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This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7
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Modeled after the widely acclaimed “parenting bible” of the 1980s, “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – and imagined as a sort of a sequel – “How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen” is co-written by Joanna Faber – Adele’s daughter – and Julie King, both parenting experts in their own right. As suggested by its title, the book is “an essential manual of communication strategies” aimed at parents of children aged between 2 and 7.
So, get ready to learn what to do when your little kids refuse to brush their teeth or eat vegetables and prepare to discover how to praise and appreciate your children the right way!
Think of the last time you shouted at your child. Did you do it merely because of their actions? Or was there something else involved? More precisely, were you in a cheerful mood or already stressed about something else entirely? Were you relaxed and calm when your kid did something they shouldn’t have – or tired from work, overwhelmed by a deadline, and even vexed at your boss? Probably the latter, right?
The point? The point, comments Faber, is that “we can’t behave right when we don’t feel right. And kids can’t behave right when they don’t feel right. If we don’t take care of their feelings first, we have little chance of engaging their cooperation.” It’s easy to deal with positive feelings: you just accept them. But accepting negative feelings is difficult. You don’t want to give them any power: you “want to correct them, diminish them, or preferably make them disappear altogether.” Your intuition tells you this. Well, your intuition is wrong in this case! All feelings can be accepted; it is the actions – and only some of them – that must be limited.
So, the next time your kid says something negative and inflammatory, resist the urge to immediately contradict them and, instead, think about the emotion they are feeling. There are several things you can do afterward:
Acknowledging your kids’ feelings won’t make them do the things they must but don’t want to – like getting in the bathtub, climbing in the car seat, or going to bed. The problem is that kids are just like adults: they don’t want to be ordered around. Even if they really want to do something, as soon as they are told to do it, they might not want to do it anymore. “It’s human nature,” Faber reminds us. “Direct orders provoke direct opposition. When we give children commands, we’re working against ourselves. Where we had hoped to inspire obedience, we’ve just stirred up rebellion in their little hearts.”
Fortunately, there are many ways to get your kids to do what they have to do without risking upheaval:
But what do you do if your kid refuses to cooperate with you on something that they must? What if, say, your impatient son pushes your unprepared daughter down the slide at the playground? Should he be scolded and punished – or even hit on the bottom? Most parents would say “yes”: after all, there are limits that kids must not be allowed to cross. However, Faber says that there are more peaceful and more effective solutions to conflict than chastisements and punishments. Let’s take our scenario and explore the best ideas through Faber’s examples:
a. Once again, use “I” instead of “you”: “Hey, what are you doing? I don’t like to see people being pushed!”
a. Be descriptive and kind: “As you can see, your sister is now hurt because of your actions. Don’t you think you should make her feel better? Would you like to come with me to the store and buy her some pretzels?”
a. “Since you’re in no mood to wait for your turn, I think that we will have to give the slide a rest for some time. You can swing on the swings or you can play in the sandbox. You decide.”
a. “We’re heading home. We’ll try the playground another day. I’m too worried about children getting hurt right now.”
a. This is perhaps the best tactic for dealing with uncooperative kids. “You don’t have to wait for a problem to occur in order to use problem-solving,” suggests Faber. “When possible, plan ahead!” Problem-solving is a five-step interactive process that works like this:
It’s easy to praise your kids when they do something right. However, this is not always the best practice. As King writes, “the first rule of praise is that it’s not always appropriate to praise […] Sometimes acknowledging feelings can be more helpful than praise.” That said, just like adults, kids want to be appreciated and valued, so a few praises can go a long way toward raising healthy and well-behaved children. Here are a few ways to praise them that should help, and not hinder their development:
“How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen” does the unimaginable: it rises to the high standards set by its predecessor, Faber and Mazlish’s “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.”
In addition to the theoretical first part (“the basic equipment you’ll be glad to have in your toolbox when a youngster goes haywire”), the book also addresses the specific challenges of early childhood in its practical second half. It even includes a chapter with tools for kids with autism or sensory issues!
Integrative, well-organized, and straight to the point, “How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen” is really “a survival guide to life with children ages 2-7!”
Try to treat your kids more like adults, and they’ll treat you like an adult as well. And don’t forget that famous aphorism by Peggy O’Mara, the longtime editor and publisher of Mothering magazine: “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”
Julie King is an American parent educator. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University and a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School. Together with Joanna Faber, she co-wrote “How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen,” an interna... (Read more)
Joanna Faber is the daughter of internationally acclaimed expert on communication between adults and children, Adele Faber. She has a master’s degree in special education and has taught bilingual students in West Harlem for a decade. A contributor to one of her m... (Read more)
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