Authors: Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Despite being originally published 40 years ago, How To Talk so Kid will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish is still a trending parenting-book nowadays. Over a number of books for parents I have read, this one obviously stays in one of the top positions.
What makes me impressed with this book?
The book acts as a guide, a textbook and even an exercise book for parents who are struggling with their children, or maybe even for those who don’t.
Children are also humans. We all know that, however, as a parent (or say an older person), we often show signs of underestimating and disrespecting them. Of course, some parents perceived this issue and tried to fix it, nonetheless, the majority still suffer from this problem.
Children, in one way or the other, are just a slightly more sensitive version of adults. They, just like adults, need and deserve being respected. The main point of this book is to show and to guide parents on how they should do, in specific actions, to express their respect to their children. Those are:
Accept their feeling
Children get hurt when their feelings are denied or disbelieved.
What are parents’ usual acts? We usually tell the children to not believe in what they feel, but instead, believe in what WE feel.
Child: Mom, I’m tired.
Mom: Why are you tired? You have just wakened up from your nap.
Child: But I’m really tired.
Mom: You are just sleepy, let me change your clothes.
Child: NO, I’M TIRED.
To accept their feeling is even harder when you are angry (because of what they did or said, of your work, your household or others).
When someone confides with you about what distresses them, the last things they want to receive probably are advice on what to do, psychological analysis, your opinion on that bad situation and, especially, something like “Just forget it”. They would appreciate it if you could actively listen to them, and then they will have their own ways to sort things out. Avoid questioning and pushing your opinion on them.
Be specific to let them know you really understand.
Instead of “I know what you feel.“, == change to ==> “So you feel that …“.
Instead of “That is bad.“, == change to ==> “That is bad to have …“.
Keep in mind that we should try to feel their feeling and let them know we do care about them and respect them.
Don’t tell them what to do, instead, let them think about what they should do.
Here are the bad acts:
And here the good acts:
The good acts may not work the first time we try, however, keep at it. Our children are feeling better gradually.
Alternative solutions for punishments
Some parents assume punishments are necessary, that this is the way to put their children into discipline. Nevertheless, this view is not supported by research. In fact, all that punishments bring are hate, resentment, angst, violence, guilt, and hopelessness.
According to Dr. Ginott (a pioneer in child psychologist and parent educator, he is also the author of Between Parent and Child – a best seller), in a love relationship, there is no room for punishments, that punishment is ineffective. Contrary to helping children realize their fault and fix it, punishments fill them with retaliating ideas.
Alternatives for punishments are:
When encountering a problem, you may sit down with your child and follow these steps:
- Say about the child’s feelings and needs.
- Say about your feelings and needs.
- Brainstorm to find out solutions and write them down (don’t judge any solution yet, just write them all down).
- Select one or several best solutions (that both you and your child concur on) and make a plan.
- Carry out the plan.
Remember to keep your mind calm and cool before trying to solve the problem, and give respect to any ideas without judgment.
Being children means they are on the way to becoming adults. Being adults means they are able to take responsibility, so being children means they are supposed to practice being responsible.
The advice for parents is to not decide for them and let them be responsible for their own work.
To foster their autonomy:
Those who live in a family where their bests are appreciated have a tendency to be more confident, braver against challenges and setting higher life goals.
The praises should be specific, reasonable and sincere. It would even be better if you just describe the positive fact and let the children praise themselves.
Parent: You can put your shoes on by yourself, you can even brush your teeth before bed without being reminded, you can do a lot of things already!
Another simple way to describe the fact is to condense the praise into 1 word.
Parent: you said that you would come home before 5 and you have done that. I call it punctuation.
Remember these pinpoints:
It is easier to criticize than to praise, and that is what we should change and try to change.
Liberate them from playing roles
A major mistake of parents is to make assumptions about children’s ability, personality, and future. We, humans, are all malleable. Things are changing. Your child may be so stubborn today, but that does not have to be true next week or next month. The fact that we assume his stubbornness is what makes him really stubborn.
Prejudice is a kind of insinuation by suggestion. If you think your child is an innate bully, your actions will make him feel that he is really a bully, then he acts as a real bully.
So how about you assume a positive future for your child? Suppose you pre-define that he would be a good doctor, you not only make him suffer stress unnecessarily but also limit his freedom of living his life.
Humans’ characteristics are not fixed, we change over time.
To liberate your child from a role:
Remember the above 6 rules.
My final thoughts
Above, I have summarized what I learned from the book. However, I know this summary is unable to convey the vast and diverse assortment of examples that were given by Adele and Elaine in this great book. Their reasonings are also exceptional, not just in theory but also real-life based. This is definitely qualified to act as a textbook for every parent to learn from.