In 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.
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 and 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.
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