Lessons from "How to Talk / How to Listen"

2:14 PM

My cousin Jonah eating x-x-spicy soup
I mentioned in a post from a time long ago that I've been meaning to write about the book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Faber and Mazlish.

This almost never happens to me, but as I read it I was overwhelmed with the need to remember. these. lessons. forever. so I took notes for each chapter.

Then today I was cleaning out some of Oliver's bookshelf baskets and came across the notes. So allow me to share.

Remember, this book was written to help you deal with children but it is FANTASTIC how relevant it is to dealing with a person of any age.

Read on...

To handle a problem:

  • First: accept their feelings.
  • The empathetic response is: 
    • Listen with full attention
    • Acknowledge their feelings
    • Talk about wishes ("It sure would be nice if we could eat 100 cookies for dinner").
    • Give their feelings a name ("You seem upset") 
      • Embarrassed, angry, jealous, regretful, disappointed, stressed, uncertain, rejected, sad, resentful, upset, in pain, bored, surprised, overwhelmed, confused, lonely
      • Do this in every day life with adults. At first you may feel that you sound stupid but you'll get the hang of it and it works well to diffuse tension, make people feel that you're on the same team and ultimately encourage better relationships. Example: "Amy, you left the oven on again." "You sound frustrated. You've reminded me so many times but it keeps happening. You don't want to waste power, especially considering it's an easy problem to solve. I'll really try to remember next time."
      • Avoid: 
        • Denying their feelings ("We're almost there, you'll be fine")
        • Philosophizing ("Life's just like that")
        • Advice ("You should just...")
        • Too many questions
        • Defending another person in the conflict
        • Pity
        • Psychoanalysis ("The real reason you're upset is...")
  • You don't always need to empathize with feelings, especially negative ones.
  • You can accept feelings and still limit actions. I.E. "I realize you want to play outside. It is too wet so we are not going."
  •  You don't always need to ask why they feel that way. Let them tell you.
  •  You can acknowledge a feeling without agreeing with it.
  •  Go beyond "I understand" - be specific.
  •  You can always correct an earlier parenting mistake if you realize you're using a wrong strategy. 
  • If they say "I hate you" say "You sound angry. You can use a different way to tell me that so I can help you."
  •  A physical outlet (punching, throwing, angry drawing) can help an angry child.
  •  There is a time for advice: when they are ready to listen.
  • Don't:
    • Repeat their exact words back. ("Mom, I'm so bored.", "So, you sound bored.")
    • Talk if silence will suffice
    • Under- or over-react
    • Use the same bad names like stupid
  •  Also avoid:
    • Blaming or accusing ("You feel hungry because you didn't eat the lunch I made you")
    • Name-calling
    • Threats
    • Commands
    • Lecturing
    • Warnings that don't follow through
    • Martyrdom ("You're going to make me late...")
    • Comparisons
    • Sarcasm
    • Prophecy ("If you don't learn to share you'll lose all your friends")
To engage cooperation when rules are not being followed:
  • Describe the problem
  • Give all the information
  • Say it with a word ("Bath-time")
  • Talk about your feelings
  • Write a note ("This fridge is to be kept tidy. Do not leave spills.")
  • Remember: Be authentic. (It's okay to sound angry.) Keep trying.
  • Consider: 
  • Is this an age-appropriate request? A 2 year old can't set the table alone.
  • Can I give them a choice? ("I'd like you to get some crayons or some toy cars for your brother to play with")
  • Can I make this easier? I.E. Make the broom and dust pan more accessible.

  • Don't re-ask, just confirm the original request. ("You did hear me, right?")
  • Take away the "YOU". -> "The milk is spilled. We need a cloth."
  • Convert an obvious statement that may sound dumb "This door is still open" to a good request "When we leave the door open it gets too cold. Let's all remember to close it."
  • Don't use a child's name as a bad thing. I.E. Upon seeing toys left out: "Charlie!")
  • You can explain: "I am feeling annoyed, but it has nothing to do with you."
  • If they say "Who cares" say "I do - about how everyone in this family feels."
  • Leave a fun note: STORY TIME AT 7:30pm. All kids with their teeth brushed and pj's on are invited.

To punish:
  • Consequences should be natural ("You are being too rough with this video game so it will be taken away now where it won't be at risk of getting broken."), not "You broke my coffee mug - go to your room"
  • Do a dress rehearsal of the right way to act
  • Write a book together about being good in this situation
  • Ask for their help
  • Point out how they can do better
  • Express your disapproval
  • State your expectations clearly
  • Show how to make ammends
  • Give a choice ("You can keep doing this and we'll need to leave or you can act more mature and we'll stay")
  • Take action
  • Allow them to experience the consequence ( I.E. knocking over their orange juice)
To problem solve:
  • Talk about your child's needs
  • Talk about YOUR needs
  • Brainstorm solutions, even write them down (don't skip the crazy ideas)
  • Decide on one solution, then follow through 
  • Don't: ask who did it, express disapproval without a solution, allow 'sorry' without a behaviour change
To encourage autonomy:
  • Let them make choices
  • Show respect for their struggle
  • Don't ask too many questions
  • Don't rush to answers
  • Encourage use of outside sources ("Mom, why do the Christmas trees never lose their leaves?" "Let's check a library book about trees.")
  • Don't take away hope
  • Also: Stay out of the little things. Don't talk about your child negatively in front of them. Let them answer for themselves. Wait for them to be ready. Don't say no to everything. Alternatives to no:
    • Give information. ("Can I go to Jessica's?" "Dinner is ready in 5 minutes.")
    • Accept their feelings. ("It must be hard to stay out of the puddles.")
    • Describe the problem. ("If we eat fries now we won't eat tacos later.")
    • Make it a yes. ("We'll do that after homework.")
    • Think about it. ("I'll give you an answer tomorrow.")
  • Give advice
    • Help sort out how they're feeling
    • Restate the problem as a question
    • Point out good resources
    • Teach a lesson ("It's important to be honest.")
To give praise:
  • Avoid:
    • Creating doubt in the praiser
    • Too immediate
    • Threatening praise
    • Focusing on weakness
    • Creating anxiety
    • Manipulation
  • Instead:
    • Describe what you see and feel
      • Another one that you can use with adults if you can get over how awkward it feels at first. Rather than "Great job Cindy." say "The paint is such a nice, fresh colour and every edge is flawlessly done. It looks professional." Or instead of "Dinner is delicious." say "The amount of chili spice in this is perfect. A little bit of heat but not too much. It tastes so good with that hint of lemon. I was hoping for some flavourful, exotic food tonight and you made it perfectly."
    • Add a word 
      • Examples: perseverance, punctuality, patience,  initiative, self-control, resourcefulness, creativity, kindness, courage
    • Make sure the praise is appropriate
 To avoid foredooming:
  •  Foredooming is make a statement about a possible negative future, thus making it more likely. Example: Timmy's just a really picky eater.
  • Look for new opportunities. Instead of "He isn't athletic" try a new sport.
  • Try new situations.
  • Let them overhear you praising them.
  • Model good behaviour.
  • Remember the special moments. ("One year ago you drew me this picture of us in the forest and it made my day. You really knew the right thing to do to cheer me up.")
  • If things get bad, state your feelings and expectations.


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