Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

The worst pain in the world

How to avoid constant power struggles and give your child a sense of control using child-driven conversations.


Steve Fitzgerald, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I was speaking to my brother-in-law over the weekend, and he told me about an Australian "stinging tree" that causes intense pain when you touch it.

In fact, the pain that this tree causes has been described as the worst pain in the world, because it is so intense that it has driven people mad and can last for several years!

A botanist who studied this tree described it as "Like being burned by hot acid and electrocuted at the same time."

This evening at dinner, I told my 6 year old son about this tree.

"We should stay away from Australia!" he said, his eyes big.

He took a bite of his food, then looked up and exclaimed, "Wait, we're close to Australia. What if the stinging tree comes over to us."

"We need a shield," my 4 year old daughter added seriously.

My son looked down for a moment, his eyebrows furrowed, then look up and added "We need armor. We need acid proof armor."

Soon, our dinner had morphed into an stinging tree defense planning session (it was finally decided that a machine to transform ourselves into stinging trees to fight the Australian stinging trees would work best).

I love finding these interesting (and slightly gruesome) facts, because they are great ways to start child-driven conversations with my kids.

And there is something so wonderful about just listening to kids talk. Once my kids gets really engaged in a topic, they can go on and on about things, and come up with the most interesting ideas.

Another great way to start a conversation with your child is to use a technique that Rebecca Roland shared when we interviewed her for our book How To Get Kids To Listen.

Rebecca is the author of The Art of Talking with Children, and an oral and written language specialist that has advised the World Bank on curriculum development and workplace learning.

In our interview, Rebecca shared a technique she calls "Curious Waiting" that you can use to to create a better connection with your child and jumpstart child-driven conversations.

I’ve found that that’s powerful just in allowing the child to start driving the conversation. Because we don’t often focus on having a child really lead us in conversation. And just taking one of those moment-by-moment opportunities to start taking a child’s lead and to show them that we really are engaged in what they’re engaged in and interested in what they’re interested in.

Rebecca Rolland

In the interview with Rebecca, she shares how “Curious Waiting” helps you understand your child better and makes them more willing to cooperate, and how having frequent child-driven conversations helps avoid constant power struggles and gives your child a sense of control.

Rebecca also explains how Curious Waiting helps you understand how to motivate your child to cooperate, making it easier to get them to do what you need them to do.