How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk - Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish (Summary)

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How to talk so kids will listen & listen so kids will talk

By, Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish Are you having trouble dealing with your child’s

negative feelings.

Does your anger get the best of you sometimes and you end up being hurtful?

Is your child just not listening anymore?

This is the book for you.

It teaches you how to be a more effective parent; engaging cooperation from your children,

and resolving family conflicts while still maintaining peace.

It does this through five major areas: Helping children deal with their feelings

Alternatives to punishment Encouraging autonomy

Praise And Freeing children from playing roles.

Let’s start with: Helping Children Deal with Their Feelings

We’ve all been there, our child expresses anger, frustration, or disappointment and

we just brush it off with statements like: “You’re just overreacting because you’re


“There’s no reason to be so upset” “Didn’t you realize that was going to


But you wouldn’t like it if you complained to your spouse or a friend about an incident

that made you uncomfortable and they just brushed it off as if your concerns were nothing.

The way kids feel affects their behaviour.

When you deny a kid’s feelings, it can exacerbate problems.

It teaches them not to know what their feelings are, and not to trust them.

So how can we avoid doing this with our children?

The next time your child expresses his or her feelings, try the following four tips:


Listen quietly and attentively 2.

Acknowledge their feeling with a word.

“oh… mmm…

I see…”

Sometimes they already have a solution, they just want to make sure you’re in tuned with



Give the feeling a name “Oh what a shock” 4.

Give the child his wishes in fantasy.

“I wish I could make the rain stop so that I could take you to the playground!”

That way, they won’t see you as part of the problem they’re acting out over.

And remember: All feelings can be accepted, but certain actions must be limited

Let’s say your child crosses the limit, then what can you do?

This brings us to: Alternatives to Punishment

It’s easy to run to things like time outs and grounding when your child is driving you

crazy or isn’t listening, but these only fix the problem in the short term and demoralize

the child.

Bad behaviour is a problem, not a character flaw.

If your response to their behaviour makes them feel bad about themselves, you’ve taken

the focus off the situation which can be improved and put it on something a lot more complicated.

Instead, we want to enlighten and instruct our children.

So some alternatives to punishment are: 1.

Express your feelings strongly, but do it WITHOUT attacking character.

For example, “I’m furious that my new saw was left outside to rust in the rain!”


State your expectations.

Like, “I expect my tools to be returned after they’ve been borrowed”


Show the child how to make amends.

“What this saw needs now is little steel wool and a lot of elbow grease.”


Offer a choice, “you can borrow my tools and return them or you can give up the privilege

of using them.

You decide” 5.

Take action.

In this case it would be putting locks on the toolbox after your child abuses their



Problem solve.

Brainstorm solutions with them until you come up with a compromise.

I noticed a lot of books offer solutions on what to do with your child when they’ve

done something wrong, but rarely do books mention how to get your child to cooperate


This book does that.

Here’s how: 1.

Describe what you see, or describe the problem.

For example, instead of saying, “You better not throw the wet towel on the bed”, just

describe the problem, “there’s a wet towel on the bed”


Give information “the towel is getting my blanket wet” instead of “You’re ruining

my blanket” 3.

Say it with a word “the towel!”


Describe what you feel.

“I don’t like sleeping in a wet bed” It’s not only about their feelings you know!


Write a note.

(please put me back so I can dry)

So we went over Feelings and Punishment.

The next two sections further build your child’s self esteem and self confidence.

But, it’s really important to keep a balance between them.

Let’s start with Encouraging Autonomy

When we allow our child to be completely dependent on us, it can lead to feelings of helplessness,

resentment, and frustration.

Instead we want to: 1.

Empower our children to make choices.

Give them ‘pre-approved by you’ options.

So let’s say, “Are you in the mood for your dress pants or jeans?”


Show respect for a child’s struggle.

“A jar can be hard to open.

Sometimes it helps if you tap the lid with a spoon.”

Don’t just open it for them.

It removes their agency in the world.


Don’t ask too many questions.

In can feel like an invasion of privacy.

Your child will talk about what they want, when they want.


Don’t rush to answer questions either.

It’s their chance to explore.

Instead, ask them what they think.

Or, 5.

Encourage them to use sources outside the home.


And finally, never take away hope.

“So you’re thinking of trying out for cricket!

That should be an experience.”

The other side of the spectrum is: Praise

When we praise our child too much, it can surpass the line of confidence and end at

the child feeling entitled.

Here’s how to keep a balance: The next time your child cleans their room

or shows you their artwork, don’t just respond with “good job!”

“Fantastic, you’re a great artist!”

Instead: 1.

Describe what you see.


Describe what you feel 3.

Or Sum up the child’s praiseworthy behaviour with a word.

So for the clean room you can say, “I see a clean floor, sorted legos, and books neatly

put on the shelf.

It’s a pleasure to walk into this room.

That’s what I call organization” Or for the artwork you can say “I like how

you put the circle over the zigzags, how did you think of that?

Focus on your child’s work and efforts, not their traits.

This allows them to draw their own conclusions of what they may do with their talents, instead

of you confining them by telling them who and what they are.

Finally, we’ve arrived at the final section of the book.

Freeing Children from Playing Roles Do any of these sound familiar:

“stop being such a crybaby” “Ukh, you’re so stubborn”

“All you do is complain.

You’re such a complainer” Once you repetitively label a child something,

they start to see themselves in that label, and showing you just how stubborn they can

get, for example.

But never fear, there are ways to free children from playing these roles.


Look for opportunities to show the child a new picture of him or herself.

For example, if your child has had destructive behaviour, you could say “You’ve had that

toy since you were three and it almost looks like new!”

Bye-bye destructive behaviour, (Put X on destructive behaviour)


Put children in situations where they can see themselves differently.

“Sara, would you take the screwdriver and tighten the pulls on these drawers?”

(Put X on all-thumbs) 3.

Let children overhear you say something positive about them.

“He held his arm steady even though the shot hurt” (Put X on crybaby)


Model the behaviour you’d like to see.

“It’s hard to lose, but I’ll try to be a sport about it.


(Put an X on sore loser) 5.

Be a storehouse for your child’s special moments.

“I remember you were the first child on the block to ride a two wheeler bike” (Put

an X on uncoordinated) 6.

When your child acts according to the old label, state your feelings and/or your expectations.

“I don’t like that.

Despite your strong feelings, I expect you to be a sport about losing.”

(Put X on Sore loser).

As one father in the book put it, “To change a role, you’ve really got to be able to

put it all together – feelings, alternatives to punishment, autonomy, praise – the works.”

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