’s not a good idea to ask them what they want to do. A lot of times they don’t want the choices, they can be overwhelming. It’s not your job to know everything; it’s your job to get them to answer questions for themselves. You don’t need to be omniscient. Your job is to be a teacher and a trainer.”

Helena finds it incredibly helpful to be around other mothers and fathers who have found parenting difficult, as she used to think it was only her. The 44-year-old explained she’s realised she needs to help her kids deal with life by teaching them lessons. She’s also become more decisive, which they have adapted to well.

“You learn these skills and there are three main ones: Descriptive praise, preparing for success and reflective listening. Descriptive praise really works. It’s not evaluative — ‘you’re doing great, well done’ – instead it’s praising, with real precision, the absence of negative behavior. I’ve got a real problem with whining, for instance, so when Billy isn’t whining I say, ‘You’re not whining, that’s really helpful.’ You give them positive attention and then they start to crave it. The key is to get out of the parenting habit of rewarding bad behavior with attention. When they are naughty, you actually turn away, and they realise very quickly that to get your time and engagement they need to do something different. It absolutely works. Billy is lapping it up. And as a parent, you become happier because you’re observing all these good things about your child, if you’re being specific about what they’ve done.

Bonham Carter reports she’s actually having fun at the classes. Considering this is a woman who got to star in the coolest movie of the year, that’s saying something!

A parent’s story

We interviewed Kathy, a mother of three (Harry 5 ½, Laura 4 and Tom 2), who came to the ‘Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting’ classes with her husband, George.

Why did you first come along to The New Learning Centre?

Kathy:  Purely for Harry, our 5 ½ year old. The other two are easy children.  We’d got to the point where we didn’t feel in control. We were dreading what the next ten years would be like.  Harry was already insolent to us, hitting his brother and sister, and wouldn’t do what he was told at home.  The worst thing was the hitting when he got cross, and his inability to control himself.  We’d tried ‘time out’ and taking his toys away, but the disputes just escalated.  George dreaded coming home to put him to bed, and I’d come home to a nanny saying “I’ve had the worst day with Harry.”  I was so worried she would leave.

The moment Harry was born he came out wide-eyed and shaking his fists.  Even my mother said “That’s not normal for a baby”.  He was diagnosed with heart problems at eight weeks, a hole in his heart and a valve not working.  After four operations on his heart he is now fine, but I have subsequently learned that intense children like Harry often have physical problems as well as behavioural and social problems.

What about his behaviour at school?

Kathy:  At school the teacher was frustrated with his behaviour and had him sitting at a table on his own so he couldn’t distract the other children or boss them around.  It broke our hearts to hear him labelled ‘the naughty boy’.  And he had no friends. 

How did you hear about The New Learning Centre?

Kathy:  I always kept in touch with my old friend Jenny. We had our babies at the same time.  One day I told her I was having such a difficult time with Harry.  A  few days before he had pulled down my trousers and knickers in the middle of Marks and Spencers!  I had the baby in a buggy and a bag in the other hand so I couldn’t stop him. Jenny said “Get in touch with The New Learning Centre. Do it now!”

My husband, George, was cynical.  He thought we would find new-age claptrap philosophy. I didn’t think I could persuade him to come.  But we met Gillian for an Initial Consultation, and it helped us just acknowledging the problem.  We came away thinking that there was hope and that we would learn lots of skills.  I remember her saying, “We work a lot with families who have the more tricky children, the ones with extreme temperaments.”  It helped to hear someone who understood, and we knew she could help us. 

Gillian said she wanted to meet the whole family for a family assessment.  I’ll never forget that meeting.  On the doorstep all Harry had to do was to shake Gillian’s hand, say ‘Hello’ and look at her.  But Harry said, “Hello Jelly–Belly”, slapped Gillian’s hand and tried to push past her.  Gillian closed the door with us still outside, and we had to start again.  Twenty minutes later he finally did it and we came in the door.  I realised at that moment how much I usually gave in when the going got tough and I had to face his resistance. 

How did you find the parenting skills classes?

Kathy:  At first it felt indulgent to be discussing our concerns about our children.  But in the classes we had permission to talk. And I was so clear I wanted a happier, calmer home.  I like peace and calm.  All the parents in the class shared a feeling of frustration that we hadn’t achieved that calm. It was so encouraging to hear others’ stories of how they were coping with challenging children.  I was inspired by knowing that all of us parents were practising the skills week after week.  The Descriptive Praise was particularly weird.  Like a new language.  And as for Reflective Listening - I should be good at that, I’m a psychologist!  I realised I was good at chatting, but not at listening for the feelings.  Now Descriptive Praise is part of our lives, and I’m 20% better at listening, still a way to go I know.  But Harry can now tell us he’s angry, and put his feelings into words instead of lashing out.

What is different at home now?

Kathy:  It’s a transformed house!  We now have lots more rules and routines, which have really helped.  And we make the rules stick.  Almost everything in our house has to be earned.  The kids have responded so well to this.   In the past, mornings were chaotic, so much screaming and nagging.  Now the children are keen to earn rewards.

I know this sounds funny, but In the mornings they can each earn a slice of salami, which they wrap carefully in tissues and eat in the car on the way to school. It’s amazing how well they behave just to earn that slice!  They’re all clear about their jobs, from putting drinks on the table to clearing plates away.  Even homework, which used to be a big battleground, goes smoothly – largely because Harry can earn marbles which count towards TV time.  

We’ve now got tools and the language for sorting out problems.  We take more pride in ourselves as parents, probably because we feel more successful.  We recently bought a new computer, and immediately George said to me ‘What are the rules for the kids for this computer?”  Before the parenting skills classes we would never have thought that through, and we would have had to clear up the arguments which would inevitably have happened.

Are you still dreading the next ten years?

Kathy:  Given his intense temperament, Harry will always be somewhat of a challenge.  But we now have the skills and strength to cope with that.  Did I tell you – I’m pregnant again, fingers crossed he or she will be one of the easier ones!

Here are some of the strategies that Kathy and George have put into place to achieve this transformation:

• Be in charge.  The parents, not the children, decide what values will prevail in the home.

• Descriptive praise.  Notice and mention every tiny little step in the right direction, even if the result is not yet what you would hope for.

• Reflectively listen.  Instead of reasoning, rescuing or getting cross with an upset, angry or unco-operative child, listen reflectively.  That means take a guess at what your child is feeling beneath the whingeing or sulking, eg “You really don’t want to go to bed now.”  “I can see you’re so frustrated that things didn’t go the way you wanted.”  “Even though you think you can’t do it, you’re being brave and having a go.”

• Provide a healthy lifestyle.  For example, drastically limit the amount of time your children spend in front of a screen.

• United front.  If you have a partner, take the time to sit down together with him or her to clarify your values and strategies.

• Prepare for success.  Anticipate what could go wrong, and put routines into place to keep attitudes and behaviour positive.

• Establish clear and consistent rules and routines.  Have the courage of your convictions!  Children and teens feel more relaxed and confident when they know how to please us and how to stay out of trouble.

• Establish rewards and consequences.  To help children get into good habits, arrange for them to earn the goodies in life.

• Take care of yourselves.  One often over-looked way to do this is to ask for help.  Acknowledging that the old ways are not working is a sign of strength rather than of weakness.


JR testimonial

I wish this course and advice from The New Learning Centre were available to every parent who, like I did, felt I was losing my temper too often, and resorting to bribery, or criticism, and just generally feeling exhausted when I couldn’t get my child to cooperate after I felt I’d done my best as a parent.

I recently attended a course for parents at The New Learning Centre and at the end of the course I’m motivated and much better equipped to help my child become confident and self-reliant. 

One of the aspects I like best about The New Learning Centre is that the language used to communicate techniques is straightforward.  Although you might be learning a new way of interacting with your child, there’s a lot of commons sense, and you don’t have to climb over a ‘mountain of terms’ to get there.

When I began to put into practice the parenting skills that The New Learning Centre provides, the results were immediately noticeable. My daughter responded so well! This is not to say that the course is a ‘quick fix’ by any means, and nor should it be. As the parent learning these new skills, it will take time for me to use them consistently and naturally. But that is all taken into account at The New Learning Centre where there is compassion for the child and the parent. 

I can’t recommend The New Learning Centre highly enough. It has given me skills for interacting positively with my child to bring out the best in both of us. I’m very grateful to Gillian and Noel for this wonderful experience.

JR , mother of 6 year old girl - February 2008


R & H testimonial

We have two boys aged 7 (John) and 5 (David). We came to the New Learning Centre because were we having problems with John’s behaviour towards his mother. His general behaviour at school was very good and at home it was reasonably acceptable but when left alone with his mother, his character would change to an extremely rude, disruptive and physical child; completely alien to us.

We went to the NHS for help. After 6 months of appointments, four psychologists and one psychiatrist, we had achieved absolutely nothing. They did not listen to us, consider our views or thoughts seriously. They had never come across this problem before. They tried to shoe-horn our problem into their "programme" even though it was obvious that it was not appropriate. We persevered as, well... they were the experts or so we thought.

With a NHS progress review meeting looming to see what they were going to do next, an amazing coincidence happened to us one Saturday morning. We bumped into my John’s old headmistress from nursery school. We talked about the problems that we were having and she recommended The New Learning Centre.

On the morning of the NHS review we were told that nothing else could be done for us so we contacted Noel at The New Learning Centre and arranged an appointment for the following day. In the meantime we listened to the first audiobook from Noel on Descriptive Praise and put this into practice straight away prior to Noel's appointment. We were quite surprised by the reaction of both boys. John was a bit confused at first but calmer. The praise gradually got through, making him happier. David was really happy and excited at the praise he was receiving.

Our first appointment with Noel went really well and took less than the allotted time as she was very rapidly up to speed with, and recognised our situation. The following two face-to-face meetings involving John also went very well with John remembering the rules discussed at the meetings. Afterwards John was even reminding me of the rules! We progressed to telephone meetings with Noel in parallel to listening to the audiobooks and implementing the techniques learnt. By the third week we were down to one telephone call a week to raise any queries and discuss any concerns.

We found the techniques very useful and they could be applied to practically all situations we found ourselves in with the boys. We reminded ourselves of these techniques by listening to the audiobooks a number of times and also received motivation through the weekly telephone conversation with Noel. Noel supplemented the techniques with further advice about how to deal with situations including how we as parents needed to adapt to almost a new life style.

We produced a timetable for the week so that each of us knew what we were doing each day. This instilled discipline in the children and they were very happy to follow it as at the end of the day they got "Daddy Time". Regardless of how much time I had spent with the children during the day, I agreed to spend 30 minutes with each one at the end of the day before bed and this really excited the boys. They really looked forward to it and said as much to my wife. We also produced a pocket money and screen time chart so that the boys could monitor progress.

One example of how we applied a technique was at bedtime. We had the problem that once lights were out, the boys would run to each other’s rooms and play way past their bedtime. We made a rule that if after lights out anyone came out of their bedroom unless to go to the toilet then they would not earn their screen time. We "Prepared for Success" by going through this each night with the boys and having them say the rules back to us. After a few nights they soon settled down and got the message especially when the next day they missed out their screen time playing on the laptop or watching television.

Both boys are much happier and now freely offer us hugs, kisses, and even unprompted apologies for things they had done wrong. We were amazed to see such positive results in such a short period of time. I was amazed how such simple techniques could have such an impact on children and their behaviour. Credit also goes to Noel in the way that these techniques are delivered, her motivation, and endless solutions and advice to problems and situations. Our visits to Noel were calm and relaxing.

R&H, parents of 2 boys

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