How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

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How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: An excellent, tried-and-tested way of helping parents to communicate better with their children. Detailed explanations about listening, empathising and encouraging co-operation, with many examples.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: January 2013
Publisher: Picadilly Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9781848123090

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Many parents, it seems, go through life in a constant state of feud. Not with each other, necessarily, but with their children. Their small, beloved bundles of joy turn into obstreperous toddlers, defiant pre-schoolers, angry schoolchildren or morose teens. Parents find themselves caught up in arguments, advice, failed attempts at consolation... and then may resort to punishment of some kind.

This book aims to reverse these negative processes. Treating children not as problems, but as lovable people needing a little guidance and a great deal of empathy, the authors propose a new ‘language’ for struggling parents. It begins with teaching them about listening properly, and helping children to deal with their feelings not by minimising them or criticising them, but encouraging them to name their fears - or anger - by observation, gentle discussion, and acceptance.

Sounds obvious?

Let’s look at the next chapter. This is about encouraging co-operation. Parents are told not to order their children to do things, nor to accuse or threaten or bribe, but to express a problem in neutral terms: ‘the milk is spilled; we need a cloth.’ Different techniques are advised, depending on circumstances. Sometimes an older child may appreciate a note, if relationships have become strained. A reminder can be offered in a single word. Parents are encouraged to share their feelings using I-messages: ‘It bothers me when the door is left open’.

Again, perhaps obvious when in printed form, but far too many adults get caught up in trying to control rather than co-operate, and nagging rather than finding appropriate ways to communicate their wishes.

Further chapters include topics such as encouraging autonomy, finding alternatives to punishment, offering encouraging praise, and freeing children from roles: positive ones as well as negative name-calling.

Each lengthy chapter of the book describes typical scenarios with frustrated parents and angry children, then proposes alternative ways of seeing the situations. As well as text it gives cartoon examples of ways to react, new language for expressing annoyance, and constructive ideas for giving positive attention and introducing humour. Towards the end of each chapter there’s a section with specific exercises for parents to try during the week, encouraging them to watch the way they talk to their children and adjust the words they use according to the principles in the chapter. This is followed by examples from workshops - the authors run parenting courses regularly - which are down-to-earth, easily recognisable, and mostly very reassuring.

The first edition of this book was published in 1980. I came across it in a library about ten years later, when my sons were small. I had already done a short informal course on parenting with some church friends, which had introduced some similar ideas; reading this book was inspiring, encouraging, and paved the way for much of my own parenting in the next decade. In retrospect I rather wish I had bought a copy rather than just borrowing it; it’s the kind of book that I would probably have read every year to remind me of the principles, and to see how they could be adjusted for different ages of children.

I was delighted to be sent this thirtieth anniversary edition, which I have read avidly despite no longer having children at home. It has been expanded significantly, including a section at the end written by the daughter of one of the authors, recounting some of the frustrations she had with her own children. The non-coercive, freedom-enhancing language of communicating came naturally to her, but it didn’t turn her children into angels, nor did it mean that she always made the right responses.

I was quite pleased to realise, as I read, that I did - and do - still use some of the principles of the book with my own sons, and with children I spend time with now. We didn’t do ‘punishments’ in our house; there never seemed to be any need, although I don’t suppose my sons were any better behaved than average. I think we were quite good at sitting down together to solve problems by brainstorming, and we certainly believed in mutual affection and respect. However, I certainly asked intrusive questions at times - something the authors don’t recommend - with growing frustration when they were responded with teenage shrugs and ‘I dunno’. I would have done better, as the book suggests, simply to comment on what I saw and wait for my sons to choose their own times to tell me about their music lessons, or the party, or whatever it was.

I could wax eloquent about this book for hours; I had forgotten how very good it is. Having finished reading, I immediately lent it to a friend who is having some struggles with one of her children. My own experience suggests that, while it’s not easy to adopt all the principles, they do work eventually. I have no hesitation in awarding this the maximum stars, and my highest possible recommendation.

Thank you to the publishers for sending this book to The Bookbag!

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Buy How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish at Amazon.com.


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