Review: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk

Last week I ordered a couple of books and today my book box arrived, yeah!

One of the books I bought is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish.

The book was recommended and I thought it couldn’t harm to do some work on developing better communication skills in our family. With 4 kids, 11, 9, 2/12 and 1 I liked the idea that a) they listen and b) they talk and c) we listen.

Today I read Chapter 1: Helping Children with Their Feelings

It made an easy and interesting read. I loved the introduction where it says: „I was a wonderful parent before I had children. I was an expert on why everyone else was having problems with theirs. Then I had three of my own. Living with children can be humbling.“ (p. 1) I can relate to that. Within two and a half years I became stepmother to two and mother to two kids. With my own kids things often come more naturally and I tend to be more patient. But then, I know them better. I’ve known them all their life. These first years and getting to know each other and gaining each other’s deep trust simply cannot develop the same way when you get to know the kids when they’re 6 and 8, as in my case. It’s not supposed to either. But I work hard. And sometimes the whole process seems fruitless. There are rough times. But then there are good times. And over all, we make a family. Still, I’m feeling that our family communication needs improvement. Another quote holds true: „But the language of empathy does not come naturally to us. It’s not part of our „mother tongue.“ Most of us grew up having our feelings denied.“ I recently have started trying to give feelings a name, mostly when it came to swear words, since I don’t want them in my house no more. And I’m working on being empathic. As I said, that comes much more naturally when I’m talking to my son then when I’m talking to my step-son. But then, I think the reason for that is trust or the lack of it. I trust my son and his abilities. But I often catch myself trying to correct my stepsons‘ behavior. And that brings me to my number one non-empathic way of communicating: I tend to ask questions (which of course sound blaming and inquisitiv) or give advice (nobody needs advice if they don’t ask for it and even if they do they could probably do better without). I used to give questions back, I used to give the power of decisions and learning back to the kids. Somehow with a family of 6 and my master thesis still being written I seem to have lost the patience for that.

The authors give a lot of good examples of communication situations, they make you think and work on yourself by asking questions, playing role games, they illustrate situations in comic strips, they give you assignments and examples, and answer parents‘ questions and give real stories. The book is not to be read quickly but to be studied and experienced at slow pace. Still, you can easily read one chapter in one evening. And they sum the chapter up:

TO HELP WITH FEELINGS:

1. Listen with full attention.

2. Acknowledge their feelings with a word – „Oh“ … „Mmmm“ … „I see.“

3. Give their feelings a name.

4. Give them their wish in fantasy.

You could say thank you know that I posted the summary, because now you don’t have to buy the book. No. The examples and exercises are really good. They also make you aware of your won behavior. There seem to be no less than  seven categories of ways to get it wrong. You’ll find yourself at least in one of them. Plus, and this is what I’ll consider the best point in hindsight: Some of the example situations taken from real life with real kids and real parents remind me of one of our kids or the other. So instead of thinking: How has the separation of their parents affected the boy’s life, or what is wrong with him/us, or why is he so careless, or aggressive, or why do they always want more, it just boils down to THEY WANT TO BE HEARD. I took down the names of the kids each situation made me think of so that a) I can go back to this and b) so that my partner can have a look at the lines as well. The book seems to be worth its money.

My / our assignment for this week is:

At least once this week have a conversation with a child in which you accept his or her feelings. Jot down what was said while it’s still fresh in your mind.

Completely new to me was the concept of giving their wish in fantasy (they illustrate this with some really nice examples). I always feel overwhelmed by the boy’s always longing for something new. So next time, I’ll give it to him. I mean, I’d give it to him 😉

Organizing saves space. 11year old, convinced.

In the last days I’ve been trough our storage room in my free time (which means, kids time and I’m not working on my master thesis) in order to de-clutter our home step by step and to organize our space better. We have so many things, bags, shoes, clothes, piles of paper work (which I’ll be getting to as soon as I’ve graduated, yes, this day will come). I admit, I consider organizing fun. On the one hand our living situation improves and it’s a calming meditative exercise (apart from the dust which makes my allergy worse), on the other hand, the kids love it too. Baby girl climbs the stairs, toddler boy climbs the ladder. Both climb in and out of boxes and have a look at all those things I bring to light and put away again. Kids activity, check.

I put the kids clothes in their boxes sorted by size. I gave away clothes that I didn’t want to keep just that we have them. I gave half our bags away and we still have plenty (though I’m still looking for some kids bags which I thought we’d have somewhere because I promised a rucksack to my neighbor). There are some things we can sell our give away. Today I sorted the shoes by sizes (25-26, 27-29, 30-32, 33-38, 39+).

Somehow I’m left with more empty boxes now than one would expect considering the amount of things I gave away. I told my pre-puberty step-son about this and how organizing things makes so much sense not only because you actually find things easier but also due to storing space you safe. His reaction was a bit reluctant and he asked if this also holds true if you have lots of space and almost no things. Before I had time to find an answer he brought an example and pointed at the kitchen cabinet. What about this small area, he asked. So I took all the plates out (1/3 of one shelf) and all the glasses too (1/3 of another shelf), put everything at the table and asked him to hand me the items randomly. I put everything he gave me back to the shelves where I had taken it out. But the difference was, I was not following a system. So glass came next to glass, then a plate onto it, another plate, another plate, glass, glass. When one shelf was full I turned to the second one, same procedure. Not even half of the plates and glasses fit in. He saw that I got a point here. And I was impressed by my teaching creativity. 🙂