There are a ton of parenting books out there, but one of my favorites (and one I am reading now) has to be How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, the “parenting bible” from Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. The book covers so many topics, like how to cope with kids’ negative feelings and how to resolve family conflicts peacefully. The book was written over 30 years ago, but the advice is as relevant as ever. It was also recommended by my psychiatrist (yep, no shame in that) to help me better connect with my kids and allow them to feel validated and respected.
Here are 3 takeaways I have gathered from the book so far:
Practice Cooperation in the Face of Bad Behavior
Deciding on proper punishments is hard and frustrating. Am I being too lenient? Too strict? I have a constant inner monologue on how to deal with my kids behavior and how to appropriately respond to it. The worst thing I can do is to make my child feel bad about him or herself. Their behavior displays an emotion and does not define their character. The key to making strides in minimizing bad behavior is thinking about the long term. For example, don’t accuse. Instead, give information about the problem and why it is a problem. Use descriptions instead of declarations. For a more personal example, we love to color and, try as I might, the temptation to draw on our white walls often wins. Instead of saying something to the effect of “that’s bad”, I try and say “I love how creative you are, but it makes me upset and frustrated when I see you draw on the walls. Crayons are for coloring on paper, not on walls.” It ends up validating everyone’s feelings and helps us find a solution.
Always Accept and Acknowledge Your Kid’s Feelings
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that children are small packages with complex and strong feelings. To understand their behavior, I first try to uncover the emotion behind it. Emotions, good or bad, are a key part of life, and when we deny children their “bad” emotions, problems can worsen. Validate their anger, frustration, fear, etc. Show them you understand they have feelings, and try not to be judgmental. (To everyone reading, please go watch the movie Inside Out!) I really like this quote from How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, “But more important than any words we use is our attitude. If our attitude is not one of compassion, then whatever we say will be experienced by the child as phony or manipulative. It is when our words are infused with our real feelings of empathy that they speak directly to a child’s heart”. I always try to put myself into my kids’ shoes. Even when I don’t understand what is so frustrating about a spear of broccoli, I try to look at the situation from a different perspective.
Encourage Autonomy and Self-Confidence
Another big takeaway from this book is to encourage your kiddos. Kids need affirmation and nonjudgmental support. Try to promote self-confidence as much as you can, but be aware, there is a fine line between “confidence” and “entitlement” (you want the former!). One thing you can do is empower your kids with choices. This doesn’t mean free-reign, but giving choices helps kids do the littlest things for themselves. For example,I try to do this is by picking two outfits and let them choose so they feel involved more independent. Don’t do everything for them! You want to promote self-agency.
Being a parent is no joke, and the struggle is REAL! That’s why I love How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk. This book offers tools that help me communicate with my kids in a loving, calm, and kind voice. It also encourages me to really listen to what my kids are saying through their behavior. In turn, it gave my kids a “safe emotional climate” where they can express themselves and grow and reach for the moon.
Have you read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk? What did you learn from it? Drop a comment below (or feel free to share this article with someone who might love to read it!).