Parenting can be one of the most challenging yet fulfilling skills to master. In this book, parenting experts Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish present a down-to-earth, respectful approach to parenting, with useful steps and techniques that you can apply to improve and enrich your relationship with your child. In this free summary of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, we’ll outline some of these key strategies or techniques. Such skills and insights applicable for children of various ages, and even adult-to-adult interactions. After all, everyone has an inner child!
Communicating Effectively with Kids
This book, first published in 1980, is based on the child-rearing philosophy of Dr. Haim Ginott. This 30th anniversary edition incorporates additional insights, tips and exercises which the authors have been using in their workshops over the years. This practical guidebook equips you with 6 essential skillsets for interacting effectively with children of all ages.
A parent-child relationship is extremely personal, and there’s no fixed or “right” way to communicate with your child. The authors recommend that you do the exercises in the book, record your responses and personalize the approach to suit you and your child’s nature, needs and relationship.
1. Help children to deal with their feelings
When children say things that make us angry, anxious or uncomfortable, we tend to deny those feelings or try to fix the issue. If your child says, “Daddy, I’m hungry”, you may insist “No you’re not, you just had lunch.” Or, you may offer an immediate solution: “If you’re hungry then get something to eat.”
What we feel is always right for us. And, when we’re upset, what we really want is empathy: someone to listen and acknowledge how we feel (“Gee, that sounded frustrating”). This helps us to open up and talk about the problem, which then allows us to start coping with the feeling and work things out.
It’s the same with children. They’re perfectly capable of helping themselves if they feel listened to and empathized with. In our complete 14-page summary of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, we’ll break down:
• Common unhelpful responses, e.g. denying their feelings, giving advice, asking questions.
• 4 ways to help a child to deal with negative feelings: how to listen with full attention, acknowledge their feelings, name the feeling, and grant their wishes in fantasy.
• Examples of such phrases/approaches you can use, tips on exercising empathy, and exercises you can start with.
2. Engage cooperation
Children don’t seem to care about “proper behavior” no matter what we say/do. The more we push, the harder they resist. On the other hand, they have no qualms about telling us loudly and incessantly when there’s something they don’t like.
In our full 14-page free summary, we elaborate on:
• The unhelpful approaches that adults use to get kids’ cooperation (e.g. threats, lecturing)
• The 5 skills to encourage cooperation without negative feelings: Describe the problem, provide information, say it with 1 word (instead of a long paragraph), describe your feelings (vs attacking their character), or write a note.
• Examples of how to apply each of the 5 skills, tips on gaining cooperation and exercises you can start with.
3. Use alternatives to punishment
If you’ve said/done all the “right” things and your child still won’t cooperate, you might be tempted to resort to punishments. Parents punish their children because they don’t want the kids to get out of hand, or they simply don’t know what else to do.
Unfortunately, punishments don’t lead to real regret or repentance. The child is likely to fantasize about possible revenge, which distracts him/her from sincere reflection. Just think back on how you felt as a child when you were punished.
In our complete version of the How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk summary, we expand on:
• Several alternatives to punishment: Point out a way to be helpful, express strong disapproval (without attacking their character), state your expectations, show the child how to make amends, offer a choice, take action if necessary, and let the child to experience the consequences of his misbehavior.
• If your child still behaves badly after you’ve tried the steps above, you can use the problem-solving approach outlined in the full summary.
• Exercises you can try at home.
4. Encourage autonomy
One of the goals of parenting is to nurture children who are independent, responsible and competent. Yet, we’re often tempted to jump in to offer advice or do things for them. Someone who’s put in a dependent position may feel grateful but also frustrated, resentful and helpless.
In our full book summary, you can learn more about:
• The skills for nurturing independence and competence in your kids: Let them make choices, respect their struggles (instead of jumping in to do it for them), limit your questions, don’t rush to answer questions, don’t micromanage what they do, promote resources outside the home, and don’t kill their hope or ability to dream.
• Additional tips/exercises you can use.
5. Give descriptive praises
Parents play a vital role in shaping their children’s self-image and esteem. Unfortunately, most parents are quick to criticize and slow to praise. Constant criticisms are obviously unhelpful. Yet, praises may also bring negative responses if the child feels undeserving of the praise, becomes anxious about future performances, or suspects that you’re being insincere or manipulative.
In our complete version of the How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk summary, we’ll explain how to use descriptive praise , with examples, tips and exercises.
6. Free children from playing roles
It’s common for us to label our children with terms like “playful”, “mischievous”, “stubborn”, etc. These can create a self-fulfilling prophecy when a child begins to act in accordance with our expectations. Even if you don’t say the labels out loud, your child can still perceive your thoughts/feelings through your responses, body language or tone of voice.
Our complete book summary offers more details on:
• The 6 skills to liberate your child from playing out a role: Find or create opportunities to show the child a new picture of himself/ herself, let them overhear something positive about them, model the behavior, remind them of special moments, and state feelings/expectations.
• Additional tips/exercises you can use.
Getting the Most from this book
If you’d like to learn the specific tips involved in each of the skillsets above, do check out our full book summary bundle including a one-page infographic summary in pdf, 14-page text summary in pdf, and a 26-minute audio summary in mp3.
This is an extremely easy to read guidebook for parents. Each chapter comes with sample dialogues, cartoons, exercises, Q&As, and stories from other parents to help you to personalize your approach. For a full step-by-step guide, do purchase the book here.
About the Authors of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk is written by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.
Adele Faber (born 1928) graduated from Queens College with a B.A. in theater and drama, and earned her master’s degree in education from New York University. She taught in the New York City high schools for 8 years before joining the faculty of the New School for Social Research in New York and Family Life Institute of C.W. Post College of Long Island University. She is the mother of three children.
Elaine Mazlish (1925-2017) was an American author and parent educator who specialized in helping parents and teachers to communicate better with children. Mazlish was on the faculty of the New School for Social Research and the Family Life Institute of C.W. Post. Mazlish received a degree in theater arts from New York University, and taught/developed drama programs for children before raising her three children full-time.
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk Quotes
“What people of all ages can use in a moment of distress is not agreement or disagreement; they need someone to recognize what it is they’re experiencing.”
“Sometimes just having someone understand how much you want something makes reality easier to bear.”
“It is when our words are infused with our real feelings of empathy that they speak directly to a child’s heart.”
“Information is a lot easier to take than accusation.”
“The attitude behind your words is as important as the words themselves.”
“Children will talk about what they want to talk about when they want to talk about it.”
“The process of searching for the answer is as valuable as the answer itself.”
Learn the 6 skillsets to communicate more effectively with children of all ages!