How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen

Do we have a bad habit of confusing our kids so they don’t know what they are feeling?

How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen
Will this book help us?

The first book in my long list I’m going to review is:

How to Talk so your kids will Listen and Listen to kids will talk‘ by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

To help me, I’m going to do an in depth review of each chapter, and then at the end of the 6-12 weeks it takes, I’ll write up how we did (if it’s good enough and worth keeping going of course!).  Hopefully that will be helpful to you guys too?

There are Six Steps:

1) Helping Children Deal with their feelings

2) Engaging Cooperation

3) Alternatives To Punishment

4) Encouraging Autonomy

5) Praise

6) Freeing Children From Playing Roles

7) Putting It All Together

My first reaction on reading it was that it feels like a brilliant book, although I have some reservations, after all is it really possible to NOT punish a child?  After all, surely consequences are important?  Plus, what happens when they grow up and suddenly go to prison (OK, slightly extreme worry there!).

I can’t believe I didn’t know about it before though as it’s been around for 30yrs; is it like some extremely well kept secret?

 

Three important things to remember when reading it:

They don’t expect you to be able to do these all the time; they themselves were human and know that we are too.

The objective is to make sure our children aren’t damaged by our words

It’s NOT about being calm all the time; in fact expressing how you FEEL is important, just not blaming or accusing them for it.

 

Although they say to read each chapter and do the exercises before moving on, I disagree.  Read the whole thing, then go back and do it step by step.  They have added extra bits after each decade and they are really interesting, plus they give added ideas on how to implement it and clear up misunderstandings.

 

So onto my review of chapter 1:

 

1) Helping Children Deal With Their Feelings

This chapter I totally LOVE.

They talk about the fact that we keep telling the kids that they DON’T feel like xyz, which must have a big effect on their ability to know themselves as they get older and deal with their emotions.

For example:

Curly Headed Boy: ‘I hate her’ (talking about his sister Little Dimples).

Me: ‘Of course you don’t, you love her’

 

Thinking about it, I think I’ve been told for years how to think and feel.  In fact I’m sometimes a bit confused about who I really am.

The other day the Big Hairy Northern One and I had an argument and at one point he said ‘that’s not what you are angry about, it’s something else’ and I totally flipped (see, we are a totally normal couple).  I now understand how come; because he was doing exactly what they talk about here and I hate second guessing myself; don’t we all?

 

Even when we don’t disagree with how they feel, apparently we try too hard to help them, rather than let them find their own solution.

They suggest that instead we try just listening and saying ‘mmmm’,  and show that we understand how they feel instead.  Apparently, they will often find their own solutions?

There are 8 options that we apparently tend to take:

1. Denial of feelings: ‘you don’t need to be so upset with her’

2. Philosophical: ‘sisters are like that’

3. Advice: ‘Maybe if you didn’t ignore her, she wouldn’t hit you’

4. Questions: ‘What do you think caused her to hit you?’

5. Defence of the other person: ‘I can see why she hit you’

6. Pity: ‘Oh dear, it must be awful to have a sister.’

7. Amateur Psychoanalysist: ‘Has it ever occured to you that you aren’t angry with her, but yourself?’

8. Empathetic Response: ‘It must be frustrating to have your little sister always wanting your attention when you are busy.’

They are suggesting that we should go for No 8 and be empathetic, just feeding back that we understand how they feel.

I do see what they mean that when we are being ‘helpful’ it’s not always so useful.  Being an agony aunt type of person I’ve definitely tried all the options they suggest are less helpful.  But, I’m not so sure that they will find their own solutions; that maybe because I have a tendency to ‘advise’ ouch!

I don’t quite agree with them on this, maybe if (8) doesn’t allow them to find their own solution, I would still use 2-7; but I’m definitely avoiding (1) as much as possible from now on, and only resorting to using the others after trying to use an empathetic response.  Yep, I’m definitely ‘feeling some resistance’ to this one!

 

So to help with their feelings we are apparently meant to:

1) Listen with full attention (i.e. put the phone down)

2) Acknowledge their feelings e.g. ‘mmmm’

3) Give the feelings a name e.g. ‘You are feeling angry and frustrated?’

4) Give them their wishes in fantasy if it’s about something they can’t have (do a bit of make believe ‘I wish I could send her to the moon for you to have a break for a bit!’).

 

They do appreciate that we can’t just go along with our kids hitting each other etc!  In that case they suggest empathising and then limiting their actions e.g. ‘I can see how angry you got with her, tell her what you want with your words, rather than pushing her’.

Remember it’s empathising, not agreeing with, so it’s not me agreeing with him disliking her.

If the kids say something horrid like ‘I hate you’, you don’t have to just sit there and take it, you can still say ‘I didn’t like hearing that, if you’re angry tell me in another way so that I can help’.

It also has a great tip of letting kids draw their feelings, especially young ones, or kids that have problems with dealing with their emotions.

I’ve briefly tried it so far and I can definitely say that:

It fails when I’m tired!

It worked amazingly on the ‘about to kick off the biggest tantrum known to mankind on way to school run’ with Little Dimples.

It some times works between the kids to stop it look like I favour one or the other.

It’s great to know that it’s not my job to make my kids happy; especially as I know they can’t be happy all the time, so it would be an impossible task.

It’s definitely worth spending some more effort on.

 

I’ll let you know more at the end of the 6 weeks (or more if it takes longer; you know what life is like!).

In the mean time I’d love to know if you have done a review of this book or what you think about it?

 

Here are my reviews of the other chapters:

Ch2: Tips on getting kids to do what we want

Ch3: What to do when punishment or more discipline isn’t working 

Ch4: Encouraging independence in our children

Why I started reading the book.