Book Review – How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

How to talk so children will listenIn this article I will be reviewing the parenting book ‘How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk‘ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

If I were to ask you what frustrates you the most about parenting your kids, what would your answer be?

For me it would be asking my kids to do something repeatedly and being ignored. It drives me nuts!  I get so frustrated I often end up yelling.  “If you don’t pick up your mess, I’m banning the iPad!!!”  That usually get’s their attention but I always come away feeling deflated as a dad. Surely there has to be a better way.

If you are looking for a more effective way to communicate with your child that avoids the frustration and the yelling, then this is the book for you.



Summary of “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

This book has had many glowing reviews by child psychologists and parents alike. My wife who is a family doctor had heard great things about this book from her colleagues and encouraged me to read it. It is fair to say, if you’re after a book that teaches you a better way to communicate with your kids, you can’t go wrong with this one.

The book is broken down into six main chapters that teach you specific skills to be more effective at communicating with your children, both in speaking and listening. The skills you learn will help you to support your child to deal constructively with big emotions. They encourage the child to be more co-operative, self-sufficient and allow you to use praise in a way that builds up the child’s sense of self without them becoming egotistical.

The authors also teach alternatives to punishment that they claim are far more effective at achieving the desired behaviour than punitive measures.

They give examples of common situations  and typical responses that as parents we might say to our children. After providing these very relatable examples, they then encourage the reader to think about how they would feel if they were in the child’s situation. I found this to be a very powerful way of demonstrating why some traditional parenting approaches can hurt the parent- child relationship and even provoke undesirable behaviour.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen Adele Faber Elaine Mazlish

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My experience of putting these techniques into practice

Personally, I have never been comfortable with physically punishing my kids (e.g spanking) in order to encourage good behaviour.  It just doesn’t sit with my soul.  I feel better as a parent when I get down to their level, look them in the eye and explain why I need them to stop what they are doing. This feels respectful. It feels right.

Where it get’s tricky is when my kids don’t stop the undesirable behaviour after the first request.  I find myself repeatedly asking them to stop what they are doing.  I get frustrated.  I start raising my voice.  This also doesn’t sit well with my soul. I’m not naturally a ‘yeller’.  I don’t speak like this to adults so why am I speaking like this to my children?

The book taught me a number of techniques to deal with this dilemma.  Much of it came down to the way I worded my requests.  I learned to phrase requests in different ways.  My favourite technique was to phrase requests as statements of information rather than demands.  For example rather saying “For goodness sake, would you put your breakfast dishes away”  I would point to the the dishwasher and say “I see dishes that need to go into the dishwasher.”   My kids diligently picked up their bowls and spoons and headed to the dishwasher.  It was amazing!  No grumbling on their part.  No yelling or threatening on mine.

I also found through the techniques taught I was able to deal with my children’s strong emotions more effectively. It made me look out for the emotions and validate them.  I could see when my kids felt heard and understood. An example of this was when my son was really excited about a game he was playing. Instead of half heartedly listening and dismissing him with a “that’s good”, I put down what I was doing and actively listened. When my son realised I was focussed and listening to what he had to say his whole expression changed and he started opening up. We had a ‘moment’ over a video game… it was amazing!

Can anyone learn these communication skills?

This book is designed for parents, teachers or anyone who works with children.  It is full of real life practical examples Learningand experiences that have come from parents and the authors. The book itself is a quick and easy read and the main chapters have practical exercises for you to put the skills into practice. The authors have presented the information in such a clear way, it’s very easy to learn and apply the skills in your day to day parenting.

I started practicing the skills and saw positive results immediately. The suggested techniques are really effective but the challenge is remembering to use them.  I find I still slip into old habits and raise my voice, particularly when I am stressed or tired but the book has shown me this doesn’t have to be my modus operandi.

Will these communication skills work with my child?

I can’t think of a parent I know who wouldn’t get something out of reading “How to Talk so Kids will Listen”. Our kids present us with their own unique challenges.  No two families travel the exact same journey.  But the communication principles covered in this book are universal so there is really something for everyone.

I think parents of strong willed children or kids who have difficulty managing their emotions will find it particularly useful.  For children with special needs that require more than just good communication skills,  the skills will be a useful addition to the work parents are already doing with their child’s therapist.  There are many testimonies in the book from parents of children with ADHD or Tourette’s who have found the skills to be a useful adjunct.

The authors suggest it is never too early or too late to start applying these skills.  The techniques are suitable for children from infancy to the early teen years.   There is another book written by the same authors called “How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk” that is recommended for parents of teenagers.

I hope you found this review useful and that by reading this book you learn some powerful new skills to speak and listen to your child. If you have read this book and applied some of the principles, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.

If you would like to purchase this book from Amazon, please click on the image or  button below.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen Adele Faber Elaine Mazlish

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20 Comments

  1. this read was kind of scary. i have two kids and one on the way. and i felt like this terrified me. I don’t know if i should be informed of feel bad for reprimanding my kids in the past. I have to correct it so that i don’t lead them down a path to miscommunication. thanks for the good read. definitely going to buy. 

    1. Thanks for your comment Michael and for your transparency. I would be the first to admit my communication skills have not been great with my kids a, but I think that would be true of any parent. None of us are perfect, so don’t be too hard on yourself. I am certain you will find the book very helpful in honing your communication skills with your kids.

      All the best,

      John.

  2. I have triplets and a younger son. I have found that each child responded to me as a parent in different ways. One of the children is disabled so that also adds in a dynamic. I think I do pretty well with talking and listening to my children. As a collective they are well behaved children who respond well to how I have been bringing them up. It is all to do with the way they are asked, instructed, disciplined. I have never had to spank my children. I decided when the triplets were born that they would need to be well behaved, more so than a single child at the same age for me to be able to take them out to public places without being judged by other parents over my ability to control them, especially as toddlers. One of my triplets was very feisty but as one is disabled, she was given a responsible ‘job’ when we were out, which she loved and it kept her out of trouble ! I can see that some parents need direction on how to talk to their kids, if they havent had a good upbringing or they were brought up in care. There are lots of reasons why they may not have good parenting skills. But having said that I can see that a book like this would add a different dimension to parenting.  

    1. Thank you Helen for sharing about your situation. First off, I have to say WOW! As a mom of 4 children, three the same age and one with a disability, you are an absolutely amazing human and mom. It sounds like you are doing a fantastic job in raising your children and I take my hat off to you.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post and write this comment, I truly appreciate it.

      Many thanks,

      John.

  3. The book “How To Talk To Kids So Kids Will Listen and So Kids Will Talk Too” seems like a very good choice for almost anyone dealing with kids, whether as a parent, a teacher or in other social settings. I read with interest your own experiences trying the tips too.

    There have been a variety of book that I devoured years ago as a young parent (I was really a kid myself upon reflection) and if this one had been around, I most certainly would have purchased it. Right now I have 6 grandchildren, and this opens up all kinds of opportunities to get communications going…

    Most certainly I do not think that corporal punishment is necessary to raise a child or get them to do what they need to do. This aligns with your feelings it would seem. Psychology works, and I have used this tactic over intimidation with success. The book themes seem to follow this pattern.

    I will pass on your review to my girls, they still have 4 of my grandchildren in their homes. I am sure they would enjoy the read and be able to use the advice found therein! Also, my oldest appears to be heading towards marriage, so this book could soon be useful for a great-grandchild! Thanks, and by the way, this was a good review.  

  4. Thanks for your comments and encouraging feedback Dave. I am glad you have found the review useful and I am sure your daughters will get a lot out of the book to help them with their parenting. Being a grandparent now you obviously have a wealth of experience when it comes to raising children, so I am glad that these principles that the book teaches resonate well with you.

    Cheers,

    John.

  5. Hi John, Awesome article, I found it very interesting!It is so important to know how to speak with children. I bought the book ” How to talk so kids will listen” and it really helped with my children. We parents, often say the wrong things and we don’t realize it. I have followed the suggestions in the book and it works like a charm. The thing is that both parents need to apply this book, otherwise it won’t be effective. I am the one who read the book. My husband didn’t and it was frustrating. So he finally read the book and then it was ok. Thank you for this excellent post.

  6. Thank you Daniella for sharing your experience of reading the book. It is good to hear you found it very effective as well. You have raised a really good point about both parents needing to read it and be united in implementing the techniques. I have discussed what I have been learning with my wife and so she is on board with the techniques, but it will be better when she has read the book.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this review and provide your own personal experience of the book, I really appreciate it.

    Cheers,

    John.

  7. teaching kids how to talk is not easy if you don’t have clue on how to go about it  thos, i have been looking for a book that could teach or help me in teaching more skills  on how to  help our kids talk and to be frank i will be going full throttle to get these books and help  kinds in our society

    1. Thanks for leaving a comment Charles. You won’t be disappointed with this book. My experience has been that the techniques taught by this book have really helped to improve the communication with my kids and avoid the need to yell. I am sure you will get a lot out of the book as well.

      Cheers,

      John.

  8. I am so glad to have bumped into your review. 

    This book seems like it could help my family a great deal. I would love to buy it for my husband. My son is not a difficult child, never has been but I believe his father could learn a  thing or two about how to speak to him on important issues. His style is to come out very strongly (unnecessarily so) that in the end, the boy is in tears. It really hurts.

    Thank you, I shall buy the book!

    Cheers!

    1. I am really glad you have found this review helpful Jane. You will not be disappointed with the book. The authors get you to think about how your child feels being on the receiving end of your communication style which I think is a really powerful way of getting you to think about how your way of communicating affects your relationship with your child.

      I will be keen to hear how you and your husband go after reading the book so please drop me an email or leave a comment on this post once you have started using the techniques.

      Cheers,

      John.

  9. Thanks for making a great review about this book I usually  find it hard most time to communicate with my  kids as they always don’t want to  listen and wanna do things their own way, I have been having this problem for sometime now and I hope this book works it’s Magic with me. Thanks once again 

    1. Hi Seun, thanks for reading this review and for your encouraging feedback. I know exactly how you feel. When the kids don’t listen I get frustrated and then raise my voice. I really upset me to be talking to my kids this way and I knew it was not great for our relationship.

      It sounds like this book will be exactly what you need to provide some techniques to communicate with your kids so they will listen.

      All the best and please drop me an email or leave another comment to let me know how you go.

      Cheers,

      John.

  10. Wonderful and thorough review! I am personally not a parent but I know many families who would benefit from reading this book. I’ll be sure to send them your way to read this post 🙂

    1. Thank you for your encouraging feedback Elena. My goal is to help families so I really appreciate you passing this on to anyone who you think will benefit from reading this book.

      Cheers,

      John.

  11. I’m right in the middle of the terrible twos, so this is a daily struggle in my house. I’ll have to add this to my reading list and try to apply the techniques. Good review.

    1. Thank you so much for reading my review and taking the time to comment. I think your nickname says it all. I remember what it was like when my kids were that age, in a word – Exhausting! If you do manage to find any time in the busyness of life parenting young children, you may be better off reading ‘How To Talk So Little Kids Will Listen‘ written by Adele Faber’s daughter Joanna. This book is much the same as ‘How to Talk So Kids Will Listen’ but is geared towards 2 – 7 year olds.

      Take care during this very busy time of life,

      John.

  12. Hi, Very Good Article. I really appreciate it. Now you got one regular visitor to your website for new topics. Keep up the Good Work Thanks for always sharing. Nicole Graham

    1. Thank you, Nicole I really appreciate your support. I intend to be doing this for a very long time.

      Cheers,

      John.

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