First published in 1980, this classic parenting book has been a well loved favorite in the attachment parenting community ever since. The authors, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, were students of the legendary child psychologist Dr. Haim Ginott. Dr. Ginott had a radical idea: that there was a direct connection between how kids feel and how they behave.
At the time, parents typically didn’t concern themselves with the feelings of children, or when they did, they either trivialized their feelings or placed too much importance on how their kids expressed those feelings, which created a multitude of other problems between parent and child.
Beneath the “How To Talk” philosophy are the beliefs that better parenting could be learned, that communication was at the heart of many parent/child difficulties, and that what parents needed was not more love for their kids (for they had always had that, it wasn’t ever lacking), but better skills.
Faber and Mazlish took Dr. Ginott’s work one step further and created an easy to follow guide that outlines ways to handle common trouble spots in the parent/child relationship: dealing with children’s often overwhelming feelings, showing respect for the child as an individual and allowing them space to solve their own problems, and of course sibling issues.
While the approach may seem convoluted and the opposite of a parent’s natural way of relating to their kids, it does really work. While it can be a real challenge to learn a new way of talking and being with children, anyone who has taken communications classes knows that first what feels difficult can become natural, and the results can provide almost immediate feedback which motivates you to continue with the new style of relating.
The authors claim that aiming for “70%” effectiveness will have a dramatic impact on the happiness of family life. The approach certainly seems to minimize some of the “wear and tear” on parents, since it teaches you a way of helping your child without getting sucked into their emotional upheavals, and it also encourages natural consequences, meaning that as a parent it’s not our job to solve all of our children’s problems!
Critics of the approach claim that it’s too child centered and take away the parent’s authority, but nowhere in the book is an abdication of parental authority advocated. At the same time, it probably encourages children to respect their parents more, since parents who have tools to help them deal with discipline are far more effective and in control than parents who don’t. Read the book yourself and try out some of the suggestions to see how they help your day to day life with kids.
You can get How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk on Amazon.com