Archive for Communicating


A Must-Read Classic: “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen…”

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This week, I read a true parenting classic for the first time. I’m almost embarrassed about that, but it came on the scene halfway through my child-rearing years, and I guess I thought I didn’t need it any more. Or maybe I was just dimly aware of it—there was so much else I was busy with during those years. But I see now how much it could have aided me both in my classroom teaching and as a mother.

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish changed the world for many families. It’s THE how-to book for more effective, happier adult-child communications.

It is down-to-earth, filled with realistic examples and cartoons that parents easily get. There’s recognition of the complexity and confusion of parent-child exchanges.  The authors know how hard it is for us to change our patterns. The ideas are presented step-by-step, with reinforcement and review. Objections and questions are answered.

There’s great encouragement to parents to be gentle with themselves as they may falter, forget, lose it, and then try again to use more effective ways to speaking to kids.

The chapter on praise particularly helped me. I believe it’s highly supportive for kids and adults to look for and comment on the positive, and I’ve often gotten stuck in making evaluative statements like “That’s great!” “Awesome!” “Wow!” “Amazing!” A more useful strategy, Faber and Mazlish teach, is to be descriptive and to share what you feel: “I see that you’ve used seven colors in that picture and it makes me feel cheerful when I look at it”—is more gratifying to the child artist than “Great job!”

Additionally, when you go to praise a child, they suggest you use one word or phrase that sums up their achievement, like, “You used a string to tie up that box when you couldn’t find the tape. That’s what I call resourceful!”

Several million copies of this book have sold since 1980. I wish even more were in circulation.

Why can’t schools be more proactive in providing this kind of information to parents?

Wouldn’t it be great if elementary schools would lend a copy of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen…to every family on Back-to-School night? (It’s available in Spanish now, too, according to the website <>). And along with that, of course, wouldn’t it be grand if they would also distribute copies of Plus It! How to Easily Turn Everyday Activities into Learning Adventures for Kids.

Hmm. That combo would almost certainly raise academic achievement scores over time!

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