“Stop it!” “I’ve had enough.” “Can you just listen and do what I tell you?”
Have you ever felt frustrated because your kids are not listening to you when you said something like that? Have you found yourself repeating the same instruction over and over again with little to no success? Let me guess, you have tried rewards, punishment, begging, and bargaining, but you still have the same problem; they are just not listening to you. If this sounds familiar to you, I suggest you read How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King.
You might have come across The How To Talk Series of books that offer practical and effective tips for the most demanding challenges when raising children. This book mainly focuses on children aged 2-7 years who need a different approach.
At a workshop I attended by educational Psychologist Dr. Melodie de Jager, she told us our goal should be to get our kids to listen to us the first time. I can still remember how many of us were wondering how to get them to listen at all! I learned that the way we speak to kids is a big part of the problem.
The book How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen: A Survival Guide to Life with Children Ages 2-7 had some great insights on solving the problem. All the advice and ideas stem from the premise that kids can’t act right if they don’t feel right. This means that whenever we deal with our kids, we need to consider their emotional needs. I know this can be daunting, time consuming, and very difficult to do when tired. Consider this though, wouldn’t it be easier to take time to focus on your child’s emotions rather than spending that time fighting?
In this engaging book, Joanna Faber and Julie King discuss issues we all deal with in our homes. They give us tools to use when facing certain challenges, which they call the essential toolbox. These tools are followed by lots of practical examples from other families so that we can see them in action.
- Handling your child’s emotions: Your child’s behavior is directly linked with how they feel. As parents, we need to acknowledge our children’s feelings and let them feel heard. The book discusses various ways to do this. This doesn’t mean that all behavior is accepted. Some behavior is not acceptable, but all feelings are acknowledged.
- Getting your child to cooperate: Let’s face it, has a lecture, threats, punishment, or begging worked? No, so what do we do? How do we get them to brush their teeth without fighting? Being playful by turning a boring task into a game or challenge often works. You can also use a short phrase or a word like “teeth” as a prompt. Also, give your child some responsibility and control over what needs to happen.
- Resolving conflict: When faced with sibling rivalry, instead of playing referee between your kids, choosing sides, and handing out punishments, give them the means to resolve the dispute themselves. This entails strongly expressing your feelings that this behavior is not acceptable. Show your child how to make amends, offer alternative choices, and take action if needed. Later, when everything has settled, you can chat about preventing this problem from happening again. Teaching your children these problem-solving skills will also give them the necessary skills to resolve conflict when they are adults.
- Using praise effectively: We need to be honest in our praise. “You are so good at basketball” is not going to make your child feel any better if he knows that he isn’t good at it. All it does is make him wonder how many other things you say are not truthful. Instead, say, “I can see the effort you are putting in at basketball practice and I can see the improvement in your abilities.” This way, your child knows that you are honest and at the same time learns that hard work helps him achieve something.
- Food and sleep: The two things that affect your child’s behavior the most. Little kids often don’t know that their foul mood is because they are overtired or hungry. It’s up to us to keep these possibilities in mind and offer them when needed. None of the tools discussed will work when they’re hungry or tired as your child is in survival mode and their thinking brain switches off.
What about kids who are “wired differently?”
“Great, this works for most kids, but mine is wired differently.” There is a very helpful chapter on modifications of the tools for kids with autism and sensory issues. I was wary about whether this would work for my sensory child, but it really has made a difference. She has been struggling to self-regulate effectively in the last few weeks and would often whine and cry about seemingly insignificant things.
My husband and I have made some adjustments in the way we deal with her. We validate her feelings (however ridiculous the situation may seem to us) and are more playful with regards to cleaning up, both suggestions from the book. These have made a massive difference in both her behavior and cooperation.
Matching expectations with development
As parents, we need to make sure that what we expect from our kids is in line with their development. Are we expecting too much? My middle child has always been very independent. One of the first things she could say was “me self.” She wanted to do EVERYTHING herself and don’t you dare try to help if she didn’t ask for it. Having an older brother didn’t help either; she wanted to do everything he could.
As parents, we often found that we needed to take a step back. We would sometimes expect the same behavior and sense of responsibility from her at 4 as we do from him at 7. I would often have to say, “She is only 4 years old.” You see, the fact that she is so independent has caused us to expect her to act like her older brother, which causes problems when she doesn’t. Are your expectations in line with your child’s stage of development?
Daily struggles with kids
The second part of the book tackles specific battles we deal with in our daily lives.
- Mealtime drama. Negative food experiences or picky eating are enough to make any parent exasperated.
- Sibling rivalry. Even though we are family and love each other, we still get frustrated and angry. And let’s be honest, no one pushes a child’s buttons like a sibling.
- Shopping with children. It sure is easier when they stay home, but that’s not always possible.
- Morning chaos. The battle to get out of bed, get ready, and out the door in time.
- A child’s creative interpretation of the truth, otherwise known as lies. This can be quite a challenge, as honesty is highly regarded, especially in families. Instead of accusing, interrogating, and punishment we need to deal with our kids’ lies wisely.
- Cleaning up. I’m sure your children hate this just as much as mine do.
- Medicine, shots, and other medical horrors. In my head, I’m already thinking, “Please just drink it, don’t spit it out.”
- What to do when your child is hurting others. Knowing how to communicate with your kid and prevent them from lashing out is a challenge.
- Sleep struggle. Sleep is one of the biggest issues in kids.
Tools for the parent
The book focuses a lot on a child’s feelings, but what about ours? As parents, we also have feelings, especially when our kids make us mad. Don’t worry; the authors haven’t forgotten about us. Parents should also express their feelings and the book gives us the tools to do so too. Little kids can understand a parent’s feelings if we just communicate them effectively.
There’s also an entire chapter on dealing with our anger because we do get angry. Most of the steps seem easy to do when we are calm, but when we have lost all patience and our children have pushed us too far, what do we do? We still follow the steps, albeit loudly.
The chapters of the book are easy to navigate as each one deals with a different issue. At the end of each chapter, you will find a reminder of the main points discussed, which serves as a reference guide. There are also short cartoons to practically demonstrate solving the problem using the different tools discussed in the book.
It will take practice, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t quite get it right yet. When you have tried and it hasn’t worked, go to the last chapter, which will help you troubleshoot. Getting this right will take effort and time, especially at the beginning. But the rewards are bountiful. You can find How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen on Amazon.
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber (Joanna’s mom) and Elaine Mazlish is the 1st of the series. The book teaches you specific skills to be more effective at communicating with your children, both in speaking and listening, so as to support your child to deal constructively with big emotions.
How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk is also written by Adele and Elaine. It has essential tools and tips to help teens and parents communicate with each other effectively.
How To Talk So Kids Can Learn gives practical applications to teachers and parents. Adele and Elaine help parents and teachers to motivate their kids to handle the everyday problems that interfere with learning.
How to talk so little kids will listen
- Use positive language and be playful
- While some behavior isn't acceptable, your child's feelings deserve to be acknowledged
- Parental expectations should be in line with the child's stage of development
You need this if...
- Your young child doesn't listen to you
- You wish to transform the relationship you have with your child
- You're seeking healthy ways to deal with anger issues when dealing with your toddler