One of the most challenging parts of being a parent is endlessly trying to find a balance between your own needs and those of your child. Making sure both of your needs are met takes a whole lot of cooperation from both sides, some quick thinking negotiation and a trusting relationship between you. In the past, many parents used punishments, threats, shame or bribery to encourage cooperation from their children, but parenting today is often based on respect and communication.
Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish first published How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk [Collins Living, 1999.] in 1980, intending to create a “how-to” manual for parents who wanted to set aside the old ways of parenting but did not yet have the skills to parent with respect and two-way communication.
A How-To Manual for Learning Parenting Skills
Faber and Mazlish’s book teaches parents the essential skills that parents will need in all stages of parenting. Each chapter includes lots of examples of parent-child dialogue, cartoons illustrating a parent using a particular parenting skill in action, common questions and exercises or role plays for parents to work on together. This book is really a how-to manual, designed to teach and provide opportunities to practice and learn these new parenting skills rather than a book to be simply read and digested alone. Parents can still benefit from simply reading the book, but many of these skills seem easy on paper and much more difficult in practice.
Emotions, Cooperation, Punishment and Praise
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk addresses six major topics relating to parent/child interaction: feelings, cooperation, punishment, autonomy, praise and playing roles. Each of these topics represents an individual aspect of parenting that might be causing difficulty in a parent/child relationship, so a parent who is having difficulty with a child who expresses a lot of angry feelings in unsuitable ways might turn first to the section on feelings. However, all the parenting skills presented in this book are complementary and interrelated, so it’s worth reading through the whole book and working on all the exercises to really develop your parenting skills.
Everyone Wants to be Treated With Respect
Truly understanding and practicing skills such as active listening and validating emotions is something that can really change a person’s outlook on life. These skills are applicable everywhere, not just in your relationship with your child. Learning how to truly listen and respect other people’s autonomy and feelings can help improve relationships with everyone you encounter in your life, including friends, employers and other family members. Learning how to treat others with respect can also lead to more respect and compassion for yourself, because when you can respectfully recognize shortcomings in other people it is easier to do so for yourself. Learning the skills in Faber and Mazlish’s book is an investment in yourself and your family.
Even though How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk is 30 years old, the skills and examples used are generally timeless and appropriate today. Sample dialogues and examples also cover a wide range of ages, from toddler to teen. This book is recommended for all kinds of parents, from all around the world. You just can’t go wrong by learning how to treat people of all ages with respect and improve your communication skills.
Originally published on Suite101.com on May 23, 2009