Sunday, 26 January 2014

Book Summaries - "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen..." Chapter 2.

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 
CHAPTER TWO - ENGAGING COOPERATION                           

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.


One of the built-in frustrations of parenthood is the daily struggle to get our children to behave in ways that are acceptable to us and to society. Part of the problem lies in the conflict of needs. The adult need is for some semblance of cleanliness, order, courtesy and routine. The children couldn't care less.

I (that's the author speaking) was always making my children do what they didn't do, and I was always stopping them from doing what they wanted to do. The children's attitude became, "I'll do what I want," my attitude became, "you'll do as I say," and the fight was on.

There are lots of negative approaches that we can take listed in the book, with a detailed description of each. I'll just mention them briefly here. Feel free to ask for more detail in the comments. By using the techniques listed below we can avoid: - Blaming and accusing, name-calling, threats, commands, lecturing and moralizing, warnings, martyrdom statements, comparisons, sarcasm, prophecy.

Five ways to engage cooperation.

1. Describe. Describe what you see, or describe the problem.

2. Give information.

3. Say it with a word.

4. Talk about your feelings.

5. Write a note.

1. Describe. Describe what you see, or describe the problem.

Instead of: "You're so irresponsible, you always start the tub and then forget about it. Do you want us to have a flood?"
Try: "Johnny, the water in the bath tub is getting near the top."

Instead of: " "How many times do I have to tell you to turn the bathroom light off after you've used it?"
Try: "The light's on in the bathroom."

Instead of: "Get off the phone now."
Try: "I need to make a phone call now."

When grown ups describe the problem, it gives the children a chance to tell themselves what to do.

2. Give information.

Instead of: "Who drank the milk and left the bottle out?"
Try: "Milk turns sour when it isn't in the fridge."

Instead of: "If I catch you writing on the walls one more time you're going to get a smack."
Try: "Walls are not for writing on, paper is for writing on."

When children are given information, they can usually figure out for themselves what needs to be done.

3. Say it with a word.

Instead of: "I've been asking and asking you kids to get into pajamas and all you've been doing is clowning around. You agreed that before you watch TV you'd be in pajamas and I don't see any sign of anyone doing anything about it!"
Try: "Kids, PAJAMAS!"

Instead of: "Look at you! You're walking out the door without your lunchbox again. You'd forget your head if it weren't attached."
Try: "Jamie, your LUNCH."

Children dislike hearing lectures, sermons and long explanations. The shorter the reminder, the better.

4. Talk about your feelings.

Instead of: "What is wrong with you? You always leave the door open!"
Try: "It bothers me when you leave the door open."

Instead of: "You're rude. You always interrupt."
Try: "I feel so frustrated when I start to say something and can't finish"

Children are entitled to hear their parent's honest feelings. By describing what we feel, we can be genuine without being hurtful.
It's possible to cooperate with someone who is expressing irritation or anger, as long as you're not being attacked.

5. Write a note.

Sometimes nothing we say is as effective as the written word. Even children who haven't yet learnt to read may be excited to have a note read to them.

A reminder stuck to the TV about getting homework done first.
A note on your bedroom door on sleep-in mornings.
A note beside a mess or a regular chore that needs to be tidied/carried out.
A paper dart reminding children to put their toys away.


There are many more examples (on these five 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. "Like" the whole thing but especially #3 - in their world kids don't make time to listen to a long missive from a parent (telling a story or reading a book is quite different), so a word or two is more effective. Or not even using any words .. .. .. going our yesterday I suggested to Reuben that he should pop his shoes on. Answer: no he wanted to go bare feet. After gathering up some going out things, at the door I just put his shoes on the floor while we (he?) were talking and he put them on, even describing to me how he does it !!

  2. This is one of my favourite parenting books. I borrowed it from a friend, but really think I should get my own copy because I'd love to re-read it. I love how you're summarising each chapter for us!