Saturday, 16 November 2013

Book Summaries - "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen..." Chapter 1.

Book Summaries are summaries of books I have been reading about bringing up children. They're not book reviews. Their purpose is to help me clarify what I have been reading, and you, too, may be interested in the main points of some of these books. I intend to use them as a useful quick reference, and you may like to as well. Not everything that I read (and therefore write here) will be my own point of view, though it's highly likely that the books I've chosen to read will be on par with my own ways and views. Though perhaps not always. Sometimes learning about different approaches can really cement my own views. These summaries are not me suggesting to you how you should bring up your children. Take what you wish from them, or if you don't feel the need to have any further input on how you do your job, pass this post by and I'll see you on another topic.

Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish 

This book is packed with information and includes loads of examples, including many cartoon strips! My summary will include a lot of their examples (including some paraphrasing for brevity), and many direct quotes.


There is a direct connection between how kids feel and how they behave.
Steady denial of feelings can confuse and enrage kids. It also teaches them not to know what their feelings are - not to trust them.
We can teach our children over and over again not to trust their own perceptions, but to rely upon ours instead:

"You don't really feel that way"
"You're just saying that because you're tired"
"There's no reason to be so upset."
"It's cold, keep your jersey on"
"It wasn't boring, it was very interesting."
"Of course you don't hate the new baby"

Four ways to respond:

1. Listen with full attention

2. Acknowledge their feeling with a word - "Oh," "Mmm," "I see."

3. Give their feelings a name.

4. Give them their wishes in fantasy.

1. Listen with full attention:

Instead of engaging in another activity and saying "I hear you" Yes, go on" "I'm listening,"
leave your other activity and give them your full attention.

It can be discouraging to try to get through to someone who gives only lip service.
It's much easier to tell your troubles to a parent who is really listening. Often a sympathetic silence is all a child needs.

2. Acknowledge their feeling with a word:

Instead of questions and advice,
"somebody stole my pencil"
"are you sure you didn't lose it?"
"I didn't. It was on my desk when I went to the bathroom."
"Well what do you expect if you leave your things lying around? You've had things taken before you know. This isn't the first time. I always tell you, 'keep your valuables in your desk.' The trouble with you is you never listen."

acknowledge with a word,
"somebody stole my pencil"
"It was on my desk when I went to the bathroom and somebody took it."
 "That's the third time I've had my pencil ripped off"
"I know. From now on when I leave the room I'm going to hide my pencil in my desk"
"I see." 

It's hard for a child to think clearly or constructively when someone is questioning, blaming or advising. 
Simple words coupled with a caring attitude are invitations to a child to explore her own thoughts and feelings, and possibly come up with her own solutions.

3. Give their feelings a name:

Instead of denying the feeling,
"My turtle is dead. He was alive this morning"
"Don't get so upset honey. Don't cry"
"Wah! Wah!
"Stop that! I'll buy you another turtle"
"I don't want another one"
"Now you're being unreasonable"

give the feeling a name,
"My turtle is dead. He was alive this morning."
"Oh no. What a shock."
"He was my friend."
"To lose a friend can hurt."
"I taught him to do tricks."
"You two had fun together."
"I fed him every day."
"You really cared about that turtle."

When we urge a child to push a bad feeling away - however kindly - the child only seems to get more upset. 
Parents often feel that by giving a name to the (bad) feeling, they'll make it worse. Just the opposite is true. The child who hears the words for what he is experiencing is deeply comforted. Someone has acknowledged his inner experience.

4. Give them their wishes in fantasy:

Instead of explanation and logic,
"I want Toastie Crunchies!"
"We don't have any dear"
"I want them, I want them!"
"I just told you there aren't any in the house! Have some Nifty Crispies"

give a child his wishes in fantasy,
"I want Toastie Crunchies!"
"I wish I had some for you."
"I want them!"
"I hear how much you want them."
"I wish I had them now."
"I wish I had the magic power to make a giant box appear!"
"Well, maybe I'll have some Nifty Crispies."

Often the harder adults explain, the harder children protest.
Sometimes just having someone understand how much you want something makes reality easier to bear.


There are many more examples (on these four ideas), notes and answered questions in the book. Feel free to give me your thoughts or questions, and I will see if I can find more within the book to help you out. Or grab a copy of the book for yourself!


  1. Good advice. I must borrow that book - sooner rather than later

    1. You'll be in charge of posting chapter summaries!

  2. I love this book - which I only heard about through you, thank you! - and appreciate the summary.

    This stuff is gold, and really makes a huge difference to my boy.

  3. I love Faber and Mazlish! My aunt always talks about Dr Haim Ginott, who they quote in Liberated Parents, Liberated Children, as saying that above all, our main aim for our children should be that they grow to be strong and humane. So much encapsulated in those two words I reckon. I think of STRONG & HUMANE, if not daily, then weekly, in the classroom...

  4. I loved this book! Really useful advice. Great summary too! xx

  5. I read this book a few years back so this summary is perfect to jog my memory thanks! I find it really hard not to jump in with an explanation or a solution when M has a problem.. but I really do notice a difference if I follow this approach instead!

  6. I read this book when my son was quite small, and thought "This is for older kids, it's not going to help me now." But when I went back to it last year I was happy to find that I'd incorporated quite a few of its ideas into how I speak to the children without even realising it. But it's always nice to have a refresher, so I'm really happy to see this! We also found that the list-making technique really helped quite miraculously when my son (at 6.5) was stuck in a rut and seemed unable to listen to reason.