How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen

The importance of encouraging our children to be their ‘own people’

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

This is my review of Chapter 4 of ‘How to Talk so kids listen’ about ‘encouraging autonomy’.

This is an interesting chapter for me after Curly Headed Boy asked me a few months ago “when are you ever going to let me out on my own”.  As a 13yr old boy was killed on the crossing near school at Christmas my answer was very nearly “never ever ever ever”.

But despite that I’ve always been very keen on not over-helping him so that he can gain confidence in himself and learn from his own mistakes.

I’m very aware that a person who grows up dependent on another ends up feeling helpless, worthless, resentful, frustrated and angry.

Plus that being and overly supportive parent often creates a child who is an easy mark for bullies at school (not the only reason, but one of them).

In the book they recommend:

1) Letting the child make choices (clothes are a good example of that)

2) Showing respect for your child’s struggle (i.e. don’t rescue them, give them tips)

3) Don’t ask too many questions

4) Don’t rush to answer questions (e.g. ask ‘what do you think’)

5) Encourage them to use sources outside the home (i.e. other people/children or the internet)

6) Don’t take away hope


The only one I take issue with is ‘Don’t ask too many questions’.  A few more questions from my parents would have shown that I was bullied from 4-17 at school, and that I made decisions based on assumptions that were wrong.

For example I didn’t do French/German for A level because I thought it meant I would HAVE to travel and that my responsibility was to care for my elderly parents (both rubbish ideas).

I think it’s more about asking when they are in the mood e.g. at dinner time or bedtime (CHB becomes a very talkative little boy at bedtime; funny that!).

I’m not sure that answering without taking away hope is wise when CHB makes plans to become a werewolf either; but I did what they suggested and just asked him to talk about it, rather than saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’

Perhaps some reality is important to stop our kids becoming X Factor rejects.  But I get what they mean; after all anything is possible.

We have had a REALLY interesting conversation in the last 2 weeks though.  CHB asked me “Daddy doesn’t believe in werewolves, does that mean I can’t believe in them?”.  I’m so glad he asked, as I was able to explain that there will always be things that our loved ones don’t agree with and THAT IS OK.

Funnily enough we repeated the conversation about Skylanders the other day as he had spent some of his birthday money on one.  I explained that Daddy totally understood and agreed with the idea, but that I was worried that he would wish he had saved it for something else as he has a few now.  But that just because I wasn’t keen, didn’t mean he shouldn’t spend his OWN money on it.


Other tips they have are:

1) Let them own their own bodies (i.e. stop fussy over them)

2) Stay out of the Minutiae of a Child’s life (i.e. get off their back)

3) Don’t talk about them infront of them

4) Let them answer for themselves

5) Show respect for your child’s eventual readiness (i.e. explain that everything comes with time)

6) Watch out for too many ‘Nos’


Instead of No try:

1) Give information (see previous reviews)

2) Accept feelings (see previous)

3) Describe the problem (see previous)

4) Substitue a ‘yes’ (i.e. when it will be possible)

5) Give yourself time to think

I don’t think that this chapter is as ground breaking as the others, but maybe it’s just much more basic about stuff that we often forget.  What do you think?

I wonder how I will do in a few months time when the whole summer conversation happens again, and CHB wants to play outside without us watching.


Here are my reviews of the other chapters:

Ch1: The importance of not disagreeing with their feelings

Ch2: Tips on getting kids to do what we want

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

Why I started reading the book. 


How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen

What on earth to do when increasing the discipline isn’t helping?

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

So I’m onto the ‘important’ chapter of ‘How to Talk So Kids Listen’, which is ‘Alternatives to punishment’.

This is the chapter that got me interested, because as I said, Curly Headed Boy turning 7 has been tricky.  Initially we succumbed to the fear that we hadn’t been clear enough with him and he ‘should be learning to behave by now’ etc etc.  But that just increased the anger, defiance and overall shouting levels in the house.

I’m not a fan of smacking, although sorely tempted!  We hadn’t really used ‘time out’ much apart from as purely a calming down mechanism.  We had associated ‘treats’ like TV, computer, chocolate snack etc to good behaviour that has to be earned.  But we’d started to have to ‘take away’ things when we couldn’t get through to CHB and we seemed to just not be getting through to him at all.

So far chapter 1 about stopping disagreeing with our kids feelings and chapter 2 on how to get them to do what we want, has made a big difference in my relationship with both kids.

Alternatives To Punishment

The idea seems to be instead of being a doormat or being too punitive, finding a way to be assertive and fair.

Here is what they suggest:

1) Point out ways to be helpful: i.e. what you want them to do, rather than what you don’t want them to do

2) Express your disapproval without being mean: i.e. don’t use the word ‘you’ (see previous chapter reviews)

3) State your expectations: what you want them to be doing

4) Show the child how to make amends: e.g. clear up the mess

5) Offer a choice: e.g. behave nicely or I split you two up (dinner time!)

6) Take action: i.e. don’t just threaten, do something about it and follow through

7) Allow the child to experience the consequences of their misbehaviour: e.g. because you were so naughty on the dog walk yesterday, I’m not bringing you today


I’m less convinced about ‘offering a choice’.  I remember an epic tantrum from Little Dimples when I explained she could either go in the pushchair or hold my hand as we were on a busy St Albans street.  She proceeded to throw herself on the pavement and scream for what felt like an hour, whilst I was powerless to do anything and apart from stand there as people with disapproving stares walked by.  I’d forgotten there was that THIRD option; create mayhem!  Obviously it’s only going to work where they don’t think of that clever 3rd option.

I like No7; so often punishments are totally unconnected from the misbehaviour.  It makes sense for the child to understand consequences of their actions, rather than punishment.

I know from personal family experience that use of the cane at school did not stop a child from being naughty; it’s more that the child looked on it like an excuse to do it again, because they could be ‘absolved’ by the caning.  Did you know that a large percentage of parents who use physical punishment, find the children turning on them when they are big enough?

My parents were much older than most and very strict with me.  I’m not sure that being well behaved out of fear is the way to go either.  If possible, I would prefer that our kids behaved well because they respect and love us; with only a dash of fear ;o)

From my training I know that ‘sorry’ doesn’t mean ‘I’m gutted I did it, I won’t do it again’, it more likely means either ‘I’m gutted I was caught’.  I teach my kids to say ‘sorry’ because society expects it, but I also know that it means very little.


Problem Solving

For more complicated problems they suggest a Problem solving approach.

1) Talk about your child’s feelings (see chapter 1)

2) Talk about your feelings and needs (see chapter 2)

3) Brainstorm together to find a mutually agreeable solution by ..

4) Writing down ALL ideas without evaluating first

5) Then agreeing on which suggestions you like/dislike and which you plan to follow through on

6) Don’t permit the child to blame or accuse you or anyone else at any point

Remember to chose a time that works for both of you to discuss it; there is no point trying when either CHB or LD are in a mood.

I really liked this statement “I’m not interesting in blaming anyone for what happened in the past. I am interested in seeing an improvement in the future”; I’m really sure that taking responsibility for their part in how their lives turns out is a REALLY important thing for our kids to learn for a healthy future.  Responsibility is very different from blame; it’s something that we can do something about.

Now this one I haven’t tried yet, so it will be interesting to see how it works, especially as it’s meant to help with problems between siblings.  At the moment it seems that if the Big Hairy Northern One and I happen to both be busy doing chores, the kids will ALWAYS kick off.


Have you been trying out the ideas in my summaries over the past few weeks?  I’d love to know if it has made a difference for you and if you’ve bought the book now?

Don’t forget to add a link in the comments if you have reviewed this book too.

Next week is ‘encouraging autonomy’; no problem of that with Little Dimples!


Here are my reviews of the other chapters:

Ch1: The importance of not disagreeing with their feelings

Ch2: Tips on getting kids to do what we want

Ch4: Encouraging independence in our children

Why I started reading the book. 


How To Talk So Your Kids WIll Listen

Tips on getting our kids to do what we want/need them to do

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


So here are are onto Chapter 2 of ‘How to Talk so kids will listen’; ‘Engaging Cooperation’.


With a 7yo Curly Headed Boy and soon to be 3yo Little Dimples, life has become a little shouty of late and we were looking for some alternative options, as being stricter wasn’t cutting it.  So I decided to read, review and test out some books on my blog and last week was Ch1 of this fab book.

By now the kids are meant to be feeling more listened to, and therefore be opening up to us.  They will also be better at finding their own solutions to their problems.  (I’ll let you know how we are finding it at the end of the reviews in a few weeks).


Engaging Cooperation

i.e. getting the little blighters to do what you want them to do!

Two naughty children
Ready to cause chaos!

Traditionally we apparently tend to use the following tactics:

1) Blaming and accusing e.g. ‘How many times do we have to tell you not to wind up your sister when she is tired, are you just looking for trouble’; yep we are guilty of this one and there is way too much blame going on in this house.  It’s like a viscious circle.

2) Name Calling e.g. ‘How stupid can you be to do that again’; this I had a lot of as a child and really hate it as anyone who tries it on my kids quickly finds out.

3) Threats e.g. ‘If you keep doing that we will take away your toys’.  We’ve been trying the threat thing and it basically doesn’t work for us at all.

4) Commands e.g. ‘Hurry up and put your clothes away right now!’; we tend to be pretty polite in this house, but once it’s been asked once I get irritated, that’s for sure.

5) Lecturing and Moralising; basically a long description on why they shouldn’t do stuff that would bore anyone to tears.

6) Warnings e.g. ‘Be careful’ repeated over and over, which is an easy trap to fall into.

7) Martyrdom statement e.g. ‘Will you stop all that noise, you are giving me a headache!’.  I have to be really careful of this and that the kids don’t think my Fibromyalgia is there fault.

8) Comparisons e.g. ‘Your 3yo sister has better table manners than you’.  We aren’t too bad at this one luckily, but it is tempting!

9) Sarcasm: looking over at a certain Northern hairy one for no apparent reason ;o)

10) Prophecy e.g. ‘Those cats are not going to be your friend if you keep chasing them Little Dimples’.  Actually, the cats seem to be pretty forgiving, especially for a treat.



Getting our kids to do their chores
Hoover that floor child!

So here are the tips they give for what to do instead, I must admit some of them are great, time saving, and really easy to do.

1) Describe what you see or describe the problem e.g. ‘Your Pyjamas are on the floor’.

2) Give information: e.g. ‘If they aren’t put in the washing basket they miss getting washed’.

3) Say it with a word: e.g. ‘PJ’s’; THIS TIP IS PURE GENIOUS!!!

4) Describe what you feel: ‘I feel unappreciated sometimes when it seems that clean clothes are taken for granted’.  This one is tricky because we need to avoid the word ‘you’ in order for it to not be blaming or accusing e.g. “When you leave your PJ’s all over the floor I feel unappreciated, will you never learn?”.

5) Write a note: e.g.on a yellow sticky on the wall by the basket (I have got monster HUGE yellow stickies!).


In Summary

We’ve had a quick play with these ideas, but will focus on them a lot more this week, my favourite’s so far are (1) and (3).  I think that for us the most difficult is changing from being polite and then getting angry, to being more direct and talking about how we feel before we blow up.

They have a good tip about the word ‘Please’; funnily enough I’ve been saying to the big Hairy Northern one that he says please a lot to the kids when asking them to do something.  I suggested to say ‘please’ first time only.  They say not to use it at all, because when we think we’ve taken the time to be polite and the kids still ignore us, it leads to us feeling more angry.  They suggest you just use it for the simple little things like ‘Please pass the ketchup’.

Another tip is to make sure that the request is suitable for the kids age, reasonable and that we give them the flexibility as to when and how to do it.  It can be easy to want them to do something or not do something just because we are tired and grumpy, than for any real reason.

They also remind us to be really careful of the word ‘You’, which I talked about a lot in my old post about ‘do we teach people how to treat you‘ that you might want to read for more ideas on how to describe how you feel.  Remember, you aren’t trying to be constantly patient and calm; it’s fine to be angry, just not to use words that will hurt our kids and make them shrink.

A huge thing for us to change is the use of Curly Headed Boy’s name, which tends to end up a bit like this: ‘Oh Maaaaaaaaaaaax’; I realised we might be over using it when Little Dimples started copying us.  They always say not to use a dogs name when telling it off, I reckon that must be the same for kids


Have you read this book?

I’d love to hear what you think.  Or other books you think I could review?

If you’ve written a blog post about this book, let me know in the comments and I will put a link to it in my final review.


Here are my reviews of the other chapters:

Ch1: The importance of not disagreeing with their feelings

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

Ch4: Encouraging independence in our children

Why I started reading the book. 



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. 


Boy covered in mud

My Intuition Isn’t Quite Enough: A Seven Year Old Boy Is Too Tricky!

So Far …

Brother and sister
We Love Each Other Really!


For the last 7yrs since Curly Headed Boy arrived, I’ve been pretty much surviving on my intuition and dipping into the odd book for help every now and again for an adaptable tip.

I had tended towards the trying to be as respectful and fair as possible, but when Little Dimples came along 3yrs ago, my ability to have the time to explain why I wanted things done every time diminished, and things got trickier from then on.

Plus, just as I thought, having 2 kids is definitely harder in some ways than one; whilst I would never change it.

We’ve used ‘time out’, not the full length of time, but purely to actually give CHB some time away to cool down, rather than as a punishment, and only once he was old enough to understand it.

I’ve also been a fan of understanding consequences and that ‘treats’ like watching the TV, chocolate biscuits for snack and playing on the computer are things to be earn’t, not expected.  So if push came to shove we would start to remove ‘treats’.  Although this always fails when a child is in a huge trantrum as they don’t have the ability to stop it going into a complete disaster crash zone!


7yo Boy …

Boy covered in mud
I fell in!


But this 7yo boy malarkey is much more difficult.  So in the last couple of months I’ve been starting to read a pile of books that I’m going to review and test out here for you to see.

Our problems are many, without heading into the direction of anything seriously behavioural.

There’s been a lot of anger, rudeness, grumpiness, over reaction, disrespect and plain old refusal to do as we ask.

It was made worse by my Fibromyalgia diagnosis and me sitting down with the kids explaining that I need them to be a little more responsible for themselves; Nothing major, just that I really can’t be asking for things FIVE times over.

Then the Hairy Northern One’s contract was terminated early and it became even more obvious that we had a problem, as the two of them were constantly at each other.  Plus I felt that it seemed like I was constantly nagging CHB, in fact Little Dimples had started too.

Now some people have told me that this is a normal state of affairs; But I’m not so sure.


Previous Books …


Great books for mums dealing with depression
Books, books, books …

The books I’m mainly relied upon before were:

Dr William Sears: Attachment Parenting.  What I liked about this book was that there were several blocks, and you could ‘mix and match’ them.  For instance I ended up co-sleeping, but never got the hang of baby wearing; it was more like baby carrying most of the time.

Dr Elizabeth Pantley: No Cry Sleep Solution.  The downside to this book is that it doesn’t have an immediate answer.  The good side is that it had SO MANY ideas, that I could again mix and match.

I would have loved to be as scheduled as Gina Ford, and was expecting to be before Curly Headed Boy appeared.  But it just didn’t suit me, and I find it difficult to take anything seriously which is from someone without kids and based upon the feeding schedules of calves.  No disrespect meant to those for whom it worked, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, didn’t suit my kids and there wasn’t the added pressure to make it work, as I only work part-time.

I just didn’t get on with the Baby Whisperer either, again it didn’t seem to be flexible enough for me, although I know it’s well loved.  I did hear too that she left her kids with their grand parents in order to progress her career abroad.  Now being a working Mum is difficult, but considering the subject matter of her books, it seems odd behaviour.

I’ve watched Super Nanny and she seems to do a wonderful job turning families around, especially with explaining things like consistency.  However, there have been a few things that she has done which have been incredibly harsh, and again felt like they were only possible for someone who hadn’t actually had children.


All in all, I came away not liking Parenting Techniques as they just didn’t seem to take into account differences in Mums, children, circumstances etc etc etc.  I also felt that they created HUGE amounts of guilt and fear in Mums which just exasperates the situation by reducing their ability to listen to their own intuition.  Hence I wrote my own book centered on the Mum, based on the theory that when she is contented, the kids are as well.

Please note: Just because a book didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean that I’m judging the fact that you liked it!  I’ve just mentioned these books so that you get an idea of where I’m coming from.

So What Happens Now …


Is it possible to have romance and kids?I still believe that if the Mum is happy that the kids will settle around her, especially before teenage.  In fact Curly Headed Boy said something similar yesterday when he said that since I’ve been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia I’ve looked much healthier and happier.  When I dug a little deeper it’s because I’m up and dressed and showered before Breakfast, so I’m ready to hit the day running as far as he is concerned.  In fact the truth of the matter is that I have so much pain in the morning, I literally can’t function without a shower; so I figure I might as well get dressed.  But he is right, as I am learning to put myself first EVEN MORE than I thought was necessary beforehand.


I’m going to review AND TEST:


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

‘Love Bombing’ Oliver James

Christine Northrup ‘Mother Daughter Wisdom’

 ‘Raising Boys’ and ‘Raising Girls’ by Steven Biddulph (the problem with this is that Raising boys isn’t on kindle).

and maybe a few more on the way.


If you fancy testing them out at the same time and swapping ideas/experiences, I would love to hear from you or have you add your blog posts in the comments.

Got any you would recommend?  Feel free to add them to the list!


Here are my reviews of the other chapters for How To Talk So Kids Listen:

Ch1: The importance of not disagreeing with their feelings

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